2018/05/04

Non serviam

Red Dragon - William Blake

...Is the real philosophy of the Enlightenment, as yesterday's Anonymous commenter explained (this blog's commenters have been on fire lately!):

I don't comment either but I've noticed that a lot of this, including the argument with Misha, comes down to the re-definition of liberty.
The Old Definition:
The freedom to act according to one's nature (you don't make yourself so you can't define your own nature).
The Enlightenment Re-Definition:
The freedom to act according to personal conscience. (Restated: The freedom to do what you want - because people have the capacity to choose what they think is right and wrong that means personal conscience can be formed by the will which is not tethered to anything.)
The problem with a lot of people, including Misha, is that they don't see that not only do these definitions conflict, they war against each other. In fact the second can be reduced to Non Servum. The trick to understand is that the definition of what is good has been moved from an external *authority* to an internal one. See: "I disagree with the Church's teaching on divorce/contraception/etc." Who gave you the right to have an opinion on the nature of Good? That was Adam & Eve's sin in Eden. In any system of hierarchical bonds and obligations eventually someone is going to say that some duty they have doesn't conform with their own conscience (read will) and therefor declare obedience to be immoral. Since part the sovereign's job is to enforce the common good he will side with someone who is violating his/her obligations that conflict with their will or perpetrating an act that is in accordance with their will.
In practice this means that when a teenage boy is peer-pressured to become gender-queer in school and the parents punish the boy for this behavior the state declares the parents child-abusers because they are trying to force a principle on to the child which conflicts with his personal conscience and that forced principle is that he should act according to his nature - a boy. So in order for the boy to become free by the second definition he must become a slave by the first.
There's another, perhaps even worse, aspect to this and that is the innate human antipathy to chaos. By chaos I don't mean dis-order I mean non-order where anything could happen at any time and there is no predictive ability whatsoever. The more free (according to definition #2) a society is the more chaotic it will become which means that people will be more and more willing to give power to the sovereign in order to bring order to the chaos that they have themselves created resulting in the paradox that the more free a society is the more tyrannical it is.
The ultimate irony is that the most effective means a libertarian has to achieve his goals is to stop being a libertarian.

Not just the choice of major villain but how he was depicted was excellent.
The Ophian Rising - Brian Niemeier

13 comments:

  1. Another good bit of rhetoric from me: The farther you run from authority the further you run into tyranny.

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    1. Excellent observation.And the rebellion against legitmate authourity can come from the bottom up via astroturfing as well as rop down

      xavier

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    2. “the further you run from authority, the closer you run into tyranny.”

      Libertarianism fails once sin is taken into account. What’s surprising about that is the the Mises Institute as a number of major leaders who are all trad Catholics...yet this escapes them when it comes to economics and politics.

      Speaking of economics, I’m noticing in my Catholic peers a growing interest in Distributism. Looks like I’ll have to revisit it and tear it apart as I recall from my younger days that - while I like Belloc and Chesterton - their Distributism was not much more than an attempt to baptize Socialist economics by injecting Catholic teaching on solidarity and subsidiarity into it. Maybe I’m recollecting that incorrectly but it is interesting to see some Catholics realizing something isn’t right with the system as it is.

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    3. You would be misremembering then. Distribution was an attempt to revive the guild system. Christian Socialism was just rhetoric, perhaps vain given who it was meant to appeal to but still so.

      Don’t forget the purpose of an economy is not to produce lots of stuff or produce new innovations it’s for fathers to provide for their families. A system that can’t do that is a failed system no matter how many bells and whistles it has, its like child who can’t walk bragging about doing back flips.

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    4. "Libertarianism fails once sin is taken into account."

      That pretty much sums it up.

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  2. As a first time poster here, I a moved to comment on this post because I have been mulling over the role of conscience as a Christian and as a possible guide for daily life after reading Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life. I'd really like to read the thoughts of you all on the subject, because my conscience helped me escape some terrible habits in my life over the past year.

    First of all, I am not sure that the distinction between defining freedom as following your nature or following your conscience is the fundamental satanic core of the Enlightenment. If a man chooses to do God's will, won't both his conscience and his nature guide him toward the Good? If a man chooses to do his *own* will, won't both his nature and conscience corrode and twist over time to guide him towards evil?

    Also, how can we know our own nature more deeply than by listening to our conscience? The Catechism calls the moral conscience the secret core of man where he listens to God. Clearly, the conscience must be informed by Scripture and competent authority, I agree. But the same could be said about our nature - it must be formed and grown by the same processes.

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    1. Welcome. Thanks for posting your questions.

      "I am not sure that the distinction between defining freedom as following your nature or following your conscience is the fundamental satanic core of the Enlightenment."

      Perhaps I'm off-base, but I took Anonymous to mean that the post-Enlightenment appeal to primacy of conscience is a fig leaf concealing a reduction of freedom to license. That's how it's worked out in practice, after all.

      "If a man chooses to do God's will, won't both his conscience and his nature guide him toward the Good?"

      I'm unsure what you mean, since that looks like a tautology to me. Isn't the Good synonymous with God's will?

      "If a man chooses to do his *own* will, won't both his nature and conscience corrode and twist over time to guide him towards evil?"

      Yes, and that's precisely what Liberalism urges its adherents to do.

      "Clearly, the conscience must be informed by Scripture and competent authority, I agree."

      And that's the part the Liberals leave out.

      "But the same could be said about our nature - it must be formed and grown by the same processes."

      Only grace can perfect nature. Anyone who says otherwise flirts with Pelagianism.

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    2. Thanks for your response. I think I see the core of my confusion about the post now. If the Enlightenment conception of freedom as following one's conscience lacks the necessity of authority, doesn't the older definition of freedom as following one's nature lack the necessity of grace in it's definition? Without constant acceptance of grace, I can follow my nature and be a thoroughly evil man. So that's why I don't see the root of Enlightment satanism as the change in defining freedom, I see it as a problem with the will.

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    3. "Without constant acceptance of grace, I can follow my nature and be a thoroughly evil man."

      Incorrect. Acting in accord with one's nature is the definition of moral action. Moral evil occurs when one acts contrary to his nature.

      Because man is fallen, it is impossible for him to commit good acts without grace. What I meant by grace perfecting nature is that our fallen will is broken in such a way that we are able to act contrary to human nature as made by God. Grace enables us to act in accord with our nature as God intended.

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    4. I was making a very subtle point that following your conscience is just doing what you want. Take some time to meditate on the fact that mustache twirling villains don't exist, nobody ever does anything that they themselves think is evil, even people like Stalin and Mao thought what they were doing was right. Sometimes people take consequentialist attitudes towards morality but that only drives my point home further, that an evil is performed to create a greater good beyond it means that someone who does evil knowingly only does so because they are perusing something good.

      You brought up our obligation to form our conscience and that was sort of my point. The simple fact is that our conscience is formed by our will according to our own desires or to an external authority. Since we have free will we are fully capable of mutilating our conscience to see evil as good and good as evil, should a person like that follow their own conscience or bow to external authority?

      This is a big part of why the Church exists in the first place, to be the external standard that our beliefs on morals are measured against.

      Most enlightenment philosophers (the Rousseau types) didn't believe in original sin, meaning they believed an unrestricted conscience would better conform to the Good than a restricted one as the moors of society and Church could only possibly corrupt what was already perfect. That's how you get to Non-Serviam.

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    5. Thank you for your reply. I think the crux of my confusion has to do with the inter-relationship between one's own nature and one's conscience. As far as I can tell, my informed conscience (from a childhood of catholicism and then recently returning to the Church) is the most reliable immediate guide to my nature, the way that God intended me to be. I know that people do not intentionally do evil for evil's sake alone, but most people, including myself, daily go against the guide of their informed conscience.

      My question to bother you and Brian would be - how would I act in accordance with God's without developing my conscience? It appears to me to be a necessary but not sufficient condition? Which makes sense of why the change of definition carries a subtle evil within it.

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    6. "Thank you for your reply. I think the crux of my confusion has to do with the inter-relationship between one's own nature and one's conscience. "

      It's more to do with the relationship between one's conscience and one's will.

      I've been thinking about this a lot and I think there's a lot of confusion, not just here but everywhere, over what our conscience actually is. I was using it more as a sort of internal list of actions that is each categorized as good or bad. Sometimes when people talk about conscience they mean guilt, to act in accordance with their conscience is to not do anything that would make you feel guilty. There is a complex interplay between these two things. On the second point there's not just our own nature orienting us towards certain behaviors and away from others there's also our guardian angels biting at us. The first point can only be developed through pursuits that require deliberate actions of the will, for instance if one wants to study the catechism making that decision and carrying it through requires a deliberate act of the will. Likewise we could desire to be hedonists and deliberately avoid any moral formation at all or decide that the best means to pursue ethics is through Kantian or Marxist philosophy. How we chose to form our internal list of good/bad actions depends on what we have decided is most important, someone who thinks that individual freedom is the most important thing is going to have a very different list of good/bad actions than someone who thinks that God is the most important thing. There's also the fact that our guilt can also be silenced over time and the only thing that remains is our good/bad actions list.

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    7. I think of conscience in the way that CS Lewis describes in Mere Christianity. In that book, he builds his argument for God on top of what he claims as the undeniable reality of the voice of conscience, arbitrating between good and bad actions, which is present even in bad men.

      In light of this conversation, perhaps he assumed the universality of informed conscience because he lived in a society that was Christian and cathechized more widely than our own today.

      I think this thread has shed some light on a number of murky concepts for me. I appreciate it.

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