You have the right to Locke yourself in a closet

September 16, 2017 § 104 Comments

Your right to swing your fist stops when your fist comes anywhere near someone else’s face.

Your right to speak your mind stops when your unwelcome or unhealthy sound waves impinge upon someone else’s ears.

Your right to promote your favorite heresy stops as soon as your heresy corrupts the thoughts of another person’s child. (Everyone is someone’s child).

Your right to commit sodomy stops as soon as any other human being is forced to know about it.

In summary, your rights operate only to the extent that your choices have no effect whatsoever on others or on the common good. Deep inside the closet, your choices are between you and God.

Of course if anyone loves you then even that isn’t, strictly speaking, your business alone. Your right to destroy yourself ceases the moment it breaks someone’s heart.

Everything outside of the closet is the domain of the common good. It is here where authority operates: where these “rights” of yours cannot negate the operation of authority.

And there is no closet.

§ 104 Responses to You have the right to Locke yourself in a closet

  • LarryDickson says:

    In other words, according to Zippy, authority is always absolute tyranny – you go to prison for breaking somebody’s heart (I guess we all go to prison, because we have all been the target of unrequited love). You know how that will get enforced? You will be punished for breaking the heart of any HOMOSEXUAL who wants to “love” you. Please do not pass this idea to our rulers. They will probably actually do it.

    And don’t try to weasel out of it by saying the authority does not exist to legitimize homosexual “love.” That amounts to putting God and my truly formed conscience above human authority, which is what Zippy denies.

    Zippy’s crusade to extend human authority to be equal to God’s is continuing. I still do not see the point of it.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    If I were forced to guess I’d conclude that in your mind there is this thing, which you probably call “government” and hope to minimize, in which all legitimate authority is concentrated.

    But we both do agree that you don’t see the point.

  • LarryDickson says:

    I see the point perfectly well. You are trying to argue against the right or left liberal tendency to use the word “free” to legitimize the kind of abuse they favor. But the logic you use is self-defeating because absolutizing human authority always legitimizes absolute tyranny of the worst kind. You are actually arguing in favor of the very freedom you criticize – but granting that absolute freedom only to the person in authority.

    I am saying that in the human context, there is no cut and dried solution of this authority versus freedom conundrum. The only absolute is the law of God, conveniently codified in the Ten Commandments. Both the authority’s freedom and the citizen’s freedom become illegitimate when they violate the law of God. That means the authority can restrict the citizen’s freedom when that citizen takes to murder, rape, or robbery. And the citizen can restrict the authority’s freedom (i.e. the citizen can rebel) when the authority takes to murder, rape, or robbery. In between, there is a bunch of prudential latitude, and trying to maximize the citizen’s freedom within those prudential limits is usually a good thing although, as James Madison long ago observed, it does not solve all our problems!

    If authority is defined in an absolutistic (moral) sense, no human authority is legitimate. If authority is defined in a prudential (charitable) sense, all human authority is legitimate, even Nazi occupying forces when directing traffic.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    I see the point perfectly well. You are trying to argue against the right or left liberal tendency to use the word “free” to legitimize the kind of abuse they favor.

    The second statement contradicts the first.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I’ve been reading John Gerard’s Autobiography of a Hunted Catholic, which details the author’s mission to Elizabethan England to rescue souls for the True Church. It’s amazing how well his concept of authority and our duties to it align with Zippy’s. Even as the state specifically has it out for him and his flock, J.G. never hoists the black flag and calls for the downfall of the State. He remains a loyal Queensman ’til his death.

    Under interrogation, he refuses to answer questions which would lead to the persecution of other Catholics, but he never claims that the authorities who persecute him are illegitimate. (He does, of course, claim that the English Crown’s adversarial stance to Catholicism is wrong, and the actions of Her Ministers overreach their rightful places.

    If you want to see a true portrait of a soul that has truly internalized Zippy’s point, rather than the straw man that Larry Dickson and other commenters seem invested in shoving down all comers’ throats, you could do worse than reading J.G. (And him a Jesuit! Will wonders never cease?)

  • He remains a loyal Queensman ’til his death.

    This is what also struck me about St. Thomas More’s attitude towards King Henry VIII in A Man for Alll Seasons. He expressed his deep sadness that obedience to his King and obedience to his God must come in to conflict, but he remained loyal to the King, and obedient to God.

  • djz242013 says:

    Your right to misinterpret Zippy ends when your comments come onto my screen.

  • itascriptaest says:

    Of course if anyone loves you then even that isn’t, strictly speaking, your business alone. Your right to destroy yourself ceases the moment it breaks someone’s heart.

    This just reiterates your point but since sin/error is parasitic on the good and properly speaking, sin has no being in and of itself, it seems that to say that one has a right to commit some sin is to say that one literally has a right to nothing.

    You know how that will get enforced?

    Larry why are your comments always Zmirak tier stupid? Was all of human history prior to 1776 a totalitarian nightmare?

  • donnie says:

    I’ve been reading John Gerard’s Autobiography of a Hunted Catholic, which details the author’s mission to Elizabethan England to rescue souls for the True Church. It’s amazing how well his concept of authority and our duties to it align with Zippy’s. Even as the state specifically has it out for him and his flock, J.G. never hoists the black flag and calls for the downfall of the State. He remains a loyal Queensman ’til his death.

    That’s very interesting, but let’s also be clear: persecuted Catholics living in Elizabethan England absolutely had a jus ad bellum to overthrow the Crown. See Blessed Thomas Percy and the Rising of the North.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Zippy, your 1:41 PM claim that my second statement contradicts my first is presented with no evidence. Until you can show me how I am wrong, I stand by my interpretation, which is the only near-rational one I can see – I am assuming you are really on our side and not just playing “joy of riddling” games.

    Rhetocrates and TimFinnegan give rational responses, not just evasions, and their points (plus the counter-point by donnie) deserve attention. They do not even necessarily contradict the points I made (which Zippy never answered). I said PRUDENTIAL – that means one may not necessarily be obliged morally to rebel, particularly if the penalty is directed at oneself, and martyrdom is a better way to make a statement. (The answer is probably different if ISIS is raping your daughters.) There are no absolutes here – except the law of God.

    As for itascriptaest, he or she is much less wise than Zippy: Zippy just remains silent when he cannot answer a point. Nothing I said ascribes any special status to 1776, especially when Saint Robert Bellarmine made essentially the same points centuries before. Everything I say refers most especially to the situation here and now, in which our children and grandchildren must live. I oppose throwing away any tools they may use to defend themselves.

  • donnie says:

    In other words, according to Zippy, authority is always absolute tyranny – you go to prison for breaking somebody’s heart.

    Larry – you’re projecting a pretty big outside assumption onto the OP. Honestly, I’m surprised you take issue with the OP at all because it’s right in line with what you’ve been saying in other threads: not a single person (which includes groups of people, such as governments and societies) have a right to violate the natural law or to reject any truths (moral or spiritual) of revelation.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Zippy, your 1:41 PM claim that my second statement contradicts my first is presented with no evidence.

    OK, I’ll spell the logic out for you explicitly.

    To grasp the logic of my reply consider a more general form, to wit, [1] “I see the point perfectly well” followed by [2] an inaccurate paraphrase of the point. (Not to mention all the incontinent accusations of tyranny and the like which put the paraphrase in context).

    The inaccurate paraphrase [2] supposedly demonstrates the truth of the first claim [1], but in fact demonstrates its falsity.

    Does the logic of my reply make more sense to you now?

    They do not even necessarily contradict the points I made (which Zippy never answered)

    Your established approach here is to enter a discussion, hurl a bunch of inaccurate paraphrases and insults at me, project all sorts of things from your own world view onto what I write that aren’t there, give a rambling and vague dissertation on some of your own views, and then complain that I am not making the discussion all about your views.

    I’m not a performing dog, and none of you can afford to hire me to address your particular issues, whatever they may be. The best way — really the only way — to get me to answer things you want answered is to appeal to my good graces. I don’t automatically compose answers on command to whatever has a particular person’s knickers in a twist. I write what I do, when I do, as I have the time and inclination to do so, for my own reasons. I don’t charge money for what I write, this blog (and related stuff like the Usury hard copy book) isn’t ad supported nor are they gateways to any money making project of any kind for me. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve declined invitations to speak publicly for a stipend, etc. And certainly nobody is obligated to read or participate here.

    In short, I have literally no reason to talk to you at all, nor to let you post comments here, if I don’t feel like it.

    As a suggestion, given that context, if you would like to have a respectful discussion you might consider making the attempt to engage in one. I suspect that there may be more common ground between our views than your hyperbolic accusations of tyranny etc suggest.

    But you’ll likely never know if you keep taking the approach you have so far. And ultimately I don’t really care. If you are just another guy who freaks out at what Zippy writes and just can’t stand Zippy, well, take a number.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: donnie

    Even there, “overthrow the Crown” isn’t exactly accurate. The rebels, I am given to understand, held that Elizabeth was a usurper and Mary Stuart the legitimate monarch and, for what it’s worth, I am very tentatively inclined to agree with them. But they weren’t trying to overthrow the Crown as such.

  • donnie says:

    Hrodgar – yes, I should have been more precise in my wording. Blessed Thomas Percy had no desire to overthrow the Crown as an institution. Rather he was seeking to restore his homeland to the True Faith, end the unjust persecution of Catholics in England, and replace the illegitimate monarch, Elizabeth, with the legitimate claimant, Mary Stuart. For this he, his allies, and his men undoubtedly had a jus ad bellum to overthrow the reigning Queen.

  • itascriptaest says:

    Nothing I said ascribes any special status to 1776, especially when Saint Robert Bellarmine made essentially the same points centuries before.

    No he did not, like a lot of right liberals you’ve misrepresented what he and a lot of other Catholic thinkers taught, just like you have misrepresented Zippy here.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    donnie:

    That’s very interesting, but let’s also be clear: persecuted Catholics living in Elizabethan England absolutely had a jus ad bellum to overthrow the Crown. See Blessed Thomas Percy and the Rising of the North.

    Maybe so, maybe so. (Taking you to mean not ‘the Crown itself as an authority’ but instead ‘the usurpation of it by an unlawful and unjust dynastic pretender’. The Lord above knows I’m sympathetic to the Jacobites and even the modern-day Stuartists. But the point still stands that it was quite possible for J.G. to construe his Catholic duty as not essentially in conflict with loyalty to the Crown, despite all his persecutors could do to claim that such distinctions were not possible. (Really, you lose count of how many times they equate loyalty to St. Peter’s successor with necessary intent to overthrow the Queen, her government, and her Crown.)

    I’d also point out that, given the historical accidents in play, the North (and beyond, Scotland) has a better claim to the English crown being a foreign occupier instead of a legitimate authority than anyone in the South does.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    LarryDickson,

    Historically, the Christian injunction to render unto Caesar has a lot more force than you appear to grant it. Caesar (be he Aurelius or Nero) fits squarely in the category of a morally-bankrupt and specifically-hostile ruler, and yet the ideal of Christian obedience to Roman rule is so absolute that, in response to one call for persecution, a centurion was able to say to the emperor words to the effect of, “We are perfectly loyal to you in all things but the Imperial religion; we make up your loyalest citizenry, and serve in your legions as your best troops from whom there is never a danger of mutiny or insubordination. If you kill all the Christians in your empire, there will be no-one left but criminals, corrupters, and layabouts.”

    (My sincere apologies; that’s a very loose paraphrase, because after about an hour of searching I can’t find the quote again. It’s in one of these books on my desk, I swear…)

    It is important that the offered alternative to Jesus is Barrabas, and that among his many flaws is that he is a rebel. This is not to make him more sympathetic, but to show how debased the Jews were in choosing him over their Messiah.

  • LarryDickson says:

    OK, Zippy, at 5:59 PM you made a reply that has some content, though I fail to understand why carrying your points to their logical conclusions should be thought of as “insults”. I use your words and apply them to aspects of reality that you seem to want to shield your eyes from.

    I am well aware this is your blog, which is why I do not put in my own constructive positions but restrain myself to critiquing yours. Your claim that my critiques are “hyperbolic accusations of tyranny” cannot stand, since they are just logical implications of the positions you are taking, applied to the viciously dysfunctional world we are living in.

    Most if not all your recent posts seem to consist in presenting some variant of political freedom and attempting a “reductio ad absurdum” by proposing what you claim are its implications. In each case, the “reductio ad absurdum” backfires because it implies that there should be no freedom and authority is absolute. When I point out the implications of that, you feel insulted.

    For instance, in this latest one, you conclude: “Everything outside of the closet is the domain of the common good. It is here where authority operates: where these “rights” of yours cannot negate the operation of authority. And there is no closet.” Thus, according to you, absolutely everything in the commoner’s life is under authoritative command, he is required not to have anything of his own, and “a man’s house is his castle” is denied because there is no such thing as his house (or closet, as you tellingly call it). To say the least, this seems inconsistent with the Papal doctrine of subsidiarity.

    If nothing else disturbs you about this picture, think about what the establishment of this kind of authority will do to the souls of the people in authority! (Hint: attend to what happened in Irish orphanages.)

  • he is required not to have anything of his own

    You realize that property ownership is itself a kind of authority which even a commoner can wield, right?

  • More generally, Larry, there are many sizes and shapes of authority, wielded in different contexts by different people, or God. The point of the post (and others) is that there is nothing you can do that is not under the jusrisdiction of some authority, and may often be in the jurisdiction of multiple authorities. It therefore makes no sense to claim that one should be able to do some specific action (say, swing your fist) on the basis that that action is not itself in the jurisdiction of authority (that it is unrestricted).

  • Rocío Matamoros says:

    Zippy to LarryDickson: If I were forced to guess I’d conclude that in your mind there is this thing, which you probably call “government” and hope to minimize, in which all legitimate authority is concentrated.

    LarryDickson, supposedly in reply to this: Thus, according to you, absolutely everything in the commoner’s life is under authoritative command, he is required not to have anything of his own, and “a man’s house is his castle” is denied because there is no such thing as his house (or closet, as you tellingly call it). To say the least, this seems inconsistent with the Papal doctrine of subsidiarity.

    Very true, LD. You’ve ably shown that the thing in your mind is “inconsistent with … subsidiarity”. Now that this is out of the way, you can address the thing in the OP.

    LarryDickson: If nothing else disturbs you about this picture, think about what the establishment of this kind of authority will do to the souls of the people in authority! (Hint: attend to what happened in Irish orphanages.)

    Hint taken. If you’re talking about the Tuam “mass grave” hoax, the fraudulent film “Philomena” or the gross distortions of the “Magdalene Launderies” film, then you are just another happy consumer of evidence-free news. Although it’s by no means a favoured site of mine, try typing any of these three into the search box on the website of the Catholic League, which provides several articles not merely denying, but refuting each of them. Then compare these, by all means, to the writings you’ve previously taken to be authoritative to check whether they even bother to address any of the questions raised (let alone answer them).

  • Rhetocrates says:

    I think the example we have before us is illuminating.

    Zippy has authority over what shows up in this space on his blog, which is to say he has the ability to put us under moral obligation for the sort of content we provide (or don’t provide). It happens that Zippy also has the force to back up this authority of his, in that he can ban commenters, edit comments, and so forth.

    LarryDickson’s contention appears to be roughly reducible to the claim that accepting Zippy’s stated philosophical grounds for the operation of authority inevitably gives rise to an absolute tyranny. Yet Zippy seems very far from a tyrant with his powers; he happily engages with viewpoints with which he disagrees, often at length, and tolerates all manner of pigheaded or downright insulting replies. (Not thinking of you here, LarryDickson, but rather some drive-by commenters on other posts.)

    We could argue that Zippy has not properly internalized his own philosophy of authority; that in some way his continuing unconscious liberal commitments prevent his tyranny from fully forming. However, comparing this example with numerous other places that do have explicit liberal commitments, I don’t think that’s a particularly good argument. Besides, psychological analysis like this is empty; you can prove anything of anyone if you claim to understand his soul better than he does.

    I’m left with the conclusion that Zippy’s philosophy of authority does not lead inevitably to tyranny, or that Zippy’s lying when he professes irritation and fatigue at the bent of certain conversations, and secretly he enjoys it. I’m partial to the former interpretation myself.

  • LarryDickson says:

    Rhetocrates, your last point doesn’t do well in the real world of political life. I have no trouble conceding that Zippy’s philosophy of authority may have OK results with Zippy as the authority of a blog. But applied as a general principle, in a world that has lost the concept of human nature, a world that believes that perversion is good for people, including children?

    Rocio Matamoros, you need to ask what has caused the collapse of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Some fantasy? Of course, such tales are always being told (including in Mexico where we lived for 17 years). All fantasy? I do not think so. For another instance of the same kind, consider the Legionaries of Christ and their founder and autocrat, Marcial Maciel.

    TimFinnegan, I agree that no action is unrestricted – I tackled that straw man several blog posts ago. That’s not the same as saying there is “no closet” – commoners have no rights at all. The key point I have repeatedly made is that the restrictions are from GOD’S LAW and that human authority does not have the right to extend them at will. This is completely consistent with traditional subsidiarity sayings like “a man’s house is his castle”, and not consistent with authoritarian absolutism of the “no closet” sort. Even nowadays, most commoners with children spend most of their energies in their “closet” trying to do what is best for their children, and perversion has far less power within the average man’s “closet” than it does in the halls of authority that are trying to invade that “closet.”

  • Rocío Matamoros says:

    LarryDickson said: you need to ask what has caused the collapse of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland. Some fantasy? Of course, such tales are always being told (including in Mexico where we lived for 17 years). All fantasy?

    This sounds remarkably like shifting the goalposts. If, Mr Dickson, you have a genuine interest in the collapse of the Church in Ireland (or Mexico), then you can show your good faith by dipping into the refutations I’ve mentioned – a sampling of 5-10 minutes should suffice to show you that the “scandals” of babystealing nuns and deathcamp nuns are anti-Catholic media fantasies. If you can show you’ve done that, I’ll be happy (Zippy permitting, since this is tangential) to answer your new question, since there are various factors behind the collapse, including some real scandals. But if you won’t take even a first step towards distinguishing truth from slander, I’ll just have to conclude that you weren’t actually interested in the matter, but merely hoped to use evil-Irish-nun fantasies to support your authority/tyranny contentions.

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    But applied as a general principle, in a world that has lost the concept of human nature, a world that believes that perversion is good for people, including children?

    I’ll do you the courtesy of ignoring all of your discourteous, false projection. Though it isn’t clear that you’ll even grasp the extent of my courtesy.

    The truth is the truth. If embracing it makes you feel disadvantaged then it is better to face that fact and feel disadvantaged, than to deny the truth. If you reject my criticisms of liberalism specifically, you embrace their negation. So do you suggest that we embrace an incoherent lie in the hope that that incoherent lie will rescue us from its own extant consequences? That we double, quadruple, octuple down on the very error which created what you despise in the first place? If so, what makes you think that octupling down will produce a different result from what quadrupling down produced? Why should anyone believe the gambler with an uninterrupted losing streak? The consequentialist objection fails as manifest wishful thinking.

    Or do you have some actual argument against something I’ve actually claimed, independent of your fears about what my claims mean, if true?

    As far as I can discern – amidst your vague and enthusiastic handwaving – you don’t want to repent from liberalism because you think liberalism may be useful against your enemies. But the question prior to that, which you ought to at least consider addressing, is is the criticism true? If the idea is that we ought to embrace a lie because doing so is useful, that isn’t going to fly here. But if you have some non-consequentialist argument which actually addresses the substance of my critique of liberalism, you have yet to make that argument explicit.

  • Zippy says:

    IOW, the fact that you cannot imagine any non-horrible alternative to liberalism tells us nothing about the coherence or veracity of liberalism. All it tells is about is the limits on your imagination.

  • Rocío Matamoros says:

    LarryDickson said: That’s not the same as saying there is “no closet” – commoners have no rights at all. The key point I have repeatedly made is that the restrictions are from GOD’S LAW and that human authority does not have the right to extend them at will. This is completely consistent with traditional subsidiarity sayings like “a man’s house is his castle”, and not consistent with authoritarian absolutism of the “no closet” sort. Even nowadays, most commoners with children spend most of their energies in their “closet” trying to do what is best for their children, and perversion has far less power within the average man’s “closet” than it does in the halls of authority that are trying to invade that “closet.”

    As Aquinas argued, “an unjust law is no law at all” – no authority can morally oblige us to commit an immoral act. Nor can an authority at whatever level (although you only seem to recognise one level) confer on anyone a moral right to commit immoral acts, or require others formally to co-operate with such acts (to unite their wills with those who commit the acts).

    Now, please set out the steps of the argument that takes you from there through to your picture of a tyrannical state sending out vice inspectors to “invade” every “closet”, as you put it. You have, of course, switched “closet” from meaning a supposedly private haven for vice, as in the OP, to a haven for virtue in which parents can protect their children from a vice-promoting state – but tampering with metaphors isn’t really a substitute for constructing an argument, is it?

    Consider Aquinas before you try: Human law is said to permit certain things, not as approving them, but as being unable to direct them. And many things are directed by the Divine law, which human law is unable to direct, because more things are subject to a higher than to a lower cause. Hence the very fact that human law does not meddle with matters it cannot direct, comes under the ordination of the eternal law. It would be different, were human law to sanction what the eternal law condemns. (Suma teológica – Parte I-IIae – Cuestión 93, Artículo 3)

  • Zippy says:

    LarryDickson:

    Rocio Matamoros, you need to ask what has caused the collapse of the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland.

    More pertinently, everyone need to ask what has caused the collapse of legitimate binding authority in general?

    The answer isn’t corruption, since corruption is a constant feature of actual fallen human enterprise and community. Like the poor, corruption will be with us always, until the Parousia.

    The answer is political liberalism, with its all-dissolving non-authority conception of and assertion of authority.

    And you can’t put out a fire with more fire. The fact that right liberals continue to fantasize about fighting left liberalism with right liberalism, despite centuries of uninterrupted defeat as the outcome from exactly that approach, is testament to the power of liberalism to shield the compliant mind from reality.

  • Yet again you cannot accept a person who disagrees with you. If he disagrees with you he must not understand you. How arrogant you are. I don’t expect you to allow this post as you have not allowed many of my responses to you in the past. It is enough for me that you read this and know that I see you for the fraud that you are.

  • I love how you say you do not care what others think about you when you know that is not the case.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    I’ve been reading John Gerard’s Autobiography of a Hunted Catholic, which details the author’s mission to Elizabethan England to rescue souls for the True Church. It’s amazing how well his concept of authority and our duties to it align with Zippy’s. Even as the state specifically has it out for him and his flock, J.G. never hoists the black flag and calls for the downfall of the State. He remains a loyal Queensman ’til his death.

    Available at a reasonable price from that national treasure Ignatius Press. I think I’ll order it.

    I don’t disagree with main thrust of the OP, but I think there are subtleties here that can’t be ignore.

    For instance, “Your right to swing your fist stops when your fist comes anywhere near someone else’s face.” True, but with exceptions. For instance, I’m watching this boxing match tonight and I can’t see that anything prima facie evil is going on. The two men mutually agree to a refereed athletic contest consisting precisely of fists colliding with faces. Likewise, I’ve often noted that the NFL permits men to conduct themselves in a manner that, in virtually any other context, would constitute aggravated assault.

    I’ll leave it at that, and add only this famous passage from Burke, which ably summarizes my view of rights and liberties:

    You hope, sir, that I think the French deserving of liberty. I certainly do. I certainly think that all men who desire it, deserve it. It is not the reward of our merit, or the acquisition of our industry. It is our inheritance. It is the birthright of our species. We cannot forfeit our right to it, but by what forfeits our title to the privileges of our kind. I mean the abuse, or oblivion, of our rational faculties, and a ferocious indocility which makes us prompt to wrong and violence, destroys our social nature, and transforms us into something little better than the description of wild beasts …

    You have kindly said, that you began to love freedom from your intercourse with me. Permit me then to continue our conversation, and to tell you what the freedom is that I love, and that to which I think all men entitled . . . It is not solitary, unconnected, individual, selfish liberty, as if every man was to regulate the whole of his conduct by his own will. The liberty I mean is social freedom. It is that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint. A constitution of things in which the liberty of no one man, and no body of men, and no number of men, can find means to trespass on the liberty of any person, or any description of persons, in the society. This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice; ascertained by wise laws, and secured by well-constructed institutions. I am sure that liberty, so incorporated, and in a manner identified with justice, must be infinitely dear to everyone who is capable of conceiving what it is. But whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither is, in my opinion, safe.

  • If he disagrees with you he must not understand you

    No Winston; Zippy claims that Larry doesn’t understand because he has yet to accurately paraphrase Zippy’s arguments. It isn’t simple disagreement, Larry disagrees with a position that he has not comprehended.

  • Paul, maybe I’m missing something, but that passage you’re quoting seems to reinforce Zippy’s point here: Instead of using “liberty” in a way that needs to be clarified with a thousand and one caveats we can just use “justice” and be more honest about it all besides.

  • Zippy says:

    This kind of liberty is, indeed, but another name for justice

    If that is the case then the reframing as “liberty” – adding nothing whatseover to the concept of justice thereby – can only introduce deceptive mischief. So we have a positive duty to reject that framing.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    The context for that passage is important here. Burke carried out a correspondence with a young French aristocrat named Depont. The latter, alarmed that Burke (who had previously stuck his neck out to defend American, Irish and Indian liberty) had nothing good to say about the French Revolution. So he’s trying to talk this Frenchman down from an perilous enthusiasm for the simulacrum of liberty that the revolutionaries were propounding.

  • Zippy says:

    So what? That Burke propounded a superfluous – and therefore dishonest – conception of ‘liberty’ as an alternate label for justice doesn’t recommend it to us.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    I don’t believe it is superfluous — the marvelous phrase “equality of restraint” alone adds to our understanding of justice — but I’ll lay off, since it’s kind of a threadjack anyway.

  • I don’t know, I actually think this is important.

    This is what this description comes off as to me:

    The American revolutionaries were fighting for liberty.

    The French revolutionaries were fighting for liberty.

    A French revolutionary wonders: If both of them are fighting for liberty, well, what the heck is Burke’s problem?

    Burke responds that the problem is that the American revolutionaries have actually renamed justice “liberty”, but the French haven’t.

    And we’ve circled back around to “Just call it justice, then”.

  • Zippy says:

    Liberty and justice don’t mean the same thing, and if Burke was playing a word game in which he pretended that they do mean the same thing then so much the worse for Burke.

  • “Of course if anyone loves you then even that isn’t, strictly speaking, your business alone. Your right to destroy yourself ceases the moment it breaks someone’s heart.”

    Amen. Well said. I also really appreciated this, “Everything outside of the closet is the domain of the common good.”

    I sometimes say authority is love. It’s an imperfect analogy, but it helps to temper the idea that authority is always about tyranny and abuse. I’m not sure why so many modern eyes have trouble recognizing that truth.

  • “Your life is not your own. Keep your hands off it.”

    – Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”

  • imperfect analogy, but it helps to temper the idea that authority is always about tyranny and abuse

    My favorite bible verse is 1 John 5:3

    For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not burdensome

    A clear, simple directive of how we are to love God: do His will.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    TimFinnegan:

    Instead of ‘how we are to love God’, it’s ‘What it means to love God.’

    A subtle but important distinction.

  • Mike T says:

    malcolm,

    I don’t know, I actually think this is important.

    This is what this description comes off as to me:

    The American revolutionaries were fighting for liberty.

    The French revolutionaries were fighting for liberty.

    Regardless of your view of the founders, they would actually have a more legitimate claim than the French revolutionaries. Consider that the founding fathers, upon taking hold of the reins of power, passed laws that actually expanded the tolerance of different religion whereas their French counterparts violently persecuted the Catholic Church through the state. I’ve read that the French Army also was marched into various towns to massacre peasants that didn’t “get with the program.” The Continental and later US Army did not mass murder entire loyalist communities.

    What the founders did, like it or not, had more in common with the English culture that lead to the civil war that gave them Magna Carta than it did with the French Revolution.

  • Rhetocraces:

    Yes, but I would probably go for both and rather than either or.

  • Hrodgar says:

    Re: MikeT

    The French Revolutionaries were worse precisely because they applied their principles more consistently.

    I will admit that there definitely does seem to be an English tradition of muddling through without worrying about logical consistency, and the American rebellion was certainly a “right-liberal” one, with its worst tendencies being mitigated by that “common sense” which the English are sometimes rather proud of. But in the long run that kind of thing probably does more harm than good

  • Zippy says:

    Hrodgar:

    I suspect that the Anglo tendency to just stop thinking about things and muddle through with unprincipled exceptions is precisely the source of the right liberal dynamic: it is what keeps liberalism from self destructing and keeps common sense conservatives from abandoning liberal principles.

    “Common sense” right liberalism, not left liberalism, is what perpetuates those principles and ensures that anything other than liberal politics is unthinkable. The radical/leftist iterations (communism, nazism, etc) regularly flame out in eruptions of violence. But it is right liberalism which ensures that this will continue indefinitely.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Zippy:

    Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Tories allied with the Whigs to keep (horror of horrors) a Catholic off the throne, because the tradition of loyal opposition means it’s better to bend the knee to the Devil than the Pope.

  • itascriptaest says:

    passed laws that actually expanded the tolerance of different religion whereas their French counterparts violently persecuted the Catholic Church through the state.

    If by tolerance you mean setting up the world’s first secular government that largely peacefully marginalized Christianity sure thing.

    I’ve read that the French Army also was marched into various towns to massacre peasants that didn’t “get with the program.” The Continental and later US Army did not mass murder entire loyalist communities.

    You shouldn’t underestimate the fact that many Loyalists were oppressed and often brutally massacred. This was particularly true in the South.

    While it is true that the American Revolution’s violence was not on the scale of the Great Terror this owes more to the fact that Anglo-American society had already largely reconciled themselves to liberalism. The number one authority cited by American Loyalists was John Locke after all. In France by contrast, traditionalism was still widespread and so it had to be destroyed by extreme and widespread measures.

    What the founders did, like it or not, had more in common with the English culture that lead to the civil war that gave them Magna Carta than it did with the French Revolution.

    This just isn’t true, The American AND French revolutionaries were inspired by the same intellectual influences- Bacon, Newton and Locke and the Whiggism of the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    The radical/leftist iterations (communism, nazism, etc) regularly flame out in eruptions of violence. But it is right liberalism which ensures that this will continue indefinitely.

    In your antigravity jackboots diagram you indicated Nazism was a species of right-liberalism. Did I misread your diagram?

  • Paul J Cella says:

    The classical Thomist formulation has it that freedom is a power, subject to grace, by the help of which it chooses the good. Choosing the good would seem a pretty workable rendering of justice, so I think Burke’s statement is more than defensible. As usual, his grounding is not early modernism but the Aristotelian-Thomist sources in which he immersed himself is whole life.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    The classical Thomist formulation has it that freedom is a power, subject to grace, by the help of which it chooses the good.

    So we are back to conflating free will with freedom as, specifically, a political philosophy.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    Okay, in the context of this particular digression, Burke’s whole point is to avoid that conflation. That’s why he starts (in the quotation above) with describing freedom as “the birthright of our species.” He’s rejecting the idea of freedom as a (uniquely modern) political doctrine and presenting it instead as a universal attribute of mankind.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    In your antigravity jackboots diagram you indicated Nazism was a species of right-liberalism. Did I misread your diagram?

    No, I think that is more or less correct, though part of the point to that diagram is that thinking too much in right-left terms is deceptive. The ‘event horizon’ is where liberalism crashes existentially into reality, is subject to true existential threat; and this can occur anywhere really.

    Despite its ‘internal’ socialism and egalitarianism I don’t think it is inaccurate to characterize the nazi ‘outside’ view as a right-liberal radicalism: race and nation form the boundary between the superman and his oppressor, versus the left-liberal view of class and privilege forming that boundary.

    Right-radicalisms tend to be shorter lived and succeed in mass murdering fewer people than left-radicalisms, at least so far. But I wouldn’t count on that being the case forever.

  • I get that that’s what Burke is trying to do, but this is the problem with liberalism generally.

    Take “equality” as used in the Catechism, say, conflate it with *political* equality, and voila, if you deny political equality you’re just anti-Catholic.

    Take “free will” as understood by Aquinas, conflate it with political freedom, and voila, if you are against political freedom as the primary end of governmwnt you’re really anti-free will, or anti-justice.

    That’s the game.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    He’s rejecting the idea of freedom as a (uniquely modern) political doctrine and presenting it instead as a universal attribute of mankind.

    Then he should just say “all men have free will, and this is a gift from God; but freedom as a political doctrine is a murderous and despicable load of crap”.

    No need for all the faux profundity.

  • Zippy says:

    Step2:

    I wrote upthread (and you quoted me):

    The radical/leftist iterations (communism, nazism, etc) regularly flame out in eruptions of violence. But it is right liberalism which ensures that this will continue indefinitely.

    You replied:

    In your antigravity jackboots diagram you indicated Nazism was a species of right-liberalism.

    That is right (no pun intended), as far as it goes.

    Instead of ‘right liberalism’ I could just as easily have said ‘moderate liberalism’, I suppose, or ‘everyman liberalism’, to avoid confusion, as description of the more motte-like place where liberalism is preserved and perpetuated by reasonably well adjusted people.

    I could probably develop a three dimensional model to deal with the fact that people of a ‘conservative’ disposition tend to be more ‘of the right’, visually showing somehow the paradox involved when the tradition which the traditionalists work to conserve is liberal anti-tradition. But at the end of the day drawings and words are valuable to the extent they help communicate understanding, and adding dimensions to the diagram might be counterproductive to that aim.

    Still, I’ll noodle on your comment and maybe I’ll cook up some more visuals. No promises though.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    He was corresponding with a young French aristocrat in 1790. You have to let such men down easy. The Reflections was rather more pointed.

    But this notion that Edmund Burke was a liberal (see malcolm’s “I get that that’s what Burke is trying to do, but this is the problem with liberalism generally.“) is just a facepalm. Soon we’ll hear how Hooker and More and even Aquinas were liberals.

  • Zippy says:

    It should be said too (of that diagram) that the “alt right” / “alt left” labeling is completely off given what has happened with those labels in the interim. Most of what would pass for either in Current Year blogs and news stories is well inside the event horizon.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    But this notion that Edmund Burke was a liberal … is just a facepalm.

    Slap yourself in the face all you want, but I don’t think there is any doubt that Burke had liberal commitments which he attempted to reconcile with his traditionalist commitments. In that sense he was an archetypical right liberal.

    Men of his era might be forgiven for their naïveté, their vain hope for a nice tame liberalism that doesn’t have the extermination of Christianity, tradition, etc as its necessary and unavoidable telos.

    But the hour is late, and we have no such excuse.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    Sign me on as a right-liberal, then. I guess. I mean, if the whole thing is about labeling people.

    On the substance, I submit that my views on Free Speech are demonstrably traditionalist. In all questions on the subject, my first instinct is to refer them to the body of thought and argument beginning in America, and dating back to the first Christians to arrive on these shores.

    “Unavoidable telos” from, say, the Mayflower Compact, looks somewhat different than the picture presented by Zippy’s event horizon (though I admit I always enjoy the fiery headlines and analogies):

    http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/03/preamble_and_compact.html

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    Sign me on as a right-liberal, then. I guess. I mean, if the whole thing is about labeling people.

    If you insist. I don’t focus on labeling people though, but on substantive positions. The substantive positions to which any given person has commitments is up to them, not to me.

  • Seriously? You think this about labeling people?

    It’s about words having meanings, which you know.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    In the end, a conservative who praises the Grateful Dead ought to own up, right?

    http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2016/05/let_there_be_songs_to_fill_the.html

  • Paul J Cella says:

    Malcolm, c’mon man. I’m here because the arguments are worth having. Zippy and I disagree. we banter a bit. This sort of thing between us (disagreement and banter) dates from about 2006, so we’re used to it.

  • Zippy says:

    Longer ago than 2006:

    http://www.amnation.com/vfr/archives/001588.html

    In some strange twist of fate, I quote Jerry Garcia in that thread.

  • Anymouse says:

    the “alt right” / “alt left” labeling is completely off given what has happened with those labels in the interim. Most of what would pass for either in Current Year blogs and news stories is well inside the event horizon.

    Well, so far saying “Stalin did nothing wrong” or “we should deport all the blacks and Jews” are not yet things we can openly say too often. I certainly hope the people I saw at the front of the march with the Soviet Flag were only Leninists, not Stalinists…

  • Paul,

    I’m aware, but that comment was still at best very much missing the point. And I do think you’re way too smart to think that this is all a simple matter of labels.

  • Actually, I appreciate the fact that any classical liberal can come in here and talk with Zippy for awhile without eventually having their gears grind to a halt.

  • Zippy says:

    Anymouse:

    The diagram is supposed to show political positions, and the ones outside the event horizon are where liberalism has been unequivocally rejected — but of course individuals in that space are still influenced materially by the ‘gravity well’.

    So anyway, it isn’t that things get “more nazi” as you move past the event horizon to the right of nazism, or “more communist” as you move left of communism. In that outer area political modernity has been explicitly repudiated — including its nazi and communist forms.

  • Anymouse says:

    Ahh, well in that case yes, what is called the Alt Right and Far Left is fully within the Event Horizon indeed. Odd thing of course about Alt Left is no one actually calls themselves that.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Burke had deep liberal commitments that cause him all kinds of trouble. I can respect him, but wouldn’t call him a traditionalist, though he’s much closer than most who use that label today. Same with St. Bellarmine and St Neumann. This doesn’t mean their views on Catholicism are without merit, but it does mean one must do quite a bit of work before salvaging much of use from their political philosophies.

    St. Thomas More and St. Thomas Beckett both get a pass as non-liberal. Though there are some problems with some of the stuff More wrote, he’s pretty wholesome on the topic of political philosophy, and besides, anyone who is martyred for standing up to liberalism should be given some leeway.

    St. Thomas Aquinas is no liberal, though there’s an argument that his work shows some of the first fruits of liberalism.

    St. Augustine of Hippo (or of Canterbury, for that matter) is no liberal. Neither is Plato nor Aristotle. There are some people who locate the seeds of modern liberalism’s anti-reality in (a severe misunderstanding of) Plato’s teachings on the nature of human, choice, though – the idea that people always choose the good as they see it leading to the idea that the only thing necessary for the bringing about of Utopia on Earth through neglecting Plato’s numerous examples that some people can’t be taught and that some particular goods conflict between people. (See, for example, the Euthyphro.)

    Paul, your claim that you trace your tradition back to the first Christians on these shores is directly at odds with your claim to trace it from the Mayflower; Ponce de Leon set up St. Augustine generations before the Puritans. Even if you only count Englishmen due to a quite natural bias toward the Anglosphere, there were numerous Catholic settlements in North America before the founding of Plymouth Rock.

    However, as you can see from the foregoing, aspiring back to the origins of the New World is hardly enough to free you from the taint of liberalism, which has been with us in more-or-less its modern form since before then.

    (I’d further make the claim that many of the heresies the Church successfully controlled before the Reformation – Albigensians, Donatists, Arians, etc. had many strikingly-similar characteristics, and for good reason. Pride is the root of liberalism and is ever the favorite tool of the Devil.)

    Lest that come off as too harsh, don’t think I’m holding myself above it all. I have many mind-weeds still to pluck, many unconscious habits of thought or commitments yet to tear out by the roots. And I thank Zippy for helping me see that instead of just resting in an uncomfortable ‘Neoreactionary/TradCatholic’ fusion.

  • Zippy says:

    Anymouse:

    Odd thing of course about Alt Left is no one actually calls themselves that.

    The dispositionally conservative tend to reject their freaks and outliers in an attempt to be respectable. The dispositionally progressive tend to get into purity spirals when it comes to what level of freakishness they are willing to embrace: embracing the coalition of the fringes just is what is respectable. So fracture on the right between mainstream and alt was inevitable, whereas the mainstream left you have unified chaos as long as everyone hates the right.

    Like any powerpoint slide, my diagrams don’t capture all of the pertinent things there are to say about the space they cover. They are intended to communicate certain things about the space they cover in a hopefully clear way.

  • I’ve taken to referring to myself as a Tolkienite when people ask.

  • donnie says:

    I don’t really know where to post this but it seemed like something worth sharing/discussing. R.R. Reno, editor of First Things, has penned
    a noteworthy essay in which he admits that the three-legged stool (capitalism, democracy, Judeo-Christian values) that Michael Novak (R.I.P.) once argued eloquently for, the same three-legged stool that was core to the founding philosophy of First Things as a journal, has proven itself untenable. But of the three legs the one he condemns is capitalism, which he believes is responsible for cannibalizing our democracy and our moral values.

    I suspect this is an ‘in-real-time’ example of how right-liberalism shifts to hold up the rear guard of liberalism’s leftward march. Reno sees capitalism as something that needs to be dealt with because left to its own devices it weakens the moral core of society, and in this he is probably right. But if this line of thinking catches on among self-styled conservatives (and it very well could) I think it’s clear that the only thing that will actually be conserved is the second leg of the stool: liberal governance.

  • Anymouse says:

    It depends on how well people take this critique to heart; it is very true that movement conservatives have not been the greatest intellectuals or bastions of noble political ideals.

  • […] From a new article at First Things (hat tip donnie): […]

  • Rocío Matamoros says:

    Rhetocrates said: Burke had deep liberal commitments … Same with St. Bellarmine and St Neumann. … St. Thomas Aquinas is no liberal, though there’s an argument that his work shows some of the first fruits of liberalism.

    Rhetocrates, if you have the time and inclination, could you flesh this out a little? I’d be very interested to see what you mean. Now Burke’s liberalism is obvious enough to anyone in Zippy’s ballpark – I just quoted the first phrase so that the second phrase would make sense. It’s only after you move on from Burke that I’m a little puzzled. Do you simply mean St Roberto Bellarmino’s argument on the temporal powers of the pope in Disputationes 1? I don’t think I’d say that is evidence of “deep liberal commitments”, and it still seems borderline anachronistic to apply “liberalism” as early as this. But I’m not arguing with you here – I think you’re probably aware of something I don’t know, and I’d be interested to hear what it is.

    St John Neumann wasn’t really a writer, so I don’t understand why you speak of him in the same breath as Bellarmino, or why you even mention him at all. Again, I’m assuming my ignorance is the problem here.

    With St Thomas Aquinas, I’d guess you mean Michael Novak’s argument on the deposition of tyrants (although he traces it to Acton via Hayek); this seems to me anachronistic and illegitimately takes Aquinas’s words out of context, as you doubtless agree. I’m just checking whether you meant anything more than Novak et al. when you mentioned Aquinas.

  • Rhetocrates says:

    Rocio:

    Just dropping a note to remind myself to get back to you on this.

  • rociomatamoros says:

    Much appreciated, Rhetocrates.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    Longer ago than 2006:

    VFR circa 2003. Truly the halcyon days of blogging.

    Paul, your claim that you trace your tradition back to the first Christians on these shores is directly at odds with your claim to trace it from the Mayflower; Ponce de Leon set up St. Augustine generations before the Puritans. Even if you only count Englishmen due to a quite natural bias toward the Anglosphere, there were numerous Catholic settlements in North America before the founding of Plymouth Rock.

    Fair point and you’re right. Catholic doctrine in North America predates liberalism.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    Interesting: no responses to that last provocation.

    I suspect this is an ‘in-real-time’ example of how right-liberalism shifts to hold up the rear guard of liberalism’s leftward march. Reno sees capitalism as something that needs to be dealt with because left to its own devices it weakens the moral core of society, and in this he is probably right. But if this line of thinking catches on among self-styled conservatives (and it very well could) I think it’s clear that the only thing that will actually be conserved is the second leg of the stool: liberal governance.

    Fair points, but it’s also fair to ask, has the No True Scotsman blunder become No True Enemy of Liberalism? Maybe throw Cervantes into the liberal basket because he wrote a liberal novel.

    Also, what does “rearguard” mean? What kind of military movement is being analogized? Guardianship or bloodlust? Slitting the throats of the wounded or 75th Rangers backing Delta on a rescue mission 600 miles from the American homeland?

    On the larger point, here I’ve gone my nearly 40 years of life thinking Burke our truest conservative and I’m to learn he was among the most pernicious of liberals. Conor Cruise O’Brien wrote a great book about Burke, recruiting him to liberalism, but it was mostly O’Brien inadvertently admitted that what he believed in was conservative.

    [For the record, though disagreeing with my old friend on the liberalism, Burke, the Founding and that stuff, I’m in complete agreement with him on usury and aerial annihilation.]

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    Also, what does “rearguard” mean?

    It means protecting, preserving, and conserving liberalism.

  • Anymouse says:

    Honestly, I never thought it was controversial that Burke was a liberal. A liberal very sympathetic to conservatives he indeed was, of course. I once heard this stated very plainly by a speaker at an Edmund Burke Fellowship funded discussion.

  • donnie says:

    Catholic doctrine in North America predates liberalism.

    Interesting: no responses to that last provocation.

    I didn’t realize the fact was supposed to be taken as provocative. It is simply true. The Church’s doctrine in North America does predate liberalism. It shall also outlast liberalism.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    It means protecting, preserving, and conserving liberalism.

    There is still an ambiguity to be addressed. 75th Rangers in rearguard action are fighting like hell the whole time; should they abandon the field, Delta dies, because the rescue mission lit up the whole camp.

    Or are we just slitting the throats of the wounded?

    It shall also outlast liberalism.

    I think it will too, but obviously it strikes at the heart of the thesis here, when the same argument says (a) the American tradition is irrestorably liberal and (b) Americans by can appeal, in their own history, to principles that owe nothing to liberalism. There’s at least a tension here.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    There is still an ambiguity to be addressed.

    I don’t see the ambiguity. Right liberals or conservative liberals defend liberal principles when they are criticized.

  • donnie says:

    the American tradition is irrestorably liberal

    Well, for starters, I would disagree with that statement. The North American continent was Catholic and non-liberal once. I see no reason why it cannot be so again.

    And I’m not the only one.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    I don’t see the ambiguity.

    That aint on me.

    Right liberals or conservative liberals defend liberal principles when they are criticized.

    And if someone says denouncing the banks (primary source of usury in the world) and opposing Hiroshima are liberal principles, you’ll cop to liberalism, yes?

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    And if someone says denouncing the banks (primary source of usury in the world) and opposing Hiroshima are liberal principles …

    … then I would point out that that person doesn’t mean liberal principles when he uses the phrase “liberal principles”.

    When it comes to what I mean by the phrase I think I’ve been about as clear as any writer in the history of writing.

  • KevinD says:

    Paul:

    It’s nonsensical to call an action a principle. Some liberals do denounce the banks and some do oppose Hiroshima. For a lot of them, it’s because they believe that doing these actions are *required* by their liberalism (as far as anything can actually be “required” by liberalism). But a non-liberal is just as capable of denouncing banks and opposing Hiroshima (and committing mass-murder for that matter) as a liberal; they simply don’t use a commitment to political freedom as justification.

  • TomD says:

    In fact, what Zippy argues about liberalism (that it’s incoherent) means that you should be able to find a liberal (or liberalism) that supports any given good or evil.

  • Zippy says:

    TomD:

    In fact, what Zippy argues about liberalism (that it’s incoherent) means that you should be able to find a liberal (or liberalism) that supports any given good or evil [action].

    In theory, yes. In the context of concrete reality there are limits to what human beings want/expect or believe plausible, including their own internal perception of the plausibility of applying the principle to justify a given action.

    But in theory an incoherent justifying doctrine can justify any action whatsoever or its opposite.

  • Hrodgar says:

    If the American tradition is irrestorably – or, more to the point, irredeemably – liberal, (for the record I don’t think it is) then so much the worse for American tradition. The bit where Christ comes down on some folks for preferring the traditions of men doesn’t disappear just because Protestants like to use it against the Church, and not all traditions are created equal.

  • Paul J Cella says:

    then I would point out that that person doesn’t mean liberal principles when he uses the phrase “liberal principles”.

    Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t. The point is that you have to make the argument at the level of the substance or content of the principles.

    If Edmund Burke and J. J. Rousseau are united in liberalism, we’re very close to the point where content has fled the scene and labels only remain.

  • Wood says:

    Paul,

    Do you have a disagreement with Zippy’s definition of liberalism? Or do you disagree that Burke had significant commitments to political liberty?

    I don’t think Zippy has made much of an issue about Burke other than to point out that, if he had strong commitments to political liberty, he was a liberal. I mean you may not like that description, but it’s a bit unfair to say that content has fled the scene at Zippy’s.

  • Ian says:

    Re: Burke. It’s not just cranks like Zippy and his combox denizens who think Burke’s commitment to conservatism was compromised, but also cranks like Edward Feser:

    http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/an-ambigious-conservative/

    He was a Whig, after all.

  • Zippy says:

    Paul:

    If Edmund Burke and J. J. Rousseau are united in liberalism, we’re very close to the point where content has fled the scene and labels only remain.

    You are just begging the question. If they both in fact had liberal commitments – commitment to the incoherent idea that pursuit of freedom justifies the exercise of authority, the ramifications of which I’ve gone to great lengths to explain – then it is a fact that they both had liberal commitments, whatever differences obtain. Your personal incredulity doesn’t call that into question.

  • Hrodgar says:

    “If [Zeno] and [Epicurus] are united in [paganism]…”

    Not an expert on ancient Greek philosophy, so this might not work as well as I think it does, but I hope the point comes across.

  • Step2 says:

    Zippy,
    If they both in fact had liberal commitments – commitment to the incoherent idea that pursuit of freedom justifies the exercise of authority, the ramifications of which I’ve gone to great lengths to explain – then it is a fact that they both had liberal commitments, whatever differences obtain.

    Rousseau had such a commitment but I am not nearly so certain Burke did. He believed, from my limited knowledge, in a related but more complex subject I would call “self-determination of a people” that was personally important to him as an Irishman. He certainly wasn’t a fan of democracy and had a strong belief in social hierarchy.

    In response to comments about banksters and nukes, I consider those to be matters of injustice instead of being based upon “a commitment to political freedom.”

  • TomD says:

    Few people are attracted to liberalism in the abstract; most are attracted because it appears to be a way of righting an injustice they see. Which, of course, it is (if you happen to be the hidden authority therein), but eventually it will get away from you; the tame liberalism does not remain tame; especially since it remains after you are dead.

  • itascriptaest says:

    Re: Burke. It’s not just cranks like Zippy and his combox denizens who think Burke’s commitment to conservatism was compromised,

    Alasdair MacIntyre argued similarly in After Virtue:

    The individualism of modernity could of course find no use for the notion of tradition within its own conceptual scheme except as an adversary notion; it therefore all too willingly abandoned it to the Burkeans, who, faithful to Burke’s own allegiance, tried to combine adherence in politics to a conception of tradition which would vindicate the oligarchical revolution of property of 1688 and adherence in economics to the doctrine and institutions of the free market. The theoretical incoherence of this mismatch did not deprive it of ideological usefulness. But the outcome has been that modern conservatives are for the most part engaged in conserving only older rather than later versions of individual liberalism. Their own core doctrine is as liberal and individualistic as that of self-avowed liberals

  • Rhetocrates says:

    It’s only after you move on from Burke that I’m a little puzzled. Do you simply mean St Roberto Bellarmino’s argument on the temporal powers of the pope in Disputationes 1? I don’t think I’d say that is evidence of “deep liberal commitments”, and it still seems borderline anachronistic to apply “liberalism” as early as this.

    I wouldn’t call it anachronistic at all; in fact, I’d call the primary power of the Reformation to be either the liberal spirit or its direct progenitor. You see this both in the German civil wars and peasant rebellions unleashed by Luther and in the spirit of Calvin’s Geneva. Both are classic cases of the modern liberal spirit, with pretty much the only difference today being that they’ve shed those embarrassing allusions to God.

    Not that I’m claiming St Bellarmine was wrapped up in any of that; definitely not. But I base my claim on some of the material in his Responsio to James, wherein he makes claims like that any authority that demands something immoral of its people automatically loses all legitimacy – or at least, that’s what I remember. I stress that last word because memory is often faulty, and I’ve had trouble finding my copy. I could easily be wrong, especially given that I read it before I found Zippy.

    St John Neumann wasn’t really a writer, so I don’t understand why you speak of him in the same breath as Bellarmino, or why you even mention him at all. Again, I’m assuming my ignorance is the problem here.

    In my experience of some traditional Catholic circles, Neumann plays a heavy role. At the same time, I think it’s pretty clear from some of his remarks that he has rather too much Americanism in him. Perhaps it’s just of personal importance; I have an accidental but fairly large exposure to the Redemptorists, including one execrable episode in 2015 where I attended Mass in Clifden and was appaled that the visiting (Redemptorist) priest substituted the homily with liturgical dance. (Needless to say, we did not take communion, since it was clear he was not in true communion with Rome.)

    With St Thomas Aquinas, I’d guess you mean Michael Novak’s argument on the deposition of tyrants (although he traces it to Acton via Hayek); this seems to me anachronistic and illegitimately takes Aquinas’s words out of context, as you doubtless agree. I’m just checking whether you meant anything more than Novak et al. when you mentioned Aquinas.

    I’m not really intimately familiar with Novak’s work, so if I do mean that, it’s not purposeful. Specifically what I mean is that you can read his political teachings as promoting a separation between secular law and spiritual virtue which then quite naturally blooms into ‘separation’ of Church and State.

    For example, in II-II Question 58 Article 6 of the Summa:

    Et in III Polit. dicit quod non est simpliciter eadem virtus boni viri et boni civis. Sed virtus boni civis est iustitia generalis, per quam aliquis ordinatur ad bonum commune. Ergo non est eadem iustitia generalis cum virtute communi, sed una potest sine alia haberi.

    “And in 3 Politics, he [the Philosopher] said that the virtue of the good man is not simply the same as the good citizen. But the virtue of the good citizen is justice in general, by which someone is ordered toward the common good. Therefore, general justice is not the same as virtue in general, but being possible to have one without the other.”

    Now, two things. First, I think this is a misunderstanding of Aristotle, who seems to me to simply be laying out that excellence in the polity is necessarily relative to the constitution of the polity. Being a good democrat is different from being a good oligarch, where ‘good’ should be taken as ‘good at’ rather than ‘morally good’. But I don’t blame St. Thomas for that; Greek scholarship, textual criticism and archaeology have all come a long way since his time.

    Secondly, I think it’s incorrect to claim that St. Thomas means it’s possible for a person to have one without the other, but rather that he’s making categorical distinctions (though this is arguable). In any case, whether a true separation is his intent or not, this view does open a crack in the Christian teaching that virtue in the polity necessarily flows from and is inseparable from personal (Christian) virtue.

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