The unholy ghost of modernity
March 8, 2016 § 164 Comments
One of the ways that folks keep falling into the mind trap of liberalism is through failure to grasp that liberalism is specifically and concretely a political doctrine: a basic understanding or view about the right exercise of authority. Liberalism makes freedom into a purpose, final cause, or telos of political action, that is, of the exercise of authority. Discussion of freedom as something other than final cause of political action is a change of subject: it is a squirrel, a red herring. Liberalism is freedom as a purpose or final cause of political acts.
Politics in action specifically just is the art of discriminating authoritatively, restricting freedom in controvertible cases to promote some particular understanding of the good. Actual politics – politics in act, in action – every specifically political act – involves the exercise of authoritative discrimination to restrict freedom. So it is impossible – nay not merely impossible, it is incoherent – to try to make freedom a telos or final cause of political acts. Political acts just are restrictions on freedom.
Political acts always and necessarily involve the resolution of controvertible cases. Freedom as final cause of political action quite precisely demands that we do not resolve the specific controverted case in front of us: that we do not exercise substantive discriminating authority: that authority must refrain from prejudicial acting, must remain neutral in a specific controverted matter. But when we authoritatively decide ‘not to resolve’ the controverted case in front of us – whatever that implies for the particular case – we have still made an authoritative, discriminatory choice about that controverted case.
Making freedom the principle of political action requires politics to not act. It requires politics to remain non-actual: it insists that prejudiced political authority a priori favoring a particular understanding of the good must disappear. Insisting that freedom (and concomitantly equality and fraternity) are the principles of political action, are the final causes of political acts, requires politics to remain literally unreal, non-actual. It creates a political wraith, a ghostly creature which pretends not to exist as it tears out your entrails: the unholy ghost of modernity.
Naturally, in the context of real people competing over real controversies, liberalism’s inherent anti-realism is invoked selectively by parties in political conflict with each other. Rather than defusing violence coming from unreasoning prejudice as it pretends to do, liberalism amplifies violence and covers it up with a positivist blindfold.
But freedom or liberty as a specifically political priority/telos – liberalism – is not just wrong. It is not merely a mistake which places a lower good in too high of a place in a hierarchy of goods. It is quite literally rationally incoherent, and thus destroys politics. It invalidates actual authority (authority in action), makes rejection of authority into the principle of authority, thereby unleashing the unconstrained will.
There is no coherent freedom as a specifically political prior which does not entail empowering wickedness and suppressing the good.