Cooperating with Boromir

July 13, 2017 § 18 Comments

Nothing I have said should be taken as a denigration of voluntary cooperation. Voluntary cooperation is an essential part of any community — this point is so obvious that it shouldn’t really need to be stated at all.

However, voluntary cooperation is entirely irrelevant when the specific question we are asking is the fundamental question of politics: that is, what grounds the legitimacy of every (or any) concrete, human exercise of authority?[1]

The answer to this question cannot be “freedom,” or “equal rights,” or any permutation of those things without resort to:

  1. Tautology (“freedom” just means that the concrete exercise of authority is justified when it is and isn’t justified when it isn’t);
  2. Nominalism (described recently here); or
  3. Self contradiction (described recently here).

 


[1] My answer to this question is that I don’t have a comprehensive answer myself. (I also don’t have a comprehensive theory of where rabbits come from).

But modernity’s answer — liberalism — no matter how it is phrased or how circumscribed right liberals attempt to frame it to be — is a motte-and-bailey mashup of tautology, nominalism, and self contradiction.

§ 18 Responses to Cooperating with Boromir

  • Terry Morris says:

    I fail to see why this *ever* even needs to come up. A post that doesn’t explicitly mention voluntary cooperation, voluntary association, voluntary union, … however you like to denominate it, *does not necessarily mean* the writer ignores or rejects the principle.

  • “However, voluntary cooperation is entirely irrelevant when the specific question we are asking is the fundamental question of politics: that is, what grounds the legitimacy of every (or any) concrete, human exercise of authority?”

    I am not so sure about that, Zippy. I do not understand it all myself, but cooperation,consent,voluntary submission to authority, plays a significant role in the equation. What “grounds the legitimacy of human authority” in my mind is simply, “he who is under authority, has authority.” Also, Romans 13.

    There is a natural tendency to want to say,”well what about bad authority?” I’m pretty certain that part is irrelevant. We honor our parents,not our “good” parents. We serve the king not the “good” king. We submit even to our deeply flawed authority.

    God Himself does not need or demand our consent, but He grants it. So His very model of authority involves consent and cooperation. The way I see it, we are voluntarily of God or else the other guy just helps himself to us.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    If voluntary cooperation isn’t distinguishable from obedience then we may as well be talking jabberwocky.

  • TomD says:

    I think Submission to authority is voluntary. Submission to authority is mandatory comes into play here.

    And a most honored and respected authority will never have to resort to force, if the subjects be good.

  • Zippy says:

    The distinction here is, precisely, between whether doing something different is or is not justified. In voluntary cooperation doing something different from what is proposed would be justified, by definition.

  • Hard to see how voluntary cooperation is *entirely* irrelevant when non-cooperation is so often a response to perceived illegitimacy of authority. Authority requires degrees of cooperation to function, we can make sensible distinctions between what counts as coerced and what counts as voluntary but those distinctions will be relevant to the legitimacy of all exercises of authority.

  • Zippy says:

    camestrosfelapton:

    Bob tells Fred to X.

    Fred either is or is not now morally obligated to X.

    Fred cannot be simultaneously obligated and not obligated to X.

    The distinction is categorical.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Human authority is ad hoc, like any old guy stepping forward and directing traffic when that needs to happen. That does not mean you have a “right” to reject authority at will: refusal to cooperate often would be a failure of charity or even endanger people, directly or subtly. Being human, and liking a solution to a frequent conundrum without a bothersome bunch of negotiation, we “vest” people like sheriffs with authority as an aid to everyone’s struggle; and then it is certainly an offense to violate custom and reject such vested authority without very strong reason. My tantrum, or my profit, is NOT strong reason, but saving my daughter from official sexual assault would be.

    Because God designed human nature well (in spite of the Fall), we all have an inborn respect for authority starting with Mommy and Daddy. We also have minds capable of understanding when authority goes terribly wrong. Unless our brains are rotted by dishonest modern notions of “rights” it is usually not too difficult to figure where one starts and the other lets off. Get over your “rights”! God wants comedy! God wants the primary reality to be love, which implies even choir directors have authority.

  • “The distinction here is, precisely, between whether doing something different is or is not justified……. The distinction is categorical.”

    Those distinctions are too subtle for me to understand, sorry. Justified by whom? Isn’t all obedience voluntary? Well,I suppose there can be incentives and disincentives, but we still retain freewill, don’t we?

    By “morally obliged,” are you speaking of something like duty? In my thinking, none of us are capable of meeting our moral obligations perfectly in all situations, at all times. Therefore it is a given that we will fail. Perfection would be more like submitting to God,surrendering to the Jewish and Roman authorities, and giving up your very life.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Being human, and liking a solution to a frequent conundrum without a bothersome bunch of negotiation, we “vest” people like sheriffs with authority as an aid to everyone’s struggle …

    That sounds very social contract-y.

    I have actually read the Little House books to my kids BTW. Wikipedia confirms what I recall, as a pertinent example:

    At the end of this book, the family is told that the land must be vacated by settlers as it is not legally open to settlement yet, and in 1870 Pa elects to leave the land and move before the Army forcibly requires him to abandon the land.

    As I recall the books often involved settlement claims and the like, adjudicated by higher authorities.

    Frontiersmen were — like pretty much everyone else — subject to many different authorities which preceded them and which they did not themselves establish. The idea that frontiersmen grew authority in their gardens is mythology.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    Isn’t all obedience voluntary?

    We either do or do not choose to do the right thing in a given circumstance, yes.

    When commanded to do (or not do) something in particular by someone in authority, we either are or are not morally obligated to obey, given the circumstances.

    It is not possible – that is, the very notion is rationally incoherent — for us to be simultaneously obligated to obey and not obligated to obey.

    Whether or not we actually do obey is a matter of free will, of course, and always; but that is irrelevant to the prior question of whether or not we are morally obligated to obey.

  • Zippy July 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

    Bob tells Fred to X.
    Fred either is or is not now morally obligated to X.
    Fred cannot be simultaneously obligated and not obligated to X.
    The distinction is categorical.

    Ah, thank you. Yes, that clarifies what you meant for me.

  • “Whether or not we actually do obey is a matter of free will, of course, and always; but that is irrelevant to the prior question of whether or not we are morally obligated to obey.”

    Perhaps that makes more sense tome in the reverse, “when are we morally obligated to NOT obey?”

    I do appreciate your point about how “freedom,” or “equal rights” are not the answer to the question. Neither of those things are inherently moral and they are both somewhat subjective,so basically a foundation of shifting sand.

    I keep thinking of a mink farm not far from here and in the name of freedom, some activists snuck in and released them all. There was a massive slaughter as they promptly froze to death and were eaten by coyotes and hawks. Tragic, but somewhat comical too, the sheer immorality of it all under the guise of “freedom.”

  • Zippy says:

    Modern people tend to resist categorical claims: to treat all claims as some continuum, where a categorical claim is a kind of prudential claim ‘turned up to 11’.

    In this case the categoricity folks seem to struggle with pertains to the fundamental question of politics, that is, authority: the capacity for a man in authority to create a moral obligation by issuing a command or law.

    Now, when a man issues a command or law which proposes to bind subjects, those putative subjects either are or are not, categorically, obligated to obey. Either the moral obligation to obey is successfully instantiated by the command, or it isn’t. There is no middle ground, because we are not dealing with a sand pile or statistical curve.

    The distinction is categorical, for much the same reason that an instantiated ‘right’ either exists (really obtains) or does not exist (really does not obtain).

    Folks often get mired in the notion that my views require an ‘extreme’ understanding of rights or, more generally, of authority. But (my sort of) metaphysical realism is only ‘extreme’ in the sense that I make a categorical distinction between things which really exist or really obtain, and things which do not.

  • Edward says:

    One problem is that people do not have a clear idea of who has authority over them and who does not.

    Most solid Catholics recognise the authority of the Pope, most soldiers recognise the authority of their senior officers, most traditionally-minded people recognise that of the sovereign, and some people even go so far as to recognise the authority of their fathers, but most people can’t even get that far.

    The result is that these discussions get bogged down because people are imagining a hybrid situation that involves obeying a legitimate authority while also resisting an illegitimate one. Hence the references to authorities we “recognise” or “accept”.

    Essentially, if we knew WHO we are bound to obey, we would more easily accept THAT we are to obey.

  • TomD says:

    Sadly, even most “solid” Catholics spend much of their time arguing why you can ignore the Pope unless he goes infallible; especially when he’s disagreeing with your politics.

  • The answer lies in those sacred words The Godman taught us to recite:

    ‘Thy Kingdom come,
    Thy Will be done.’

    St. Thomas Aquinas, The Angelic Doctor:

    On Human Law:

    [d] On the contrary, Isidore says (Etym. v, 20): “Laws were made that in fear thereof human audacity might be held in check, that innocence might be safeguarded in the midst of wickedness, and that the dread of punishment might prevent the wicked from doing harm.” But these things are most necessary to mankind. Therefore it was necessary that human laws should be made.

    [e] I answer that, As stated above ([2026] Q [63], A [1]; [2027] Q [94], A [3]), man has a natural aptitude for virtue; but the perfection of virtue must be acquired by man by means of some kind of training. Thus we observe that man is helped by industry in his necessities, for instance, in food and clothing. Certain beginnings of these he has from nature, viz. his reason and his hands; but he has not the full complement, as other animals have, to whom nature has given sufficiency of clothing and food. Now it is difficult to see how man could suffice for himself in the matter of this training: since the perfection of virtue consists chiefly in withdrawing man from undue pleasures, to which above all man is inclined, and especially the young, who are more capable of being trained. Consequently a man needs to receive this training from another, whereby to arrive at the perfection of virtue. And as to those young people who are inclined to acts of virtue, by their good natural disposition, or by custom, or rather by the gift of God, paternal training suffices, which is by admonitions. But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice, and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. Now this kind of training, which compels through fear of punishment, is the discipline of laws. Therefore in order that man might have peace and virtue, it was necessary for laws to be framed: for, as the Philosopher says (Polit. i, 2), “as man is the most noble of animals if he be perfect in virtue, so is he the lowest of all, if he be severed from law and righteousness”; because man can use his reason to devise means of satisfying his lusts and evil passions, which other animals are unable to do.

    [f] Reply to Objection 1: Men who are well disposed are led willingly to virtue by being admonished better than by coercion: but men who are evilly disposed are not led to virtue unless they are compelled.

    [g] Reply to Objection 2: As the Philosopher says (Rhet. i, 1), “it is better that all things be regulated by law, than left to be decided by judges”: and this for three reasons. First, because it is easier to find a few wise men competent to frame right laws, than to find the many who would be necessary to judge aright of each single case. Secondly, because those who make laws consider long beforehand what laws to make; whereas judgment on each single case has to be pronounced as soon as it arises: and it is easier for man to see what is right, by taking many instances into consideration, than by considering one solitary fact. Thirdly, because lawgivers judge in the abstract and of future events; whereas those who sit in judgment of things present, towards which they are affected by love, hatred, or some kind of cupidity; wherefore their judgment is perverted.

    [h] Since then the animated justice of the judge is not found in every man, and since it can be deflected, therefore it was necessary, whenever possible, for the law to determine how to judge, and for very few matters to be left to the decision of men.

    [i] Reply to Objection 3: Certain individual facts which cannot be covered by the law “have necessarily to be committed to judges,” as the Philosopher says in the same passage: for instance, “concerning something that has happened or not happened,” and the like.
    *endquote

    Further reading ought to be done of The Treatise on The Cardinal Virtues; Of Obedience, Of Justice.
    http://www.drbo.org/sum/question/33700.htm

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