Humpty Dumpty making omelettes

July 14, 2017 § 121 Comments

Today we’ll explore another infrared pill by showing that it is impossible for authority to limit itself[1].

Post Cartesian modernity believes in matter-energy, physical laws, and an interior realm of personal experience in which each human being orchestrates the drama of his subjective life in the IMAX theater of the mind. This radical disconnect between physics and subjective experience produces a purely subjective concept of value: “is” (it is thought) cannot give rise to “ought”, so economic and moral values are merely market aggregations of subjective preferences. Arson produces value as long as the arsonists all agree that it produces value. Nietzsche informs us that God is dead, Hume insists that facts and values live in entirly distinct realms. Thus modern man finds himself in the position of believing six impossible things before breakfast, as long as he finds them subjectively pleasing.

One of modernity’s more subtle contradictory ideas, resting in the radical subjectivity of this post Cartesian picture of the world as applied to authority, is the notion that authority can limit itself.

Now there is a very banal sense in which we might say, very loosely speaking, that authority can limit itself. A good leader exercises deliberation and restraint, as some of the virtues of good leadership[2].  More accurately stated, persons who hold authority can choose different ways of governing, and of course some ways of governing are better than others given different circumstances.

But, more strictly speaking, it is impossible for authority to limit itself.  Authority does not and cannot operate on itself: authority operates on subjects, on individuals who are obligated, in context, to obey some particular assertion of authority.

As I’ve described before, authority in its essence is a capacity for someone in a position of authority to create moral obligations on the part of subjects (those subject to that authority).  When a property owner tells his guests to leave, this creates a moral obligation on their part to leave.  Whether they do or do not actually choose to leave at that point is an exercise of their free will; but what they literally cannot do, in an act of free will, is destroy the moral obligation that they have to leave once the owner has told them to leave.

Authority is distinct from material capacity to enforce authority.  An injured father in bed retains his authority over his sons irrespective of his physical ability to fetch and apply the switch to their behinds. The fact that sons might be able to avoid punishment doesn’t destroy their moral obligation to obey their father.

Now a particular father may fail to exercise his authority when he should, may act imprudently, may be lenient, may be strict, may tolerate things he shouldn’t, etc. He may even abdicate his own personal paternal authority by abandoning his family.

However, nothing that he does qua father can change the nature of the authority of fatherhood. The authority of fatherhood has a particular, given nature and scope: it is an objective reality, not something the nature of which fathers can themselves change or upon which particular fathers can place limits. That a particular father may choose to govern in a particular way doesn’t alter the nature of the authority of fatherhood, and therefore of his own authority in itself, in the slightest.

The idea that a person in a particular position of authority can choose the nature of the authority he exercises is self-negating.  If he is just making up what his authority and responsibility entail like the author of a fictional story, then his authority and responsibilities can be whatever he subjectively decides to make them. But if authority is a fiction written by the person holding it then no subject has any objectively real obligation to obey it. The existence and nature of authority must of necessity be prior to the exercise of that authority, as the nature of a man is prior to his choices and is itself unchosen by that man.  A man can pervert himself and destroy himself, but he cannot change the nature of what it is to be a man no matter how many tattoo inks and scalpels and vials of hormones he employs.

It is possible for individuals to lose (or regain, for that matter) their personal occupancy of particular positions of authority for a variety of reasons.  A property owner might sell his property, as one of an infinite number of possible examples. It is also possible for the apparatus of enforcement to be configured in a virtually infinite number of ways.

But it is not possible for individuals in positions of authority to change the nature of authority itself, any more than a scientist can change the objective nature of matter by rewriting equations.  Authority, like the good more generally, is a feature of given reality not an edifice built to conquer Heaven by the People of Babel.

A concrete real world example is the modern abortion regime.  The sovereign has the authority and concomittant responsibility to treat murder as the crime that it is in fact, and to enforce the law against murder to the extent possible. Liberals pretend that the sovereign is merely ‘limiting himself’ when in the name of freedom and equality of rights he issues legal warrant to murder the weak and defenseless and enforces that warrant. But this regime of putatively ‘self limiting authority’ doesn’t in fact limit the actual authority (and concomitant responsibility) of the sovereign.  Sociopathic exercise of authority isn’t ‘self limiting’ authority unless we are nominalists and simply define it that way by fiat.

And if we are nominalists then when we use a word it circularly means just what we say it means, nothing more, nothing less; rendering unequivocal communication, let alone understanding of reality, impossible.

A regime can pervert itself, make itself sociopathic, and even destroy itself.  But no mechanistic scheme of Man can change the nature of legitimate authority.


[1] “Impossible” here is a statement of fact, not a statement of preference.

[2] “We insist that we must have only good leaders” is a nice sentiment; but welcome to the human race.

§ 121 Responses to Humpty Dumpty making omelettes

  • LarryDickson says:

    You are still missing the point, Zippy. You even admit it: “authority operates on subjects, on individuals who are obligated, in context, to obey some particular assertion of authority.” The words “in context” make the authority non-absolute, so logically it is “on individuals who are obligated sometimes . . .”

    Of course you are right that authority cannot limit itself – that is one of those self-refuting notions like the absolute statement that “all truth is relative”. Nevertheless ALL HUMAN AUTHORITY IS LIMITED by the laws of God and by the human nature established by God. Thus, constitutional authority (the kind of authority exercised when establishing a constitution) is not internally self-limited but is externally limited by God and human nature, and the wise constitution writers take this into account in their work. They put in procedural safeguards that ATTEMPT TO keep later authority under their system operating on the straight and narrow. (This is seen even when doing subsidiary things like writing articles of incorporation or a constitution for a fraternal organization.)

    Of course, the ATTEMPT to restrain later authorities fails after a while. Sic transit respublica Romana – and we have our baby-killing Supreme Court. And the people running the fraternal organization embezzle its funds. Same thing happens when the medieval “constitution” meets someone like Henry VIII, so a “nobility” system does not work either. There is no End of History – except as God will provide.

    But here is a key point, Zippy. The central problem is not the SUBJECTS becoming disobedient. The central problem is the AUTHORITIES turning against God and human nature in their overweening pride. And the proper response of the subjects when that happens, if acting within the system does not restrain the authorities, is . . . rebellion! Because it is the authorities who are breaking the REAL law established by God and human nature. You can establish constitutions or nobilities until you are blue in the face, but all human authority remains ad hoc, and limited and legitimized only by the REAL law. Romans 13:1 actually makes that clear – applying insofar as the authorities are doing God’s work.

    You are mixing this up this legitimate rebellion with the kind of rebellion that comes from self-will. Please notice that THAT rebellion is actually encouraged by the authorities, just as criminals were encouraged to beat up “politicals” in the Soviet labor camps.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    I know, I am “missing the point” — despite your failure to point out anything incorrect in what I actually said – because I talk about the authority of husbands and fathers without letting endless complaint about how abusive and rapey and tyrannical most men are, and how wives and children rebelling against them is almost always justified, dominate the conversation.

  • Ian says:

    Great post.

    A possible concrete application of the principle you elucidate here:

    I recently got into a debate with someone over the Civil War. While he conceded that ‘consent of the governed’ was bollocks, he stated that since the American nation was explicitly founded on this concept, the United States government was therefore obliged to abide by it and had no right to forbid the southern states from seceding.

    But constituent of any legitimate government’s authority is the authority to maintain itself and its integrity. If it did not have this authority, it would not be a legitimate nation, but rather would be a mere confederation of nations, something like the E.U. or the U.N. Supposing (for sake of argument) even that the Constitution had explicitly stated that the states had the unilateral right to leave the Union, such a statement would be a contradiction to the very nature of the authority which gave the Constitution its authoritative nature in the first place. Such a self-limitation on its authority would make no sense.

    Suppose a father were to claim his authority over his children were based on his children’s consent. If one of his children decided to call his bluff and said, “I’m going to run away”, and then his father decided that he would use his power to prevent this, he would be acting rightly, his earlier remarks regarding his children’s consent notwithstanding. Likewise with the North in the Civil War.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Three replies to that: (a) it’s actually divine (4th commandment) authority that legitimizes fathers and mothers; (b) the ad hoc nature of human authority means a feminist wife’s reflexively stripping her husband of authority IN THE MANY CASES WHERE HIS AUTHORITY MAKES SENSE is an offense against charity (i.e. ruins the lives of everyone in the family); (c) the step from a few abusive men to rebelling against all men is the kind of legalistic, self-willed leap typical of dishonest modern anti-realism (the thing you rightly critique). A loving wife wants her husband to have authority, just as she wants him to be tall and strong. God’s design is comedy.

    Legalism as a lever of self-will is evil. The wife illegitimately dethroning her husband uses tools like counsellors, women’s shelters, police complaints and divorce judges. While puffing herself up with pride over her “independence” she is actually submitting to our poisonous higher authority and taking its side against her “loved” ones. The same thing goes for the husband who uses “no-fault divorce” to cheat on his wife.

    I call for a strong dose of rebellious tribalism. Defend your husband! Defend your wife! Above all, defend your children – and your neighbor’s children! A good source book – starting from an assumption of near-complete invincible ignorance – is Roger Thomas’s The Accidental Marriage.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    I call for a strong dose of rebellious tribalism.

    Any supposed ‘counterrevolution’ which doesn’t start with complete, unequivocal, categorical, non-negotiable identification and repudiation of liberalism, is dead in its crib.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Agreed, Zippy, as long as the liberalism you refer to is a subset of modern anti-realism. Then your point is automatic, because no form of tribalism (itself a form of love) is consistent with modern anti-realism. But as a rhetorical point, I suggest that saying “we are for tribalism” is better than saying “we are against liberalism”: the former is an attention-getter, leading to all sorts of good questioning, while the latter is subject to any number of door-slamming misunderstandings.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Almost everyone in the first world who professes tribalism is a right liberal (retains significant liberal commitments). Exhibit: Rod Dreher and “the Benedict Option”, but the list of examples is endless. To be frank, I’ve yet to be convinced that you’ve fully rid yourself of your own liberal commitments, based on your posts here.

    That sort of tribalism mixed with right liberalism is worse than useless. It is at best just a motte in which liberalism can preserve itself and metastasize. More typically it is Isengard.

    The Ring must be destroyed. That is your only choice.

  • Ian says:

    But as a rhetorical point, I suggest that saying “we are for tribalism” is better than saying “we are against liberalism”: the former is an attention-getter, leading to all sorts of good questioning, while the latter is subject to any number of door-slamming misunderstandings.

    Instead of saying “we are against liberalism”, you could say “we are against freedom”. In my experience, that’s a pretty good attention-getter.

  • It is lower law, lower authority being in the created order lower is under and therefore superseded by a higher one. If you love your father and mother more than God Himself you are not worthy of Him.

    Thus consider the highest Law which is Eternal Law:

    [d] On the contrary, Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 6): “That Law which is the Supreme Reason cannot be understood to be otherwise than unchangeable and eternal.”

    [e] I answer that, As stated above (Q [90], A [1], ad 2; [1960] AA [3], 4), a law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community. Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by Divine Providence, as was stated in the [1961] FP, Q [22], AA [1], 2, that the whole community of the universe is governed by Divine Reason. Wherefore the very Idea of the government of things in God the Ruler of the universe, has the nature of a law. And since the Divine Reason’s conception of things is not subject to time but is eternal, according to Prov. 8:23, therefore it is that this kind of law must be called eternal.

    Natural Law:

    [e] I answer that, As stated above (Q [90], A [1], ad 1), law, being a rule and measure, can be in a person in two ways: in one way, as in him that rules and measures; in another way, as in that which is ruled and measured, since a thing is ruled and measured, in so far as it partakes of the rule or measure. Wherefore, since all things subject to Divine providence are ruled and measured by the eternal law, as was stated above [1963] (A [1]); it is evident that all things partake somewhat of the eternal law, in so far as, namely, from its being imprinted on them, they derive their respective inclinations to their proper acts and ends. Now among all others, the rational creature is subject to Divine providence in the most excellent way, in so far as it partakes of a share of providence, by being provident both for itself and for others. Wherefore it has a share of the Eternal Reason, whereby it has a natural inclination to its proper act and end: and this participation of the eternal law in the rational creature is called the natural law. Hence the Psalmist after saying (Ps. 4:6): “Offer up the sacrifice of justice,” as though someone asked what the works of justice are, adds: “Many say, Who showeth us good things?” in answer to which question he says: “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us”: thus implying that the light of natural reason, whereby we discern what is good and what is evil, which is the function of the natural law, is nothing else than an imprint on us of the Divine light. It is therefore evident that the natural law is nothing else than the rational creature’s participation of the eternal law.

    Divine Law:

    [e] I answer that, Besides the natural and the human law it was necessary for the directing of human conduct to have a Divine law. And this for four reasons. First, because it is by law that man is directed how to perform his proper acts in view of his last end. And indeed if man were ordained to no other end than that which is proportionate to his natural faculty, there would be no need for man to have any further direction of the part of his reason, besides the natural law and human law which is derived from it. But since man is ordained to an end of eternal happiness which is inproportionate to man’s natural faculty, as stated above ([1973] Q [5], A [5]), therefore it was necessary that, besides the natural and the human law, man should be directed to his end by a law given by God.

    [f] Secondly, because, on account of the uncertainty of human judgment, especially on contingent and particular matters, different people form different judgments on human acts; whence also different and contrary laws result. In order, therefore, that man may know without any doubt what he ought to do and what he ought to avoid, it was necessary for man to be directed in his proper acts by a law given by God, for it is certain that such a law cannot err.

    [g] Thirdly, because man can make laws in those matters of which he is competent to judge. But man is not competent to judge of interior movements, that are hidden, but only of exterior acts which appear: and yet for the perfection of virtue it is necessary for man to conduct himself aright in both kinds of acts. Consequently human law could not sufficiently curb and direct interior acts; and it was necessary for this purpose that a Divine law should supervene.

    [h] Fourthly, because, as Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5, 6), human law cannot punish or forbid all evil deeds: since while aiming at doing away with all evils, it would do away with many good things, and would hinder the advance of the common good, which is necessary for human intercourse. In order, therefore, that no evil might remain unforbidden and unpunished, it was necessary for the Divine law to supervene, whereby all sins are forbidden.

    [i] And these four causes are touched upon in Ps. 118:8, where it is said: “The law of the Lord is unspotted,” i. e. allowing no foulness of sin; “converting souls,” because it directs not only exterior, but also interior acts; “the testimony of the Lord is faithful,” because of the certainty of what is true and right; “giving wisdom to little ones,” by directing man to an end supernatural and Divine.

  • Mike T says:

    Almost everyone in the first world who professes tribalism is a right liberal (retains significant liberal commitments).

    Almost everyone in the first world is a liberal, but accepting tribal realities and defending the tribe is part of rejecting liberalism. Any first worlder who says “I have more in common with a brother Christian living in [insert third world country] than my non-Christian neighbor who is of [same ethnicity, went to HS with me]” is carrying a trunkful of baggage.

  • This is well said, Zippy. There really is something concrete and tangible to authority, isn’t there? Fathers for example, have authority, it is so powerful and so felt that even in their complete absence they will have a tremendous impact. They can bail, attempt to revoke or deny their own authority, but it doesn’t go away. Authority, the way you have defined it seems to be related to roles, relationships, and duty. That makes the authority itself a firmly established thing you can foul up or attempt to avoid it, but it doesn’t cease to exist.

    One of the issues around abortion confusion and chaos is that moms have authority over their babies. We’ve set it up so women are now perceived as unwitting victims to unwanted pregnancies, having no need to take any authority over a meaningless clump of cells. But of course terminating a pregnancy is an exercise of authority,although a murderous one. If you can flip that switch in their head where they can begin to see their own power, their own authority in being able to bring life into the world, their entire perspective changes.

    Liberalism requires a perpetual victim class,several of them,in order to keep people powerless and unaware of their own authority. Everyone suffers under this system,but women especially have been really deceived by it.

  • GJ says:

    Any first worlder who says “I and my brother Christian living in [insert third world country] are of the same tribe’ is actually right.

  • Zippy says:

    insanitybytes22:

    Yes, responsibility is what I call a mode of authority, that is, a facet of authority which is inseparable from it. (The “sides of a coin” analogy attempts to make this idea of modality concrete). You can’t have authority without responsibility, and vice versa.

    The classical liberals attempted to make property ownership into the predominant kind of authority, and at the same time eliminate the concomitant responsibility. So modern people have come to view property as something to be dispensed with however we please, as all authority (“rights”) and no concomitant responsibility. Instead of a child being a naturally arising responsibility grounding a mother’s natural authority over her children, a child is an unwelcome trespasser into the “my body my choice” regime or a chosen accessory like a nice purse.

  • itascriptaest says:

    Any first worlder who says “I have more in common with a brother Christian living in [insert third world country] than my non-Christian neighbor who is of [same ethnicity, went to HS with me]” is carrying a trunkful of baggage

    Ha! I would go much further and say that I have more in common with Catholic third worlders than I do with American Protestants. I have much more in common with the Mexican traditonal Catholic than I do with the clean cut and “wholsome” Mormon family down the street even if some “traditonalists” think otherwise in their culture war right liberalism.

    That is not to say that I am in favor of those same Catholics coming to this country, which is the best way for them to lose whatever traditonal culture they cling to.

  • or a chosen accessory like a nice purse.

    This is why in vitro fertilization is such a shocking and disgusting practice. Those who go through in vitro fertilization purposefully create many human beings (more than they actually want), choose one or a few to keep around, and then freeze as backups, kill, or sell the rest. I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop when we find in vitro fertilization firms implanting the excess babies as an organ farming business in much the same way that we found planned parenthood selling babies.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: MikeT

    Whether or not I have more in common with them or not doesn’t actually matter all that much in the long run.

    I arguably have “more in common” (depending on how and what you measure) with some of my friends or even just co-workers than my own brother. But he’s my brother; they’re not. Similarly, Catholics are my people, in a way that other men, whether my countrymen or kinsmen or anybody, even my own immediate family, simply aren’t.

  • “Whether or not I have more in common with them or not doesn’t actually matter all that much in the long run.”

    Indeed. You guys are now speaking of tribalism, loyalties, and bloodlines. “Loyalties” is kind of important there, as in what denotes the hierarchy of our affections are actually our own loyalties. That can be surprisingly complex and involves several factors.

    To declare “I have more in common with a brother Christian living in [insert third world country] than my non-Christian neighbor..” as a symptom of wrong headed thinking is a very linear way of perceiving things, one that does not take variables into account. To say, “I have in common…,” is to claim that loyalties are based on nothing more than feelings and one’s personal comfort. In truth loyalties often revolve around duty, authority, and sacrificial love.

    In a Christian sense, I beg people to explore that a bit farther, because there is blood there, in the sense of the Body of Christ being tied together by His blood. Family often trumps culture, nationality, region.

  • TomD says:

    Another fun thing we like to deny is that a father has authority no matter how his fatherhood came to be; and responsibilities and duties.

    No wonder so many want to kill the creditor.

  • Happy Bastille Day to one and all!

  • Julius Evola says:

    What is authority? Is it an abstract universal?

  • Aidan C. says:

    Zippy:

    In what sense is the Benedict Option a form of right liberalism?

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    … such a statement would be a contradiction to the very nature of the authority which gave the Constitution its authoritative nature in the first place. Such a self-limitation on its authority would make no sense.

    I vaguely remember having a discussion with Larry Auster and Jim Kalb on this very point quite a long while back. Larry and I took the position you describe here, while Jim started out defending the right of secession.

    I know I’ve stated elsewhere that an “agreement” with an ‘arbitrary right of secession for any reason’ isn’t really an “agreement” at all, and I think that is pretty clearly true: “I commit unless I decide some time that I don’t commit, for any reason at all” isn’t a commitment.

  • TomD says:

    I think it’s caused by the disconnect of trying to justify the American Rebellion without justifying the secession of the South; I don’t think it can be done, and so many liberals end up supporting the South (in theory, at least).

    And, of course, people want the Constitution to be a self-interpreting authority, which it cannot be.

  • “Happy Bastille Day to one and all!”
    Give a man a gun and he’ll murder for a day, teach a man Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and he’ll murder for a lifetime!

  • Because murder only happens when a government prioritizes freedom and equality.

  • Zippy says:

    Every good revolution starts with a little mass murder. And if you play your cards right, it doesn’t have to stop there.

  • Winston:

    Because murder only happens when a government prioritizes freedom and equality.

    You keep saying this as if someone here said it. This isn’t what is being said at all. Murder happens all over the place for various reasons, but it doesn’t change the fact that here in the United States, government prioritization of freedom and equality is the reason given for the legal sanction of abortion. From the majority opinion of Roe vs. Wade:

    This right of privacy, whether it be founded in the Fourteenth Amendment’s concept of personal liberty and restrictions upon state action, as we feel it is, or, as the District Court determined, in the Ninth Amendment’s reservation of rights to the people, is broad enough to encompass a woman’s decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.

  • Zippy:

    And even those numbers don’t include the number of abortions that have occurred due to abortifacient contraceptives.

  • So let’s say the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade and makes abortion illegal. How would this affect your argument that liberalism necessarily leads to mass murder.

  • No one has said liberalism necessarily leads to mass murder. Liberalism necessarily has the potential to justify mass murder (because it is incoherent), but there are no necessary consequences of liberalism, precisely because it is incoherent. Liberalisms consequences can only be known by throwing it into a specific context and observing how it behaves. In America, it has behaved in such a way to justify legally sanctioned abortion.

  • Mike T says:

    Hrodgar,

    Similarly, Catholics are my people, in a way that other men, whether my countrymen or kinsmen or anybody, even my own immediate family, simply aren’t.

    And in other cases, Catholics can be your mortal enemy. Like, for instance, if you were living on the southern border and the Mexicans decided to invade and launch a scorched Earth campaign against gringos (assuming you are one). Loyalties are a graph, not a boolean statement.

  • Zippy says:

    winstonscrooge:

    You are attacking an argument that nobody has made. Liberalism is rationally incoherent, so it doesn’t really lead to anything as a matter of logical necessity. Or alternatively, as a matter of logic it leads to everything and its opposite all at once.

    That liberalism in fact leads to mass murder with disconcerting regularity is a matter of observed empirical fact; and I’ve provided many blog posts explaining why this is the case.

  • But if mass murder can occur under any political philosophy be it liberal or non liberal how can you be so sure any mass murder is the result of the political philosophy?

  • Winston:

    By looking at the reasons given for the mass murder by those who commit the mass murder.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: MikeT

    Sometimes you have to fight family. Extreme example: David v. Absalom. Doesn’t mean they aren’t family.

  • Mike T says:

    Sometimes you have to fight family. Extreme example: David v. Absalom. Doesn’t mean they aren’t family.

    Yes, but that illustrates the tension that Christians face. Many today resolve that by declaring that they’re “loyal to God first,” but in this example, that is not the loyalty that is even at stake is it? You and the enemy are both Catholics. Neither of you is fighting to put the faith to the sword.

  • Hrodgar says:

    So? As long as men are sinners there will be tensions between our loyalties, and not just for Christians. My point was that your tribe, or tribes, are not determined by who has the “most in common” with you.

  • Mike T says:

    My point was that your tribe, or tribes, are not determined by who has the “most in common” with you.

    And that point is only correct insofar as you mean it against how modern people subjectively define commonality along the lines of their self-created identity. The whole song and dance against nationalism and tribalism among right-liberals is precisely people flailing about at the notion that there are objective tribal boundaries that are real and not subject to the Superman’s will and desire to self-create.

  • Hrodgar says:

    I don’t have anything in particular against nations or tribes. As near as I can tell, at their most basic they’re just families scaled up (I wouldn’t call myself a “familialist”). And there are definitely real duties and boundaries that come with nations, tribes, families, etc.

    But tribes are determined not by commonalities; they are determined by one very specific thing. I am a member of my family because I was born into it, and for no other reason. I am a member of the Church because, in Baptism, I was born into it, and for no other reason. And Blood trumps blood.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Mike T has caught on to my point about tribalism, whereas others confuse it with “right liberalism” – an instance of nominalism if I ever saw it (look up “tribe” in the dictionary). Tribe is an extension of family, and family are real persons created in God’s image, so no form of real tribalism can ever be consistent with any form of anti-realism. Since both left liberalism and right liberalism are based on stringing words together and willfully defining them to be “rights”, I consider liberalism (as it has been discussed here) to be a subset of anti-realism, and not to be identified with the liberalism that (for example) would prefer funding food stamps to balancing the budget.

    If you look at the thing Zippy refers to as a mixture of tribalism and right-liberalism (actually more often left-liberalism), e.g. Nazi “theory”, you see the usual modern spinning of word-games and propaganda detached from reality, so it is not tribalism at all but the exploitation of tribal feelings in the subject masses. In Nazi-like polities, central authority rules. Real tribalism is found in places like Afghanistan or recent Hells Angels (after the devil worshippers mostly killed themselves off), as it was found in the German tribes after the fall of Rome, and it is ripe for the action of the Holy Spirit. Aging Hells Angels, with their children and grandchildren, roar down annually to Tijuana to support an orphanage there.

    Tribalism is not an end but a beginning. If you defend your family you are a tribalist. Jesus brings forward the concept of “neighbor,” which means you have fellow feeling for others who defend their families. Of course in the end God demands our total loyalty, but He also commands us to be like little children – i.e. tribal.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    You appear, at least to me, to be assuming that it is impossible for a human being — or for large numbers of human beings — to simultaneously have tribal loyalties and liberal commitments.

    Experience, which is to say reality, begs to differ.

    My contention is merely that focus on the former is pointless until the latter is dealt with completely, definitely, unequivocally, and totally. Deal with the stage four cancer first; worry about diet and exercise when you are already reasonably healthy, sure. But starting to go to the gym during organ failure and thinking that it is a cure is just deluded.

    Appeals to tribalism absent unequivocal rejection of liberalism is like Steve Jobs spending a year on homeopathic remedies once he found out he had pancreatic cancer.

    The denial must end. Reality must be faced.

    The Ring must be destroyed.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Yes, Zippy, “it is impossible for a human being . . . to simultaneously have tribal loyalties and liberal commitments.” (I say nothing about “large numbers of human beings” because of course they are all different.)

    Tribal loyalties (for a married man) start with “Defend your wife and children.” The corresponding liberal “commitment” is to no-fault divorce, because “liberal” in the sense we are discussing includes self-promotion by abandonment of your loved ones. One may, of course, abstractly support the latter while actually doing the former – the “19th century atheist with a moral code” – but I contend that “[e]xperience, which is to say reality” in our times has destroyed that life option. People either go one way or the other.

    Therefore “[a]ppeals to tribalism” IMPLY “unequivocal rejection of liberalism” and the possibility that worries you is a logical non-problem. It is, of course, a major practical problem because of the temptation of the freedom to not-love; but it can be stated clearly enough that people at least are aware that they are being untrue to their tribal selves when they take advantage of liberal tools (higher authorities like counsellors, hot lines, divorce judges, etc).

    Please notice my approach restricts itself to hearth and home, and does not deal with larger and more confusing political issues. This is because you have to start somewhere, and the attraction of one’s own family, the will to see things turn out well for them, is inbuilt in us and very strong. The enemy cannot take this beachhead from us, because nothing works for little children unless it comes from God.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    it is impossible for a human being . . . to simultaneously have tribal loyalties and liberal commitments.

    That makes me wonder what planet you live on. On the planet with which I am most familiar the fact that various commitments are abstractly in logical conflict doesn’t prevent people from having mixed loyalties. Most human beings, in my experience, have mixed loyalties and believe six impossible things before breakfast. Reality is not reducible to mathematical abstraction. That tribalism and liberalism as defined logically conflict[1] doesn’t prevent a human being from having commitments to both.

    Please notice my approach restricts itself to hearth and home…

    OK. If it has nothing to do with politics outside the home then what is it doing in a comment thread about political theory and the encounter of political theory with reality? Do politics outside the home and authority in the home ever interact?

    [1] Strictly speaking they don’t logically conflict. Liberalism is rationally incoherent, so it implies everything and its opposite all at once.

  • Mike T says:

    Zippy,

    I agree with you that it is possible to be a tribalist and a right-liberal, but that is a function of human irrationality. Having spent a lot of time around highly educated and high IQ folks, you should be aware of how easily they can hold contradictory ideas in their head (“I believe in evolution! I also believe one group is fungible with another because material equality!”)

    However, he is correct that accepting the fundamental realities around tribalism limits your liberalism. Emphasis on limits because every time we accept reality as it actually is versus liberal “I will coerce reality to obey my will to power” we take a step back from liberalism (whether it is just a step back or one back and two forward because of other commitments varies with the individual).

    If you watch the right-liberals, you notice that they get as violently upset when someone challenges the reality about the Proposition Nation as when someone challenges a SJW on whether transgendered people changed genders. It’s rather telling. They hate the cold indifference of reality that the world doesn’t give a #$%^ about the will of the Super Man.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Right liberalism just is the presence of a conservative disposition – of which tribalism is a manifestation – combined with liberal commitments. Tribalism combined with liberalism is no better than (say) social conservatism combined with liberalism. In some ways it is worse, since at least social conservatism has a (poorly functioning) moral compass.

    All of the apologia for various “conservatisms” (e.g. conservation of tribe) absent unequivocal repudiation of liberalism is worse than worthless. It uses up all of the natural human impulse to conserve the good, true, and beautiful without ever challenging liberalism itself.

    It is the engine that conserves liberalism across the generations.

    And it must be destroyed.

  • Ian says:

    Zippy,

    I vaguely remember having a discussion with Larry Auster and Jim Kalb on this very point quite a long while back. Larry and I took the position you describe here, while Jim started out defending the right of secession.

    I’m surprised that Jim Kalb defended the right of secession.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    I could probably use Google to dumpster dive at VFR for a fragment of the discussion, unless it was an email thing. The three of us had any number of interesting email discussions too.

    But in any event it is just a vague memory. Jim was probably still protestant at the time, since he handed VFR over to Larry after he entered the Church and started his Turnabout blog. I knew Jim for a long time before he started VFR (since 1993 at the latest, thinking about my personal timeline), but I actually met Larry through VFR. I was basically the lone Catholic, though not an especially good one. Of the three of us I was always the most critical of liberalism per se (remember Larry’s “The Good Liberalism” post and the like?) Or said differently, I was the crazy wayward kid of the group since both men were significantly older, not to mention better educated and more respectable.

  • TomD says:

    I honestly don’t see how one can hold the “consent of the governed” and not allow for a “right of secession” but I guess since it’s incoherent it’s possible.

  • Zippy says:

    Jim was the person who ‘redpilled’ me, as the kids say these days, probably in 1993-4 or so, from reading his Usenet posts and then corresponding by email. That isn’t to suggest that my own further developed views should be blamed on him though, nor does it imply his endorsement of them. It is just to say that while the number of folks to whom I am indebted is vast, Jim was pivotal.

  • Edward says:

    If anyone feels up to summarising what a society would be like after it had “destroyed the Ring” and rejected liberalism, I’d be interested to read the attempt.

    If the focus of this dicsussion is authority, and on liberalism’s insistence on “liberating” us all from it (as from all contingent, unchosen factors), then can someone offer a pen portrait of a society in which authority is once again enthroned in its proper place?

    Abstract debate is a fine thing, but it would be good to get some more flesh on the bones.

  • A society liberated from liberalism could take any number of forms; there are plenty of examples through history (ancient egypt and mesopotamia, Europe before the plague, etc.), and there are probably still some examples to be found in Africa and other places around the world.

  • Zippy says:

    Edward:

    Nobody can tell you all the specifics you want to know about what will actually take place if the murder factories and other insanity are ended. Sure, lots of prognosticators will pretend to be able to tell you, and some of them will be really great storytellers. But if you believe them, you just join the ranks of the deluded.

    I do not offer the comfort of fictional stories. I respect my readers too much for that.

    Nevertheless, even in the absence of comforting fictions the ring must be destroyed, the mass murder factories shut down. That is the only choice.

  • Edward says:

    Zippy:

    Fair dos. The best I’ve managed so far in my attempts to make these questions real to me is to read St Benedict’s Rule repeatedly and observe all that is said and left unsaid about the abbot as ruler, and father, of the monks. It seems a better microcosm than most.

  • Ian says:

    Zippy,

    I could probably use Google to dumpster dive at VFR for a fragment of the discussion, unless it was an email thing.

    I discovered VFR somewhat late in the game (middle of 2011 if memory serves), so from time to time I go back and read some of the VFR archives that I missed out on, so perhaps I’ll come across that discussion one of these days.

    Or I could just ask Kalb. I see him occasionally.

    I was the crazy wayward kid of the group since both men were significantly older, not to mention better educated and more respectable.

    Given how much respect contemporary society accords to people like Auster, which is to say, none at all, that’s saying something :).

  • Terry Morris says:

    TomD:

    I honestly don’t see how one can hold the “consent of the governed” and not allow for a “right of secession” but I guess since it’s incoherent it’s possible.

    Tom, I used to be a BIG “consent of the governed,” “voluntary union/association” type, and that was my exact thought process – ‘voluntary union/consent of the governed = right to secession, *if* we’re being consistent in our inconsistency. Ha, ha.

    Incidentally, it’s kind of ironic that the U.S. now sanctions “no fault divorce,” and basically everyone (besides us religious fanatics) embraces it, but at the same time you probably couldn’t find a handful of true believers in “no fault divorce” in your circle who are consistent enough to even give the idea of a right to secession a second thought.

  • TomD says:

    Had to make this which would probably annoy more people than you expect.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    I’m not sure I really want to revisit those old discussions, kind of like looking through a High School yearbook haha!

  • Ian says:

    Terry Morris,

    I used to be a BIG “consent of the governed,” “voluntary union/association” type, and that was my exact thought process – ‘voluntary union/consent of the governed = right to secession, *if* we’re being consistent in our inconsistency.

    In my former classical liberal and Southern partisan days, I’m pretty sure I used the fatuous slogan: “The states entered into the union voluntarily. Therefore, they had the right to leave it voluntarily.” (Or whatever it’s precise phrasing was).

    It’s hard to overstate how brain-dead that sentiment is: if anything, the fact that one entered into a contract voluntarily is more reason, not less, for the contract being binding and inviolable than if it had been coerced.

  • Ben says:

    What can we say about when a government born of an unjust rebellion/secession becomes a legitimate authority? Certainly today the US Government is the proper authority, but what about 1800? 1785?

    I know we can’t draw up a formal theory to pinpoint this transition exactly for all times and secessions, but are there things we can say about it?

    I’m finding this blog to be eye-opening, to say the least. Still trying to wrap my head around what we can say about the limits of authority beyond “don’t command evil” and which ruling bodies have authority.

  • Mike T says:

    All of the apologia for various “conservatisms” (e.g. conservation of tribe) absent unequivocal repudiation of liberalism is worse than worthless. It uses up all of the natural human impulse to conserve the good, true, and beautiful without ever challenging liberalism itself.

    Preserving one’s nation is the absolute bare minimum required to turn it back to the “good, true and beautiful.” If you fail in that, there is nothing left to turn back to the “good, true and beautiful.”

  • Mike T says:

    Ben,

    I know we can’t draw up a formal theory to pinpoint this transition exactly for all times and secessions, but are there things we can say about it?

    Sure we can. Paul already did in Romans 13. The colonies won their independence because God allowed it to happen. There exists no authority except which God has established. View it that way or view it as the “Mandate of Heaven” as the Chinese refer to the same concept. Whoever is on the throne has Heaven’s mandate to rule. If someone overthrows them, clearly they lost the favor of Heaven/God.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Preserving one’s nation is the absolute bare minimum required to turn it back to the “good, true and beautiful.” If you fail in that, there is nothing left to turn back to the “good, true and beautiful.”

    A ridiculous statement. What would it profit a man to save his nation yet lose his soul?

    Nation is an important priority, but it isn’t even in the top five.

  • Hrodgar says:

    MikeT:

    You’re confusing power and authority.

  • Urban II says:

    Hope you don’t mind me jumping in here, but think many people have both tribal and liberal commitments by arbitrarily restricting equal freedom to the tribe. The tribe is the “free and equal new man” and those outside the tribe are the “oppressors” interfering with the equal rights of the tribe.

  • Mike T says:

    Hrodgar,

    I’m not. Ben’s question is analogous to “when does a thief get title to the property he stole?” An illegitimate authority does not gain legitimacy by holding power long enough that people just accept it.

  • Mike T says:

    The tribe is the “free and equal new man” and those outside the tribe are the “oppressors” interfering with the equal rights of the tribe.

    That must mean Moses was a liberal.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    Urban II postulated a tribe with liberal commitments. So unless the ancient Israelites had liberal commitments your retort makes no sense.

    Alt-right style neo-tribalism for example, and the Benedict Option as presented by Rod Dreher, are thoroughly corrupted with liberal commitments. As far as we know the ancient Israelites weren’t always going on about freedom of religion, freedom of speech, etc.

    Also this neo-tribalism isn’t an actual tribe at all. It is an attempt to reconstitute tribalism without an unequivocal repudiation of liberalism, in thoroughly liberal societies which have been that way for generations.

  • Zippy says:

    Ben wrote:

    I know we can’t draw up a formal theory to pinpoint this transition exactly for all times and secessions, …

    Mike T replied “Sure we can”, followed by handwaving that wasn’t anything like such a definite theory at all, and didn’t even seem to be a definite enough statement to tell what he means. I can’t tell whether or not he means that thieves and colonist rebels have the Mandate of Heaven based on an implicit “possession is 9/10 of the law” rule.

    What I heard was a confidently asserted nothingburger, at least absent a lot more work.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    Mike T,

    You make it sound like Dr. Pangloss invented the Mandate of Heaven.

    See also: Whig Version of History.

  • Terry Morris says:

    TomD, I got a good chuckle out of your meme, and shared it with several friends and relatives. They all thought it was pretty funny too. I expected one of them in particular to point out the additional irony that while the northern states rejected out of hand the idea of political secession and the southern states embraced it, it was, in point of fact, in the pre-Civil-War north where the seeds of feminism and sexual liberation found their most welcome and fertile soil. Mankind is a walking contradiction! 🙂

  • Ian says:

    Ben & Mike T.,

    Bonald has done a good job of addressing the question of legitimate authority:

    It is the ability to symbolize justice that gives the state its authority over its subjects. This is the meaning of the scholastic doctrine that government derives its authority from being “established”. The very fact that, through whatever series of historical accidents, a people has come to see a governing body as the representative of justice suffices to give that body real moral authority. The source of the state’s authority is in the minds of its subjects. It is, however, in their intellects, not in their wills. The state’s authority has nothing to do with anybody’s consent; a man might wish he didn’t have to obey his government while still recognizing its legitimacy.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    I can’t tell whether or not he means that thieves and colonist rebels have the Mandate of Heaven based on an implicit “possession is 9/10 of the law” rule.

    I agree. By his assessment I guess the murder machine that is female reproductive “rights” also has the mandate of heaven since it has roundly defeated its opposition in the west.

    What I heard was a confidently asserted nothingburger, at least absent a lot more work.

    Yeah, it reads like something I might have said when I was 25 years old. In fact I’m pretty sure I *did* say basically that back then. Arrrghh! Sorry, Mike.

  • Ian says:

    And here is Bonald more specifically on the American Founding:

    The public reason for revering the Founders is that they fought tyranny and established freedom and equality. These are not reasons that will recommend themselves to conservatives; nor are they the real reason the populace reveres the Founders. … What the Founders succeeded in doing was to establish a legitimate authority. In doing so, they created a principle of order in the minds of their subjects. Symbolically, they repeated God’s act of ordering the universe in the first chapter of Genesis. Americans feel awe for the Founding because the moment that the nation was created and ordered is for us an iconic event.

    The Founders were wrong to overthrow their government. But it’s not true that an illegitimate overthrow of the established government cannot result in a legitimate government in its own right.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Ian:

    The Founders were wrong to overthrow their government. But it’s not true that an illegitimate overthrow of the established government cannot result in a legitimate government in its own right.

    Similarly a man can illegitimately father a child and abdicate his responsibilities thereto (and this is always bad), but it isn’t necessarily true that he won’t later come to his senses and become a good father to the child, embracing his responsibilities to, and authority over, his offspring.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    A quick note on markup in comments.

    FYI — WordPress drives me nuts with its inconsistencies — I keep removing the italics <i></i> tags inside your blockquote tags. The desktop, mobile, and in-app view of posts and comments all treat the tags differently, and in the mobile view only the italics tag “cancels out” the blockquote tag. So it ends up looking like you are just saying the thing you are quoting.

    At least in Current Year WordPress markup it is best to just use <blockquote> </blockquote> tags on their own.

    The in-app view also always shows nested comments despite the fact that I have them turned off. Turning them off only affects the desktop and mobile views. I hate, hate, hate nested comments. Someone at WordPress needs to be battered with nerf bats until he stops writing such silly inconsistent code.

  • Zippy says:

    Terry Morris and Ian:

    Plus if you go back far enough we are all bastards.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    Terry Morris and Ian:

    Plus if you go back far enough we are all bastards.

    Great point! Thanks for reminding me/us of it.

  • Ian says:

    Plus if you go back far enough we are all bastards.

    Some might contend that you don’t have to go back at all to conclude that I’m still a bastard.

    Zippy, thanks for the heads-up on the tags. I’ll try to remember.

  • Ian says:

    Ah, I didn’t know that blockquote tags automatically italicized.

  • Zippy says:

    Ian:

    I didn’t know that blockquote tags automatically italicized.

    Hah! If only WordPress were that consistent.

    In the desktop view <blockquote> indents. In the mobile view it italicizes without indenting. I don’t remember exactly what it does in the app – I think it is indented, shaded, and has a vertical rule line or something – and I can’t quickly check because I’m typing this comment into the app. There are other views too, as in the notification popout of the desktop site. WordPress is riddled with different stylesheets that handle tags in content inconsistently.

    The <em> tag is a bit better than <i> because it abstractly means “emphasize”. So WordPress stylesheets will sometimes use bold and sometimes italics to “emphasize” depending on the template. In general using bold or italics directly (though I reflexively do this myself all the time too) runs the risk of looking like not-what-you-expected in one of the more-than-three formats.

    I only fix it when I notice it myself, and that depending on how convenient it is for me to futz with it in the moment. Most of the times the bold and italics tags work out semantically “good enough”; but in this case combining blockquote with italics cancel each other out in at least one of the formats (the mobile view), making it ambiguous who said what.

    tl;dr: the important issue isn’t how it looks, but keeping who said what visually distinct. And combining blockquotes with italics removes the visual distinction in some places. This sometimes results in people attributing words to the wrong person.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Ian:

    Some might contend that you don’t have to go back at all to conclude that I’m still a bastard.

    Ian, I kind of hate to admit it, but ditto. So please don’t feel like the Lone Ranger in all of that.

    On the issue of WordPress’ “consistent inconsistency,” I had to ask a smarter, more up-to-speed tech guy some few months back … because I couldn’t figure it out on my own despite my best efforts.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Suppose a son tells his father to leave his (the son’s) property against the demands of his father. Which moral obligation rules? Does either demand negate the other?

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    “It depends” is the only correct answer to such an abstract question, as best as I can tell.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    Exchange American colonists for son and English monarch for father and then determine if it still depends on a particular context.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    Of course it still depends on particulars (which actually obtain for actual cases). I’ve mentioned many times that although I don’t have a fully worked out theory, something like the Just War doctrine obtains in any violent confrontation with authority.

    For example, moving back into the abstract, armed rebellion against the sovereign because your wealthy smuggler class doesn’t like a 2% tax on tea and doesn’t like the fact that the sovereign keeps enforcing the law, is unjustified. Armed rebellion against a sovereign who is marching your families into gas chambers almost certainly is justified.

    Fleeing persecution probably has a lower – though doubtless far higher than modernist prejudices would propose – threshold.

    As always there are doubtless puzzling or difficult ‘boundary’ cases in casuistry. The whole point of casuistry is to ponder the most abstractly tricky cases. Typically most real world cases are more clear cut than abstract boundary cases deliberately constructed to maximize ambiguity or to attack the very idea of legitimate authority though.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    …something like just war doctrine…

    You mean like this (relevant clip begins around 1:40)?:

    🙂

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    For example, moving back into the abstract, armed rebellion against the sovereign because your wealthy smuggler class doesn’t like a 2% tax on tea and doesn’t like the fact that the sovereign keeps enforcing the law, is unjustified.

    The revolution drew upon all classes of American society, even if the wealthy smuggler class was supportive they were not the driving force. The Tea Act was only the last straw in a series of disputes where their local ability to self-govern was being eroded. The colonists recognized this and their resentment had been building for years.

    Regarding the analogy, even if the father isn’t trying to be abusive or violent it is reasonable to assume his authority will be disruptive of the son’s own authority while he is there. If he is a near-constant presence on the property and is controlling more and more aspects of his son’s life then it will eventually cause a conflict.

  • TomD says:

    Local ability to self-govern – that’s begging the question; saying that they had to revolt because they weren’t rulers.

  • Zippy says:

    It seems like a lot of question begging is hiding in the analogy. What if the son is living in the father’s house?

  • Rhetocrates says:

    What if the relationship in 1775 between British king and American British subject isn’t very well analogous to the relationship between father and son?

  • TomD says:

    Catechism: 2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so.

  • MMPeregrine says:

    Zippy – speaking about Jim Kalb and his thoughts on secession, did you see his recent article from Crisis Magazine http://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/catholics-revolutionary-state

    Here is a quote from Jim himself from the comments below that essay:
    “For all that, it’s messy. Is it a legitimate government that has some bad tendencies and does some tyrannical things, or an illegitimate system of compulsion in the service of destructive ends? It can be hard to say.

    Also, what kind of resistance do you have in mind? The Catechism (2443) accepts a right of rebellion, but takes an approach along the lines of just war theory and so sets a rather demanding standard. The piece suggests other possibilities. If you want to make further and perhaps bolder suggestions, go ahead.”

    I wonder what you think of his article and the comment quoted above.

  • Zippy says:

    MMPeregrine:

    It is classic Jim Kalb: suggestive but not very concrete. I expect he still votes too (he and Larry Auster always considered my refusal to vote idiosyncratic: I haven’t voted since 1992).

    This statement is unfortunate: “…such fundamental rights as religious liberty…”

    Other than that there is a lot open to interpretation.

    Further, I think “legitimate with bad tendencies” versus “illegitimate system of compulsion” is a false dichotomy. Your father is your father is your father — even if things got to the point of patricide in self defense. The idea that there is a “legitimacy switch” that can be thrown to make him not your father is a misapprehension of basic reality. And society is a fractal of the family, it isn’t a machine with legitimacy circuit breakers.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy:

    I expect he still votes too (he and Larry Auster always considered my refusal to vote idiosyncratic: I haven’t voted since 1992).

    The idea that my voting (particularly in the presidential “elections”) might make a difference for the better is quite possibly the dumbest idea I ever embraced. I finally dropped it (voting) like a bad habit in the ’08 presidential election, and have never looked back for fear I’ll turn into a pillar of salt.

    Nevertheless I still have to deal occasionally with the ‘a non-vote is a vote for Hillary’ mindset. People really believe that kind of nonsense.

    Recently a friend explained to me his theory of why the Social Security system in the U.S. is beginning to show signs of failure; he blamed it all on Democrats (lol), saying that once upon a time SS funds were “safely tucked away in interest bearing accounts.” The abject stupidity of statements like that is mind bottling (little inside joke there with the “mind bottling” terminology)! Not sure which idea is dumber, but whichever it is the other is running a close second.

  • Your father is your father is your father — even if things got to the point of patricide in self defense.

    This is something that is very intuitive once liberalism has been rejected, but that is nonetheless very difficult to exorcise in the process of repenting of liberalism. The idea that subsidiarity is a like a pyramid with color coded cross-sections is an appealing one but one that ultimately is just the hope for unicorns farting fairy dust.

  • Ian says:

    Terry Morris,

    Nevertheless I still have to deal occasionally with the ‘a non-vote is a vote for Hillary’ mindset. People really believe that kind of nonsense.

    You think that’s bad, I know someone who tried to abstract from the particulars of the election and actually said that “a non-vote is not always a non-vote”.

    But I should be grateful for small mercies: At least he was gracious enough to concede that a non-vote is sometimes a non-vote.

  • Zippy says:

    TimFinnegan:

    Right, in the words of the Prophet Rodney King, “can’t we all just get along?”

    There is an almost endearing naive quality to liberals who express surprise at the consequences of the encounter of their beliefs with reality: riots, mass murder in a variety of flavors, genital rearrangement as fashion, pornography for kindergartners, persecution of the Church, sociopathic rule-by-bureaucracy, masses of human beings used as cannon fodder and indistrial raw materials, and the like. It would be almost cute if it were not so horrifying, a mud-and-soil reflection of how beautiful fallen angels would be if they hadn’t rejected God.

  • MMPeregrine says:

    “Your father is your father is your father — even if things got to the point of patricide in self defense…And society is a fractal of the family, it isn’t a machine with legitimacy circuit breakers.”

    But it is very easy to trace who is a child’s father. I don’t think it’s always so easy to determine who holds legitimate political authority. For example, I might question whether Vladimir Lenin was exercising legitimate authority over the people in Russia. And really all the leaders of the USSR had a questionable right to make binding, authoritative decisions given that the government rested on atheistic principles. I don’t think America is that bad, but it seems like things may be moving in that direction. I certainly hope not but it’s hard to see the way out of the current mess without some major confrontation. (Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis)

    So I certainly reject the idea that political authority is derived from the consent of the governed but I am uncertain how to determine the legitimacy of someone’s authority who rejects the eternal law and the natural law. Or more precisely, it’s clear that we must follow traffic laws and other legitimate commands but it’s unclear what the proper response should be when commanded to do evil. Obviously, we are not permitted to perform the evil act but what should a subject do when he is repeatedly commanded to do evil?

    In summary, here’s a question – if you reject God’s authority over yourself and your state then where does your authority come from? A father’s authority is clearly established as is that of an employer but it becomes murky for me after that point.

  • Zippy says:

    MMPerigrine:

    It is pretty easy to determine what public authority rules where you live.

  • Zippy says:

    Obviously, we are not permitted to perform the evil act but what should a subject do when he is repeatedly commanded to do evil?

    Repeatedly refuse.

  • Terry Morris says:

    MMPeregrine:

    For example, I might question whether Vladimir Lenin was exercising legitimate authority over the people in Russia.

    To answer that question all you need to do is to consider and determine whether or not the means by which Lenin and the Marxists took power in Russia were legitimate.

  • Zippy says:

    Terry Morris:

    That doesn’t really suffice though. If you go back far enough we are all bastards. The same basic congenital principle applies to governments.

  • Zippy says:

    IOW the question Ben asked way upthread isn’t something we’ve answered. It may not have a good answer, especially in the abstract.

  • Zippy says:

    Or, said differently, the twofold answer:

    1) Always refuse to do evil.

    2) Revolutions (including counterrevolutions) may be justified under the just war doctrine.

    … may be the best we can do, abstractly.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy, understood. I’m operating under the assumption that the revolution(s) in Russia did not follow Just War Doctrine.

  • Zippy says:

    Terry Morris:

    I think that is obvious. But the question as I understood it pertained to what (say) some person or family or small community ought to do as pertains to counterrevolution, under the particular circumstances.

  • TomD says:

    I think we make the problem more complicated than it needs to be since we always go right to the top – but authority is layered, and the local authority is much easier to find than the highest.

    And of course, if we strive to refuse to do evil, it’s easier.

  • MMPeregrine says:

    Thanks for the discussion. I think my post was unnecessarily confusing because I was just thinking out loud. I have a tendency to make things more complicated than necessary when I wrestle with and try to solve problems outside my own sphere of influence.

    Basically, Aquinas said the first precept of law is “good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided.” If we reason outwards from that basic principle then things become a whole lot simpler. To the extent we are in a position of authority then we must always pursue the good in our personal life and in our commands and never command anything evil. To the extent we are subjects to rightful authority then we must always refuse to do evil even when we are pressured to do so and be ready to suffer the consequences. God will handle the rest – And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good (Rom 8:28).

    So then we just need to focus on educating ourselves on what constitutes the True, the Good and the Beautiful and what constitutes its opposite. Paying particular attention to how these apply to our state in life.

  • Terry Morris says:

    Zippy, ah, I see now. Whoops! Thanks.

  • Zippy says:

    MMPeregrine:

    Good comment.

    I have a tendency to make things more complicated than necessary when I wrestle with and try to solve problems outside my own sphere of influence.

    I’d just further point out that liberal democracy as praxis encourages this ‘misplacement of scope’, for lack of a better term. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

  • MMPeregrine says:

    Here’s a quote from AG Sertillanges’ book, The Intellectual Life – “It sometimes happens that by widening the field of one’s research one impairs it; and it sometimes happens that by investigating beyond some advisable limit, the mind loses its clearness and ends by being perplexed…but that a sure devotion to the true, without personal passion, without loss of balance, is the corrective of excess.”

    I would just add that it’s also possible to have a false humility and out of laziness or some other fault consider something to be outside your lane that is really not so. Given the current ruling class, there are probably a lot of people who have turned away from God’s calling them to additional or higher responsibilities.

    When you get seriously confused about a topic, that is probably a signal that you have either stepped outside your lane or gone too far, too fast. Usually we gain clarity only over time as long as we persevere.

  • Advenedizo says:

    I think that you are overcomplicating the issue. In the case of anybody barking an order to you, you should obey unless the action to perform is evil.

    If he has authority over you, you should obey. If you think he does not (he thinks that he has, since he barked), you should nevertheless obey. If someone asks you to walk with him one mile, walk two.

  • RichardP says:

    Re the statement made above: “If he has authority over you, you should obey. If you think he does not (he thinks that he has, since he barked), you should nevertheless obey. ”

    Think that through in the context of what is presented below.

    There is one rule, from which all other rules are derived. This foundational rule applies to believer and agnostic alike – so one’s definition of God, or no God, has no bearing here.

    The foundational rule: You can’t keep what you can’t defend.

    All authority and power are derive from how that truth is addressed. Nothing discussed above matters a whit in an environment where you can’t defend what is yours. We live on the ground, bumping into each other, creating things or taking what others create in an effort to stay alive. We live and strive and have our being in the concrete now. We don’t live in the abstract.

    The abstract is murdered in the playing out of this foundational truth: You can’t keep what you can’t defend. And if you can’t defend the most basic things (food,water, shelter), you die.

    So – concretely, not abstractly – bump into the good folks who wish to keep the same things as you. Create social alliances. Create a defense that will allow you to keep what is yours (nevermind by whose authority you declare it to be yours). If you are successful it will only be because you are bigger and stronger than your adversary. It won’t be because your authority is legitimate and/or your power was granted by a legitimate authority.

    From such an operation – and only such an operation – are societies constructed. Only when groups of men have managed to become bigger and stronger than their adversary (and thus have created a “peace”) can men engage in navel gazing such as is presented in this thread. Only when authority and power have been successfully wielded can men speculate about the legitimacy of the same, such as is contained in this thread. But that speculation is not what created the peace. Being bigger and stronger than those who are trying to take what is yours (by any means necessary?) is what created the peace.

    Such questioning as occurs in this thread does not a whit of good in defending what you want to keep when it is being carried off by those stronger than you.

    And nothing is more important than keeping what you want to keep. If you can’t do that at its most basic (food, water, shelter), your life will cease. Doing what is required to keep these basics in the presence of an adversary who would take them away from you requires something different from the answers that have been presented in this thread.

    At its most basic, authority springs from the need to do whatever it takes to stay alive. And, if you want to get spiritual here, we can say that God didn’t create us to just roll over and die because we didn’t care to stop those who take from us the most basic of what is ours (food, water, shelter). But – what similar statement can we make that has any meaning for those who believe in a different god or no god at all? Only this universal, foundational truth:

    You can’t keep what you can’t defend. It is not a right, it is a necessity, to create a defence against that truth if you want to survive. If you can’t act until someone else gives you permission, you will most likely perish.

  • Zippy says:

    It seems to me that “you can’t keep what you can’t defend” is just an attempt to say “might makes right” in a way that makes it sound – at least to the gullible – more defensible.

  • Zippy says:

    RichardP writes:

    Doing what is required to keep these basics in the presence of an adversary who would take them away from you requires something different from the answers that have been presented in this thread.

    You’ll have to do better than that.

    The just war doctrine doesn’t reduce to “never wage war”; and “never do evil” forbids acts of cowardice.

  • Advenedizo says:

    @RichatdP

    I think you are putting the cart before the horses. Your social contract theory never happened. Man does not enter in society for protection or whatever. They are just born there. Two are needed to make a baby. That already is a society.

    And your starting point is also wrong. Independently of what you think of the existence of God or not, the starting point is: God exists. Everything else that exists was made by Him for Him.

  • […] Modernity is all about selectively invalidating whatever parts of reality moderns happen to subjectively find inconvenient in the Current […]

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