An ultramontane antiessentialist, by any other name, would be just as wrong…

April 25, 2006 § 52 Comments

“X is true because the Magisterium says so.”

“I know that X is true because the Magisterium says so.”

Sometimes the first statement is used in everyday sloppy language as shorthand for the second. But in general, these statements mean entirely different things; and in general, the first statement is false.

Extra credit: this is true even in disciplinary and juridical matters, not only in matters of faith and morals. The proximate reason we have to abstain from meat on Fridays is because the Magisterium has established this as a discipline. But the reason we have to obey the Magisterium in matters of discipline is not simply (and circularly) because the Magisterium says we have to obey the Magisterium in matters of discipline.

The Magisterium (and She says this herself, through the person of Pope Benedict) does not make things true by asserting them. The Magisterium can be relied upon to tell us what is in fact true. A sure witness to truth is not the creator of truth.

If a tree falls in the forest, and the Magisterium doesn’t say anything about it, it still makes a sound.

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§ 52 Responses to An ultramontane antiessentialist, by any other name, would be just as wrong…

  • zippy says:

    <>Otherwise, he *is* just saying “It’s true because I say it’s true.”<>Again, I may say that in everyday language as shorthand: I may mean by it “Rob, it is true that random polypeptide chains don’t fold, and you should believe it true because I am telling you that it is so, and I am a sure witness. You don’t need any further proof other than my word on it”. But that is entirely different from me saying “Rob, random polypeptide chains don’t fold because I will reality to be constructed that way, and reality obeys my authority”.These are obviously very different claims (and hopefully illustrate the idolatry inherent in antiessentialism).

  • Rob says:

    Fine. I’ve already agreed with that point (not that I needed to, as it’s obvious). But, on the issue of why women can’t be priests, there is nothing obvious. If the Magisterium has a basis for teaching this, let’s see it. If it has no basis in the Word, then it’s mere convention, or whimsy, or whatever.

  • zippy says:

    I think you may be conflating the question of whether or not something is transparent to Rob (or anyone in particular) with the question of whether or not something is true.

  • Rob says:

    What I am asserting is that it must be transparent to at least one person, who can then enlighten the rest of us as to *why* it is true, in such a way that we then have knowledge of why it is true. If there is no reason that it is true, then it is not true, it is merely asserted.

  • zippy says:

    So in your view nothing is true unless it is transparent to some human being somewhere? Alpha Centauri had no chemical composition until its chemical composition became not only known but transparent to some astrophysicist?Reality and knowledge don’t work that way.

  • Rob says:

    No one could state what the chemical composition of said star was, until some astrophysisist developed data to demonstrate what that chemical composition was to anybody who was interested.So, if you tell me a woman cannot be a priest, and your only reason is that the Magisterium says so, and there is no Word of God to back up what the Magisterium says, then it is “true” only to a person who believes the Magisterium to be infallible; i.e., it is an object of faith, not of fact; it is a nominalist assertion.

  • zippy says:

    <>No one could state what the chemical composition of said star was, until …<>So? You knowing or being convinced of something, or believing/not believing a reliable witness to it, is not what makes it true.

  • Rob says:

    But a star is a physical object. It is known that it *has* a chemical composition, even though it is not known what that composition is until somebody figures it out.“A woman can’t be a priest” is not analogous to the fact that a star must have a chemical composition to be a star. It is not something that can be found to be true empirically. It is either true because God posited it as truem or it is true because a temporal authority posited it as true.Since God did not posit it as true, it seems to be true only by analogy, as posited by temporal authority. And why that analogy is a valid one seems to be arbitrary.

  • zippy says:

    <>It is not something that can be found to be true empirically.<>1. I don’t assume that to be true in perpetuity. Holy Orders imparts a permanent ontological change for all eternity, a change which may someday be visible.2. When I feel pain it is objectively true that I feel pain, even though you cannot empirically verify this for yourself.“Convincing to Rob” and “objectively true” do not refer to the same set.

  • Rob says:

    I can’t untangle that last one.

  • Rob says:

    And I’m burned out. Thank you, and good-night.

  • zippy says:

    Good nite Rob, always a pleasure 🙂

  • Tom says:

    As I’ve probably said before, any statement like, “X is true because the Magisterium says so,” is blasphemous.God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.It doesn’t work that way for anyone else.

  • c matt says:

    The easier way to think of it (at least for me) is that the Magisterium confirms that X is true.That women cannot be ordained Catholic priests is transparent to me. I am a human being residing somewhere. Does that mean Rob now believes it?

  • c matt says:

    Is it transparent as to why subatomic constituents can act as both a wave and a particle? Can anyone explain it so everyone else can understand it? And if every last person on earth can’t understand it, does that mean the constituents don’t act that way in reality?

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,In the spirit of this post and in partial response to a previous, I would point out that there is a difference between an ultramontane anti-essentialist and a person who ascribes to ultramontance anti-essentialist views.The primary difference is the dignity of the human person. But also important is that not all ultramontane anti-essentialists would ascribe to all of either ultramontance views nor anti-essentialist views. The shorthand label has the effect of reducing a person to a caricature.So surely, if one needs to be so careful in how one phrases what one believse, one should also exercise due caution in how one refers to brothers/sisters in Christ and members of the body of Christ.shalom,Steven

  • Steven says:

    Dear Rob,You posit that the only way to verfiy is through scripture, and while I would argue that there is verification enough in scripture, there is also clear verification in the practices of the Earliest Christians and in the fact that the prieshood is a continuation of and transformation of the Levitical Priesthood, which did not admit of women. But then, all you have there is my interpretation and reading of the scripture–is that any better a confirmation than the fact that from the earliest times women have not been admitted to the priesthood in the Judeo-Christian tradition–and this lack of admission may have been tied up with the problems with priestesses in the mystery religions? Refering to scripture is no better way to untangle the knot than to simply assert. You can deny all of my interpretation and reasoning, and voila–a New Protestant Confession is born.shalom,Steven

  • zippy says:

    Steven,Thanks for stopping in.<>I would point out that there is a difference between an ultramontane anti-essentialist and a person who ascribes [subscribes?] to ultramontane anti-essentialist views.<>I don’t think there is a difference, and it may be the notion that there is a difference that I am trying to tease out in my posts.I think (to pick an example) that the label “liberal” refers to a person who has loyalties to this thing external to himself, with its own essence: this thing we label liberalism. It isn’t up to him what liberalism actually is. It is only up to him whether or not he grants his loyalties to it (and to what extent, etc). He may even be deceived about its nature: perhaps it is a good thing essentially but his loyalties to it are rooted in selfishness; or perhaps it is evil but his loyalties to it arise from his (erroneous) perception of it as a good. But the particular liberal’s perception of liberalism does not make liberalism what it is, any more than a particular Catholic’s perception of Catholicism – including a Pope’s perception of Catholicism – makes Catholicism what it is.This understanding of things as having an essential nature external to ourselves is necessary in order to preserve the dignity of the human person. I acknowledge that the “I hate labels” mantra often arises from a desire to preserve human dignity, but I think that further rests on the premise that things (and in particular the sorts of things about which people assert that they hate labels) do not have an essential nature independent from us. Saying “Joe is a Nazi” these days is almost to say “Joe is not human” rather than “Joe has loyalties to this awful thing that is not-Joe, Naziism.” And this is in part because we see things like Naziism as internal to the person rather than as having their own external essences.It is possible that we are saying the same thing with different language. But my perception of the “I hate labels” mantra is that labels are hated <>because of<> an underlying antiessentialism, which results in the view that labels are an assault on the dignity of the person, because they do not refer to things that have their own essences independent of the person.<>So surely, if one needs to be so careful in how one phrases what one believse, one should also exercise due caution in how one refers to brothers/sisters in Christ and members of the body of Christ.<>Caution as a particular species of humility and/or charity is certainly a virtue.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–First of all, neither the label “liberal”, nor the label “conservative” means today what it meant 100, or even 50, years ago. Secondly, I doubt the essences of what those words meant 50, or 100, years ago are still to be found, intact, and operating as they did in those earlier times. So do, or did, those alleged essences ever really exist, other than as abstractions?Thirdly, adherence to a belief system is, in most people (I think), something extraneous to the essence of that person. It is more like a role adapted as a means to an end. One can be a card-carrying Nazi on Monday, have a Damascus Road experience on Tuesday, and join the anti-Nazi resistence on Wednesday. When we argued about the teleology of sex, you pretty much had me convinced that, immutably and regardless of contingent circumstances, the act of sex must allow for the possibility of conception. Now, that would be an expression of something essential, as opposed to a party affiliation.

  • Rob says:

    Steven-I echo Zippy in thanking you for joining the discussion.I have made two points that I don’t see that you have refuted in your response to what I’ve written.1) Scripture does not seem to *forbid* women becoming priests; and, 2) If a thing is not forbidden by scripture, the fact that there is no precedent for it does not eliminate it as a present, or future, possibility. The are many things that Jesus did that the Jewish religious tradition did not allow for. He hung out with untouchables; He ate with Gentiles, etc. That said, He did live in a patriarchal society–a partriarchal world–and probably reasoned that the concept of female priests was not feasible *at that time*. This is no longer the case. I see nothing essential to the functioning of the office of priesthood that is gender specific, especially given that priests are celebate. All I see is tradition and gender bias, which I probably share, but can’t find grounds to rationally defend.

  • zippy says:

    Rob, I think at least in part we are saying the same thing: the essence of the ism is independent of the person. The person doesn’t construct his own internal “ism” in a plenary act of the will, making it a part of himself. When a person is correctly labeled in this kind of instance, the label means “is a participant in this other thing that has its own independent essence” or “is loyal to this…”.On the particular point I don’t agree that the essence of liberalism is fundamentally changed from a century or two ago, but that is an entirely different discussion, as I was just using it as a particular example here :-). In the case of conservatism I agree: unlike with liberalism, the basic essence of conservatism has not been stable over the past few centuries in my view. But again, another discussion entirely.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Yes, I think we are in general agreement on everything but liberalism. If anything, I think that conservatism has changed less than liberalism. But, as you say, it’s a different argument.

  • c matt says:

    <>The are many things that Jesus did that the Jewish religious tradition did not allow for. He hung out with untouchables; He ate with Gentiles, etc. That said, He did live in a patriarchal society–a partriarchal world–and probably reasoned that the concept of female priests was not feasible *at that time*. This is no longer the case. I see nothing essential to the functioning of the office of priesthood that is gender specific, especially given that priests are celebate. All I see is tradition and gender bias, which I probably share, but can’t find grounds to rationally defend.<>The first part of your observation (Jesus did many counter-Jewish-cultural things) seems to undercut the second part – that He was somehow “bound” by the patriarchical culture He was born into. It seems rather odd the He would have no compunction shaking the Jewish leadership up (especially acknowledging His own divinity), but somehow would cringe from female priests? Not to mention the early community eating pork and dumping circumcision – but heck, we draw the line at female priests!!!While His particular Jewish culture was patriarchical, the entire rest of the world certainly was not.

  • Rob says:

    c matt–By eating with unclean individuals and Gentiles, Jesus put only His own self and/or reputation at risk. By sending women out to try to preach and/or administer the sacraments in a society where this would not be accepted, He would have been putting the whole gospel message, and His mission, at risk.This is only conjecture, of course.

  • Step2 says:

    “A sure witness to truth is not the creator of truth.”Corollary: A biased account may conceal as much truth as it reveals.

  • zippy says:

    I don’t know that that is a corollary, but it is true.

  • Rob says:

    I think that the critical thing about a biased account is that it reveals as much truth about he who gives it as it obscures about the topic it purports to describe.

  • Steven says:

    Dear Rob,I didn’t spell out my arguments; however, you support them entirely in you response. There are a great many things that Jesus did that flew in the face of the traditions that were established. But here we must cite two points, one an action, and one a statement.Jesus pointedly <>did not<> appoint as one of the Apostles, those who were to be the leaders of the Church any woman. Yes, he had disciples who were women, and he highly valued them; however, when it came to the core–unless you are a major fan of DVC, there were no women in the central cicle who were to become leaders. We do not have a letter from Salome to the Church at Tarsis, nor a letter of Mary Magadlene to the believers at Smyrna. We have apocryphal gospels of Mary Magdalene and Mary, Mother of God, but no such extant documents.The second point is that Jesus said pointedly that he did not come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. When chiding the Pharisees about their practices, he says “You tithe your tithe of mint and rue, but by Korban you fail to fulfill the commandments.” (I paraphrase.) I think a fairly strong argument can be made that Jesus came to do away with false practice and oppression, but that he did not set out to tople the Levitical priesthood, of which He was the head. Levitical law and practice does not allow for female priests. I would contend that such is evidence enough that Jesus had no intention of a female priesthood. He was certainly explicit enough when it came to other things. I don’t think we can take His silence on a matter to mean that He hasn’t spoken, but rather that what was in place did not need correction. Because much of Jesus’s talk was about correction and leading the right life. Any way, I know I won’t convince you– but I have, as you have requested, presented you with the Biblically based argument in favor of my contention. The end result of that is what? You will return to me with a biblically based argument that refutes it–and where have we gotten.That was my point about a new protestant confession–without authoratative intrepretation and humility and submission to it, we perpetually fragment the body of Christ based on our own opinions and reasoning. I hardly think that is what the Lord came to establish. So I would hold with those who claim that there is an authoratative voice for interpretation, which is exercised remarkably rarely.In the matter of the ordination of women, I think that voice also sounded more tentative than usual saying merely that the Pope had no authority to undo two thousand years of tradition and the meaning of the bible as interpreted by the Church and the fathers throughout that time.shalom,Steven

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,I would answer that the label offends human dignity and reduces the person to a cipher. I have never opposed the labelling of things–I think it is a good and largely laudable thing. But the labeling of a person tends to reduce the person to a label.For example you point out liberalism. Let’s take the case of a person who thinks that everyone is entitled to a fair and living wage for their work and that it is the duty of society to supply this. (A commonly identified “liberal” tenet.) And this same person opposes abortion. (Something commonly supported by liberalism). We might label this person a liberal, but then we’ve added to what might be a correct labeling and incorrect idea–this person supports abortion.My difficulty is that labeling a person is nearly always an overgeneralization. You have claimed that his or her “essence” is X. Well is that true? What is the essence of a person. I would say that it is the same for all people and the only “label” that holds true for all is “a creature formed in the image and likeness of God; a child of God.” That is the essential, the essence of a person. Any other label is less than essential because it typifies some portion of a pattern of thought or mode of behaving. A “Naxi” is not a species different from any other person–the essence is the same, “a creature formed in the image and likeness of God,” but he or she has accreted the accidents of patterns of thought . That doesn’t change the core, but it does change the surface. The surface, however isn’t the essence.So I’d contend that those so willing to label are labelling accidents when it comes to person and not essence, because the essence is supernatural all of the accidents are merely natural accretions that will ultimately have to be cleansed away in eternity. Perhaps that makes me a hyper-essentialist rather than an anti-essentialist.shalom,Steven

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy and Rob,My I do go on when I have a skinny little column. Please forgive the length of the rsponses.shalom,Steven

  • zippy says:

    Steven,Thanks for the response.<>I would answer that the label offends human dignity and reduces the person to a cipher.<>And again, I would say that it does so only for people who see the world in anti-essentialist terms. If the label is understood to mean the only thing that it can mean – that the person has loyalties to something <>essentially different from himself<> – then it protects his dignity. It isn’t the use of labels but their misuse by antiessentialists which turns them into an assault on human dignity.<>Let’s take the case of a person who thinks that everyone is entitled to a fair and living wage for their work and that it is the duty of society to supply this. (A commonly identified “liberal” tenet.) And this same person opposes abortion. (Something commonly supported by liberalism). We might label this person a liberal,…<>I would not label such a person a liberal on that basis. People do, but I believe that to rest on an underlying antiessentialist error.Antiessentialism reduces something like liberalism to whatever lists of policies people who are currently called liberals hold. This obscures the objective reality of liberalism and the many different complex ways in which people can come to have loyalties to it. The essence of liberalism, as I understand it, is the treatment of freedom and equal rights of individuals as the highest priority in the political realm. Other goods are presumed to flow from it or to be subordinate to it.I also understand liberalism to be an evil thing. But because I am an essentialist I don’t understand liberals to be “evil things”, whereas if I was an antiessentialist it would immediately follow that liberals in general are just plain evil. Quite a bit of the modern dehumanization of political opponents rests on antiessentialism. One can’t dehumanize one’s political opponents if one realizes that the “ism” is very real but is essentially distinct from the person, and that the most that can be said about the person is that he has some degree of loyalty to the ism for his own reasons, many or all of which are probably perfectly ordinary human reasons.Finally, no one should ever apologize to me for being long-winded!

  • zippy says:

    Steven,Thanks for the response.<>I would answer that the label offends human dignity and reduces the person to a cipher.<>And again, I would say that it does so only for people who see the world in anti-essentialist terms. If the label is understood to mean the only thing that it can mean – that the person has loyalties to something <>essentially different from himself<> – then it protects his dignity. It isn’t the use of labels but their misuse by antiessentialists which turns them into an assault on human dignity.<>Let’s take the case of a person who thinks that everyone is entitled to a fair and living wage for their work and that it is the duty of society to supply this. (A commonly identified “liberal” tenet.) And this same person opposes abortion. (Something commonly supported by liberalism). We might label this person a liberal,…<>I would not label such a person a liberal on that basis. People do, but I believe that to rest on an underlying antiessentialist error.Antiessentialism reduces something like liberalism to whatever lists of policies people who are currently called liberals hold. This obscures the objective reality of liberalism and the many different complex ways in which people can come to have loyalties to it. The essence of liberalism, as I understand it, is the treatment of freedom and equal rights of individuals as the highest priority in the political realm. Other goods are presumed to flow from it or to be subordinate to it.I also understand liberalism to be an evil thing. But because I am an essentialist I don’t understand liberals to be “evil things”, whereas if I was an antiessentialist it would immediately follow that liberals in general are just plain evil. Quite a bit of the modern dehumanization of political opponents rests on antiessentialism. One can’t dehumanize one’s political opponents if one realizes that the “ism” is very real but is essentially distinct from the person, and that the most that can be said about the person is that he has some degree of loyalty to the ism for his own reasons, many or all of which are probably perfectly ordinary human reasons.Finally, no one should ever apologize to me for being long-winded!

  • zippy says:

    In other words Steven, we agree or almost agree about this:<>So I’d contend that those so willing to label are labelling accidents when it comes to person and not essence, …<>The “ism” is something separate and distinct from the person, with its own essence, and the person’s relation to the “ism” is one of <>loyalty<> or <>support<>, for any of the myriad human reasons for putting faith in something external to the self.The problem which has to be repaired is not the use of labels, which cannot be avoided without making conversation impossible. The problem which has to be repaired is in seeing “isms” as having no objective essences of their own, independent of the person whom we label as a (more or less) loyal supporter of the ism.

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,Your reply solves one dilemma and opens up an entirely different set–how does one recognize what the essence of a thing is and separate it from the accidentals.You claim that the essence of liberalism is a certain attitude toward the human animal. It may well be so, I don’t know. But on what bsis can this be decided objectively. And how does one separate that essence from the accidental of, “All people are entitled to a living wage or to support that allows a life of dignity?”Essences aren’t particularly useful if they aren’t identifiable. And moreover, if you have said a person is in essence a liberal and you believe the essense of liberalism is essentially evil, have you not said that a person is evil?I do believe ardently in essentials–but I’m not sure I believe in them in the way you define them here. Is the essence of liberalism an attitude toward humankind? Where does one look for it? Does it not have as many essences as it has people to define its essence.I suppost I think in the Oriental terms of Li and Chi, where Li is the “thingness” of the thing and Chi is the changeable, mutable nature of the things in question that allows us to recognize it as the thing, even though it is different in appearance. The Chi of a chihuahua and a doberman pinscher is different, but the Li is the same.Is this not an adequate understanding of essences?Let’s face it, I’m just out of my league in the discussion. Nevertheless, I shall continue to try. . . your patience, Rob’s patience, ACO’s patience (any casual observer)…shalom,Steven

  • Rob says:

    Steven–I don’t see how the fact that women priests would not have been feasible in the Jewish religion of the first century, has any *necessary* correlation to the Christian religion of the 21st century. I do see where the tradition comes from.

  • EC Trader says:

    Rob-re: the tradition of the Church of male-only ordained priesthood. One has to search much deeper into the scriptures and the gospel through the eyes of the Magisterium. In a very basic nutshell, the role of the priest coincides with the nature of man (and I mean masculine man). This is born out in the Church’s teaching–and recently most specifically in Pope John Paul’s II Theology of the Body which is basically a meditation of scripture. If you understand the role of man and the role of the ordained priest in the Church, then you will see the similarities and it would become obvious the reason why it is intrinsically impossible for a woman to become an ordained priest. Good luck in your search.

  • zippy says:

    <>…if you have said a person is in essence a liberal and you believe the essense of liberalism is essentially evil, have you not said that a person is evil?<>NO! To be a liberal is simply to have a loyalty to liberalism, <>which is its own independent thing<> and about which any particular person may be terribly mistaken.<>Does it not have as many essences as it has people to define its essence.<>NO! We can choose our way in life, but we don’t even get to choose the objectively true implications of our own thoughts. We especially don’t get to choose the rational and historical/future concrete implications of the inherently communal “isms” to which we are loyal.<>Essences aren’t particularly useful if they aren’t identifiable.<>That depends on what you mean by “identifiable”. I don’t find the essences of things like liberalism, Islam, and Catholicism particularly more (or less!) mysterious than the essences of quarks, or time, or space, or morality, or love, or consciousness, or friendship, or any number of a whole multitude of other everyday things.

  • Steven says:

    Dear Rob,And so, you sustain my point. You are convinced that a female priesthood is viable, no amount of proof of any sort will move you from that conviction, but then you must honor that same conviction amongst those demonstrating their proof that a female priesthood is not viable. Were we in the same confession, we have just created schism.Zippy,I think one of the problems I have with your notions of labels is that you are taxonomically a splitter and I am a lumper. That is to say, you can see a species of human of type X, and I say there is a single species of human. The essence of humanity does not subsist in the ideas they hold but in the persons they are before God. If I thought that there were people whose essences differed from my own, then I could be justified in applying labels and using those labels as categories of people that I must avoid. You say the essence of liberalism is evil. If a person is essentially a liberal, they must perforce be essentially evil. Also, if liberalism is really the essence of that person, then the person may change outward accidents, but could never be anything but liberal, and was therefore created evil to die evil.I choose to view essences as more concrete and prototypical. The essence of a human being is the image and likeness of God. The ideas that any given person holds are accretions onto that essence, and through time those ideas may change. Liberalism may be, in essence, evil, but a “liberal” is not an essence in itself, but a person who holds to a creed. Speaking as one whose creed has changed many times, I can see with some certainty that I am not the ideas I hold but rather a child before God ready to do His Will. That is my essence.Perhaps we mean different things when we say the word essence. I have a feeling that I am referring to something quite different than what you are speaking of–because I do believe what you are saying about ideas–they have abstract reality as a prototypical or archtypal image from which they are copied and changed. Liberalism is an essence. But a liberal is not the essentially liberalism, but essentially a person first.Hope this makes sense.shalom,Steven

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,By your explanation before my 4:20 post ( which I had not read as I wrote) I can see that we are in agreement on the matter, but it reaffirms my opposition to labels rather than squelches it. If a person is not ESSENTIALLY a liberal but a person who claims allegiance to the liberal idea, then we have two essences, a person and liberalism interacting at the will of the person. This I can agree with. But labeling that interaction requires identification of the essence and far too many people apply a label after hearing one or two attitudes or ideas. For example, I have been called both liberal and progressive, and yet don’t see it in myself. To my mind the essence of progressivism is that change is in itself a positive good. I don’t believe that for a moment.In addition, I would say than most of my ideas are as anti-liberal as they come. The individual is NOT God. But once these labels are attached, its very hard to be heard without the bias that the labels brings. That, to my mind is the problem of labels.shalom,Steven

  • zippy says:

    <>If a person is essentially a liberal, they must perforce be essentially evil.<>Only if liberalism is not something independent of the person with its own independent essence, and if to be a liberal means something other than “having faith in or loyalty to this external thing, liberalism”.<>But a liberal is not the essentially liberalism, but essentially a person first.<>I apologize for getting frustrated, Steven, but I’ve said this same thing at least three or four times. We are in violent agreement on the point. When we use the label “liberal” we are referring not to the essence of the person, but to a relation (loyalty) between that person and an external thing that has its own independent essence, “liberalism”. The problem is in the refusal to see things (e.g. liberalism) as having their own independent essences to which we are connected by loyalties; not with the use of labels. We can’t even have a conversation without using labels.

  • Step2 says:

    Steven, I think zippy is trying to say that being labeled a liberal does not imply being a subset to the archetype of liberalism, merely that there is a resonance (and sometimes dissonance) that arises between the form and the person.If that is a correct description, your objections about overgeneralization still apply, since it takes some discovery to determine how accurate any label really is.

  • zippy says:

    Steven, I see that our posts crossed. I think Step2 has restated it well. I think that objecting to labels-qua-labels feeds antiessentialism, and instead of objecting to labels we ought to be objecting to the misuse of labels.(And by the way, I don’t believe I have ever misperceived your loyalties enough to think of you as a liberal).

  • Steven says:

    Dear Zippy,Yes, I admit to being dense. Sorry. And I’m glad about not being thought of as a liberal–though I’m not sure muddle-headed does much for my self-esteem either.Yes, it is the misuse that I would protest, and as you are well aware, one chief form of misuse, in my estimation is labeling people. To label a set of ideas or tenets “liberal” carries no onus. To label a person a liberal implies a certain amount of judgment, considering the weight that “liberalism” seems to carry. But I think we’ve talked about this before and will have to agree to disagree.Just so’s you know, one of the labels I did acquire early on from a priest who I grew to dislike was the contemptuous “Essentialist.” So I think I’m in the camp, maybe more so than most, and maybe to a degree that others would find unhealthy. But it certainly does lend itself to absolutes, in which I also believe.shalom,Steven

  • zippy says:

    Always interesting and worthwhile discussing things with you, Steven, and I appreciate you taking the time. I wish I could say a priest had called me “essentialist” in cold blood, hah!

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–What exactly does “essentialist” mean? To me, it means that the world–creation–is a thought in the mind of God. The “essence” of things, the glue of reality, is Mind, rather than matter. The kind of idea that would make everything a “substance”, which implies, to me, making everything material, doesn’t compute. Can you explain?

  • zippy says:

    Rob,I looked at the Wikipedia article on essentialism to see if it would be helpful, and it really doesn’t speak to what I am focusing on here.In a nutshell, an antiesssentialist will view a word like “liberalism” the way < HREF="http://sundials.org/about/humpty.htm" REL="nofollow">Humpty Dumpty<> views it. The word refers not to an objective external essence but to whatever internal state of his mind that Humpty chooses it to refer to; nothing more, nothing less, and always subject to Humpty’s will. Nobody else can impute an implication that Humpty does not agree to, because there is no essence to the referent other than just what Humpty wills. If Humpty is a liberal, it is only because Humpty agrees in every particular with what liberal means and implies, and further agrees that he is one. “Liberal”, if it applies legitimately as a label to Humpty, does so only because he chooses for it to apply and chooses all that it entails.An essentialist understands a word to refer to some real essence that is external to the person who utters it. A speaker is not the God of the words he uses, creating just that reality by speech that he chooses to create: rather, his words refer to objective things and have objective implications about which he may be completely ignorant or mistaken.The gist of my last few posts is that when someone starts playing Humpty Dumpty, it is time to make an omelette.

  • zippy says:

    Rob, I promoted this to < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2006/04/essentialist-means-just-what-i-say-it.html" REL="nofollow">its own post<>.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Thanks. I understand. Of course, what Humpty thinks is essential, and what Zippy thinks is nominal, and what Rob thinks of what Humpty and Zippy think about the matter, will remain, potentially, objects of debate. Unless, of course, one had something that would unerringly proclaim what is essential and what is not. Something like…oh, I don’t know…a SACRED SCRIPTURE?!See, you would say that Catholic dogma is essentialist. And I would reply, quoting, say, Paul Tillich, that, to the contrary, it might be nominalist. Tillich would say that some Catholic dogma is based on nothing more than arbitrary consensus, achieved by committee, to end a dispute with a compromise. (He would, of course, agree that some Catholic dogma is based on divine Revelation.)So, how do you prove that, in aggressively asserting your essentialism, you aren’t just one more nominalist with delusions of grandeur?

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Sorry. I should’ve placed my comment above. I got carried away.

  • zippy says:

    Rob, actual essences of actual things are indeed debatable; but we have to agree that things have essences and what it means for things to have essences before that hydra of debates can happen.And you have commenting privileges at ZC in all the comment boxes. Your comments can go in just the comment box you choose: not the one before, not the one after.

  • Rob says:

    Zippy–Had I chosen a comment box, i.e., had I stopped to reflect upon which comment box I was choosing, I’d have chosen t’other one. But, I am gratified by your liberalism on the issue.

  • zippy says:

    Me blogga es su blogga.

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You are currently reading An ultramontane antiessentialist, by any other name, would be just as wrong… at Zippy Catholic.

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