Legislating the End of Meaning

May 31, 2005 § 3 Comments

Edward Feser debunks the old “you can’t legislate morality” chestnut, which he calls “the anti-conservative fallacy”, with devastating effectiveness . Indeed he shows very clearly that libertarian and liberal claimants attempt to simultaneously hold that morality in general has no legitimate public force and that their own particular morality has legitimate public force.

Because these are mutually contradictory claims, I note that the ideologies which rest upon them take on an appearance of being meaningful in a local sense, and yet are ultimately meaningless. Which seems to imply that the mutually opposed political ideologies of property-libertarianism and left-liberalism are at bottom the exact same sort of thing: a thing quite literally devoid of meaning. Although each takes on the appearance of meaning and the appearance of being opposed to the other, in truth all meaning has been legislated away.

Breaking News:

May 27, 2005 § Leave a comment

In a stunning development, scientists discover that sexual pleasure and fertility naturally go together.

(HT: Open Book)

The Road to Perdition

May 27, 2005 § 13 Comments

There has been a lot of talk lately in conservative circles about Eurabia: the demographic surrender of secular Europe to Islam; the voluntary reduction of native Europe to the status of dhimmitude. I agree that that is both a legitimate trend and a legitmate worry: a European Caliphate is not an impossible outcome of the relentless march of demographics that result from Europe’s self-inflicted narcissistic sterility and Islam’s lack of that liability. But in truth, a significant part of me worries as much for our Moslem brothers and sisters as for post-Christian Europe.

Islam is not a moderate thing. Eventually acts of beheading infidels in the streets of first world countries will take their toll, even on peoples as gentle and Eloi-like as the Dutch. If this occurs before Moslems make up an actual majority of the peoples of Europe, but after Moslems have amassed considerable political power in democratic societies – societies which award political power based on percentages of population – I fear things could become far worse for Europe than just the penance of living under Sharia for a few centuries. The last time a group of semites became viewed as the oppressor by a significant number of secular Europeans – viewed as a major impediment to the emergence of the free and equal new man – the result was Auschwitz. It strikes me as a possibility – not a prediction but nevertheless a genuine possibility – that the twentieth century may have been only a dress rehearsal for the twenty-second, or, God help us, the twenty-first.

Anyone who could see the future in the early part of the twentieth century should have properly feared for both the people of Germany and the Jewish diaspora who lived in their midst. I can’t see the future, but I fear for both the secularized post-Christian Europeans and for the Moslems who are conquering them not by the sword but by demographic replacement. Both groups desperately need our prayers. May God have mercy on us all.

Property Propriety

May 26, 2005 § 2 Comments

Andrew Sullivan (HT: Open Book) says some sensible things about embryonic stem cell research. He then goes on to justify his reluctant support for legal abortion this way:

Simply because the fetus is inside another human being’s body; her own liberty begins in her right to control her own physical being. Violating that freedom is another kind of slippery slope toward the erosion of liberty and property rights on which this country’s constitution is based. If your own body is not your property, what is?

I think this peculiar libertarian conception of property rights in particular and liberty in general is, to use the technical term, poppycock. If an innocent child became trapped on your property, and had to be fed for nine months before carefully being extracted, that would not confer upon you the right to shoot her as a trespasser. “Owner” does not mean, and never has meant, “I am the demi-God of this patch of dirt and whatever I say is law within these fences”. It doesn’t mean that about your house. And it doesn’t mean that about your body.

Licensed to Lie

May 24, 2005 § 4 Comments

TSO has picked up on some of the talk lately about how good conservatives must, supposedly, be comfortable with contradiction. I am of a different opinion, myself. A license to be inconsistent is a license to lie: a license to dress up falsehood as the truth.

I doubt there is much genuine disagreement beyond terminology, but the terminology in this case is critical. I don’t think the psychological bugaboo being chased by secular conservatives as widely varied as Jonah Goldberg and John Ray is consistency. If we can’t be consistent then we are lying to ourselves. I think the real bugaboo – the real intellectual trap to be avoided – is claims of completeness.

Whether “conservative” is the right word for the intellectual tendency under discussion or not is debatable, but the tendency itself is toward a rejection of ideologies – as varied as Marxism, Islam, and Darwinism – which purport to provide a complete picture, to tie up all loose ends, to provide an answer to every question and a resolution for every conflict.

The genuine conservative tendency isn’t to presume a license to contradict ourselves: that is, it isn’t a license to lie. The genuine conservative tendency – not a comprehensive picture of conservatism, mind you, but one of its essential elements – is to allow ourselves to say “I don’t know”. And it is to be able to say so with great gusto and conviction: not only do I not know, but you don’t know either.

Brave Newer World

May 24, 2005 § Leave a comment

Amy Welborn reviews Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Faith as Loyalty

May 23, 2005 § 1 Comment

The word “faith” has taken on a very peculiar cast in modern times. To a secular agnostic or atheist the word “faith” seems to mean “believing something despite a complete lack of evidence”.

That view of faith isn’t just skewed, it is outright wrong. The Catholic Church teaches (and reason confirms, if one goes through the diligence) that the existence of God is something which we can conclude from natural reason. It isn’t my intention to go into the various ways that this can be done here, but rather to explore what “faith” means once we take that as given. If we can conclude that God exists without that “leap of faith” then what, exactly, does faith mean?

Faith, it seems to me, is fundamentally about trust and loyalty. “Fidelity” is a better term in many ways than the more contaminated English word “faith”. We can know by natural reason that God exists, and we can know the natural law through reason. But to be a Christian in the face of a fallen world filled with injustice and suffering it is not necessarily obvious that God should be trusted to love us. Faith, it seems to me, is in part about trusting that God created us because He loves us. And if He created us because He loves us then it is fitting that He reveals Himself to us through creation, and specifically through salvation history. If we trust God Who Reveals to show His love to us through a manifestly fallen creation, then salvation history clearly proclaims, to all corners of the world, Christ Crucified and Christ Risen.

Faith is not a blind confidence in personal salvation. The Council of Trent condemned as heresy the notion that doubt about one’s personal salvation is a sin. Faith is trust that Christ is who He says He is; and it is fealty to the Church He established.

Ultramontane Nominalism

May 23, 2005 § Leave a comment

“The difference between Catholicism and Islam is that Catholicism has a magisterium. Because Islam doesn’t have a magisterium, ‘Islam’ is whatever Muslims say it is. So if we can get Muslims to insist that Islam is moderate, Islam will be moderate.”

How many times have we heard this or similar sentiments expressed? Underneath these sentiments lies an intellectual error that goes back at least to the middle ages.

Nominalism at its most abstract is the denial of universals. As a practical matter what nominalism insists upon is that categories are just names that we use for the sake of convenience, and the names mean whatever someone authoritative says that they mean. In general, if I am using the terms, I get to say what the terms mean and what those meanings imply. The meaning arises from what I will, as a speaker. I am a Logos whose words make the reality that they express: indeed, my words are very much like a sacrament, making real that which they symbolize because I control with my will what they symbolize.

If Muslims really do become “moderate” (by which I think it is usually meant that they become modern secular liberals who view their religion as a private preference without public consequences), then they will be like “moderate” Christians: which is to say, they will be functional apostates. Christianity is not a moderate thing: it is a thing which totally remakes every aspect of the life of the Christian. And someone is not a Christian because he wills himself to be a Christian. Someone is a Christian because he loves and has faith in the actual real Person of Christ.

A Muslim is not someone who has made up a faith for himself and happens to use the words “Allah” and “Koran”. A Muslim is a person who is loyal to Islam. Islam is an objective thing, independent of what any particular Muslim says it is. As is the case with any ideology or religion, there are very loyal Muslims and loosely loyal Muslims. There are Muslims whose loyalty to Islam is very informed, and there are those who are loyal but ignorant. But the thing we refer to with the name “Islam” is independent of any particular Muslim’s opinions and loyalties.

Nominalism is no less of an error when the speaker is the magisterium, rather than an individual. The magisterium does not make something real by naming it. There is no eighth sacrament or metasacrament by which the magisterium creates reality through words. The magisterium names things which are already real. And Islam is no less real a thing than Catholicism just because it lacks a magisterium.

The Natural

May 20, 2005 § Leave a comment

Quote of the day, from the comments at Right Reason:

It is a high price to pay for unchastity to become, as Walker Percy said, “a ghost with an erection”.

The whole thread is excellent reading.

Liberalism and Christianity

May 19, 2005 § 1 Comment

The triumph of liberalism and technocracy means that Christians now find themselves in an all-pervasive setting whose basic principles require the social eradication of their faith, or at least its transformation into something radically other and less than what it was.

It will take more than a minute to read. But it is worth the investment of your time.

Where Am I?

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