Sunday, June 2, 2019

Continetti on post-liberal conservatism


At the Washington Free Beacon, Matthew Continetti proposes a taxonomy of contemporary American conservatism.  Among the groups he identifies are the “post-liberals.”  What he means by liberalism is not twentieth- and twenty-first century Democratic Party liberalism, but rather the broader liberal political and philosophical tradition that extends back to Locke, informed the American founding, and was incorporated into the “fusionist” program of Buckley/Reagan-style conservatism.  The “post-liberals” are conservatives who think that this broader liberal tradition has become irredeemably corrupt and maybe always has been, and thus judge that the fusionist project of marrying a traditionalist view of morality, family, and religion to the liberal political tradition is incoherent and ought to be abandoned.

Continetti notes that post-liberals are “mainly but not exclusively traditionalist Catholics,” and proposes a test for determining whether someone falls into the category:

One way to tell if you are reading a post-liberal is to see what they say about John Locke.  If Locke is treated as an important and positive influence on the American founding, then you are dealing with just another American conservative.  If Locke is identified as the font of the trans movement and same-sex marriage, then you may have encountered a post-liberal.

End quote.  Well, if you’ve read my book Locke, then you know that by this criterion, I am pretty clearly a post-liberal.  And frankly, if you look at the world through Aristotelian-Thomistic and/or orthodox Catholic eyes, I think you pretty much have to be some kind of post-liberal.  But what kind, exactly?  Here things are not as simple as Continetti seems to think.

“The liberal ideology calls for careful discernment”

The late Michael Novak, who was no post-liberal, made a useful distinction between liberal institutions on the one hand, and liberal philosophical foundations on the other.  Examples of liberal institutions would be the market economy, limited government and its constitutional constraints, and the rule of law.  There is in fact nothing essentially liberal about any of these things, but they have certainly come to be closely associated with the modern liberal political order.  Examples of liberal philosophical foundations would be Locke’s version of social contract theory, Kant’s conception of human civilization as a kingdom of ends, Rawls’s egalitarian theory of justice, and Nozick’s libertarian theory of justice.

Now, someone could accept some version of the liberal institutions in question while rejecting all of the alternative liberal philosophical foundations. 

For example, in my opinion, only someone blinded by ideology could deny the astounding and unequaled power of the market economy to lift human beings out of poverty, or the irrational and impoverishing nature of central planning.  Socialism is idiotic as well as evil, and no one who is unwilling to acknowledge that is to be taken seriously on matters of politics and economics.  At the same time, it is no less ideologically blinkered to deny the corrosive moral and social consequences of modeling all human relations on market transactions between sovereign individuals, or to deny that private financial power poses grave dangers just as governmental power does.  As I argued in my recent Claremont Review of Books essay on Hayek, liberal individualism undermines the family and national loyalties, which in turn undermines even the preconditions for the stability of the market itself.  And the “woke capitalism” of the modern corporation may turn out to be as insidious a threat to the moral order and to freedom of thought and expression as anything the U.S. government has done.

It is possible to affirm both of these sets of thoughts at once – to acknowledge the achievements of so-called liberal institutions while rejecting any liberal philosophical rationale for these institutions.  The empirical evidence supports the acknowledgement, whereas, for the post-liberal conservative, philosophical consistency requires the rejection.  For, I would argue, you simply cannot marry Catholicism or Thomism to Lockean political philosophy or to Kantianism, much less to Rawlsianism or libertarianism, any more than you can marry them to socialism in any of its noxious varieties. 

An important implication of this is that it is fallacious to suppose that a post-liberal conservative must ipso facto be an authoritarian, as many commenters on the recent dispute between David French and Sohrab Ahmari seem to suppose.  But it is true that the reasons a post-liberal conservative would oppose authoritarianism are likely to reflect prudence as much as, or more than, principle.  For example, a fusionist conservative and a Thomist might agree that it is a bad idea to make adultery a criminal offense.  But for the fusionist, who accepts the fundamental liberal assumptions about the purposes of government, that is because such a policy would be an unjust violation of the individual right to personal liberty, which for the liberal includes even the liberty to make grave moral mistakes.  By contrast, a Thomist would argue instead that while it would not be per se unjust to make adultery illegal, such a policy is very unlikely to do much good in practice and is likely to produce unintended evils as a side effect. 

To be sure, there are also going to be issues on which the post-liberal conservative is bound to insist on holding a paternalistic line as far as possible, where many fusionists are now willing to cave in – for example, on questions about drug legalization, censorship of pornography, the push for transgender rights, and so on.  If you think that is “authoritarian,” then you are committed to saying that pretty much all human civilizations before about 20 minutes ago were authoritarian – and have, I submit, drunk very deeply indeed of the liberal individualist Kool-Aid.

Now, exactly how ought institutions like the market to be informed by a non-liberal philosophy such as Thomism?  What sorts of specific policies would result?  How far should government go in shoring up the moral order, and how far is it even realistic for it to go in the sorry circumstances we now find ourselves in?  Those are complicated questions that call for the phronesis of a good statesman as much as they call for theorizing.  My own view is that the right theoretical principles are those worked out by Thomist moral and political philosophers in the mid twentieth century under the influence of thinkers like Aristotle, Aquinas, and Bellarmine and the encyclicals of popes Leo XIII and Pius XI, and which are reflected in the manuals of the day.

The point for the moment, though, is just to emphasize that it is a false choice to suppose that one must either follow the fusionist in endorsing some brand of liberalism, or go in for some kind of authoritarianism.  Pope Paul VI had his faults, but spoke wisely when he said that “the liberal ideology calls for careful discernment.”  What he meant is that the good ends that liberals rightly seek to achieve – he cites “economic efficiency,” “personal initiative,” “the defense of the individual against the increasingly overwhelming hold of organizations,” and “a reaction against the totalitarian tendencies of political powers” – must be disentangled from the bad philosophical assumptions that liberals typically deploy in defense of these good ends.  The insinuation that one must accept philosophical liberalism in order to achieve these ends is itself one of the rhetorical tricks of the liberal ideologue’s trade.

Keep political philosophy depoliticized

That brings me to some other remarks from Continetti.  He writes:

What the post-liberals seem to call for is the use of government to recapture society from the left.  How precisely they intend to accomplish this has been left undefined…

Another question is whether the post-liberal project is sustainable in the first place.  The post-liberals… may have over-interpreted the results of the 2016 election.  Trump is many things, but it is safe to say that he is not an integralist.  Prominent online and in my Twitter feed, the post-liberals might also misjudge their overall numbers

A conservatism that does not incorporate the ideas of freedom and civil and religious liberty that imprinted America at its birth not only would be unrecognizable to William F. Buckley, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan.  Americans themselves would find it alien and unappealing.

End quote.  Speaking just for myself, I haven’t much idea in the first place what a “post-liberal project” is supposed to look like, if that is meant to refer to some sort of practical political program with a set of detailed policy proposals, an electoral strategy, and so on.  And like Continetti, I don’t think recent U.S. politics gives much ground for optimism about such a project, however it would be spelled out.  The reason I favor a variation on what Continetti calls “post-liberal conservatism” is because I think it is true, not because I think it promises a winning party platform.  I understand, of course, that Continetti is a writer on politics (and a good one), for whom questions of what is likely to secure electoral success and legislative victories are of special interest.  But questions about what is actually true are, I humbly submit, not entirely unimportant. 

If anything, Continetti understates the grounds for pessimism about the prospects for a post-liberal conservative politics.  For contemporary Western society is radically out of step with the basic premises to which the post-liberal conservative is committed.  Indeed, I would say that liberalism is a Christian heresy and one that seems now to be approaching its full metastasization.  I would say that it is the moral and political component of the broader heresy of modernism, which is at high tide and sweeping all before it, the flood now having penetrated deeply into even the innermost parts of the Church.  It is like Arianism both in its breathtaking reach and in its longevity.  It is worse than Arianism in its depravity.  Its god is the self – the sovereign individual of the liberal, and the subjective religious consciousness of the theological modernist – and in seeking to conform reality to the self rather than the self to reality, it tends toward subjectivism, relativism, fideism, voluntarism, and other forms of irrationalism.  And there is no limit to the further errors that might follow upon such tendencies.  That is why, as Pope Pius X said, modernism is the “synthesis of all heresies.” 

Because of this irrationalism, the liberal and modernist personality tends to be dominated by appetite, and by sexual appetite in particular, since the pleasures associated with it are the most intense.  But he also has a special hostility to the natural purpose of sex – marital commitment, children, and family – because that imposes the most stringent obligations on the self.  The family is also the fundamental social unit, and thus the model for all other social obligations, such as those entailed by ties of nationality.  Hence it is inevitable that the liberal and modernist personality will seek to reshape the family, and through it all social order, to conform to his desires.  Woke socialism is the last stop on the train ride that begins with radical individualism.

Some readers will no doubt find all of that overwrought, to say the least.  The point, however, is that it is a diagnosis that is hard to avoid if one begins with the sorts of premises to which post-liberal conservatives are typically committed.  And it entails that an ambitious near-future post-liberal conservative political program is probably not feasible, precisely because, as Continetti says, there simply are not enough voters who still sympathize with that view of the world.  In the short term, it seems to me, the post-liberal conservative will have to settle for rearguard actions, piecemeal and often only temporary victories, uneasy alliances with other conservatives, and in general a strategy of muddling through that can hope at best to take the edge off the worst excesses of late stage liberalism. 

Where he must be ambitious is in working for the long term revival of Western civilization.  For the average person, that means committing oneself firmly to a countercultural way of life – to religious orthodoxy, to having large families, and to preserving the social and cultural inheritance of the past the best one can at the local level, Benedict Option style.  For the intellectual, it means working to revive the classical (Platonic, Aristotelian, Scholastic) tradition in Western thought, and showing how it is not only in no way incompatible with, but provides a surer foundation for, the good things that modernity has produced (such as modern science, limited constitutional government, and the market economy).

The good news the post-liberal conservative can give the fusionist is that rejecting liberal philosophical foundations does not entail rejecting these good things, even if it does mean interpreting or modifying them in ways that the fusionist might not like.  The bad news is that philosophical liberalism has so eaten away at the moral foundations of Western society that these good things too are threatened along with everything else.

But like the Church, the post-liberal conservative must think in centuries.  Arianism did eventually disappear, so thoroughly that in hindsight it is difficult to recall what all the fuss was about.  And in the long run liberalism too will disappear, because it is now so deeply contra naturam that its ultimate collapse is inevitable.  Future generations will look back and marvel that such a freak show ever existed.  What remains to be determined is how much damage it will leave behind it, and how far it will go in persecuting those who resist its ever more extreme permutations.  

Now, the dim prospects for short term post-liberal conservative political success can be turned into an advantage.  Short term political calculation can make it difficult to think wisely about matters of political philosophy – and has done so with too many contemporary American conservatives, who trim the sails at the level of theory because of what they see in the polls and the ballot box.  That is part of the reason so many of them have chucked out the traditionalist side of fusionism, and more or less become libertarians rather than genuine conservatives. 

It is easier to resist such temptations when you have no illusions in the first place that your ideas are likely to have much electoral success.  You can depoliticize political philosophy in the sense of focusing on inquiring into what is actually true, without being distracted by questions about what will play well with voters or be conducive to forming political alliances.  And in the long run, when implementation becomes more feasible, it is also likelier to be successful, because the theory will have been worked out more rigorously. 

Here, ironically, the post-liberal conservative can learn something from the founders of fusionist conservatism.  Whittaker Chambers famously thought that, by becoming a conservative, he’d joined the losing side.  Hayek knew he was a dinosaur, and that to try to revive 19th century style classical liberalism in the 1940s and 1950s was an ambition of Jurassic Park proportions.  Buckley made National Review a journal of ideas precisely by attracting disaffected intellectuals like James Burnham, Frank Meyer, and Russell Kirk.  They were all free to think and write seriously precisely because they were in the political wilderness.  As a result, when the electoral prospects for fusionist conservatism finally did became brighter, there were substantive and well-developed ideas to implement.

Sometimes, when you have less to win, you also have less to lose.  That affords a kind of liberty that the post-liberal conservative can enthusiastically embrace.

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164 comments:

  1. But Dr Feser, I thought you were a dangerous Anglo-Conservative...

    Sorry, couldn't resist... Won't derail the thread anymore!

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  2. Sancte papa Pius decius, ora pro nobis.

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  3. Ed,
    In the environment where I work (Biblical Studies and Theology), post-liberal refers to theologians such as George Lindbeck, Hans Frei, Stanley Hauerwas, James McClendon and Nancey Murphy. They are against foundationalism and often the correspondence theory of truth and are influenced by Thomas Kuhn, Imre Lakatos, and the "linguist turn" in the later Wittgenstein and a co-opted J. L. Austin. They pick up on a few paragraphs where Austin seems to question the correspondence theory of truth (Austin discusses whether France is hexagonal) and disagree with what the rest of Austin's followers (Searle, Strawson and others) say on the topic. The speech act theory of either Searle or Alston provides no comfort whatsoever for them. These post-liberals are about as far from conservatism or Aristotelianism as one could get.

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  4. I'm becoming more and more interested in your work on political philosophy and was glad to see you weigh in on the issue with David French.

    You approve of Dreher's Benedict Option and I'm fully on board with developing a comprehensive philosophical system to challenge liberalism. But isn't there more that can be done with the culture? The Jordan Peterson phenomenon makes me wonder.

    Take the concept of freedom. Excellence vs indifference. There are ways to hook this discussion in the culture. Psychologist Jonathon Haidt seems to have stumbled upon it in popular books.

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  5. Wouldn't it be more accurate to describe ourselves as pre-liberal conservatives?

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    1. With respect to the pedigree of our ideas, yes.

      With respect to the milieu of their being asserted and the primary target of their criticism, no.

      After all, for example, however strongly the thought of Saint Augustine might be opposed to that of John Locke we can hardly say that he articulates it with a Lockean world order in mind. Thus we who might make use of Augustine or Aquinas or who you will have as our primary task not simply restating what he said but defending ourselves from liberalism and moving past it. What we say is determined in a very important way by opposition to this enemy.

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  6. With the extremism of the left increasing, no doubt the ranks of the “post-liberal conservatives” will grow as they become disenchanted with what they see. At some point an equilibrium will be reached that puts political victories more in reach, but is this really a good thing? If I understand the prognosis of this article, I’d have to say no. Merely shifting around the competing forces to achieve a greater equilibrium would just maintain a state of social and political mediocrity; not really curing the disease, but just making the symptoms less severe. The real cure requires enduring the suffering that alone can purge us of our bad ideas, and that will likely be a very long process.

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  7. John Locke I have always thought is very important. However the pure empirical approach does have a great deal of problems as Michael Huemer and Kelley Ross noticed.[Besides Thomas Reid].

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  8. Ah, but here's the elephant in the room.

    "Examples of liberal institutions would be the market economy, limited government and its constitutional constraints, and the rule of law....

    For the intellectual, it means working to revive the classical (Platonic, Aristotelian, Scholastic) tradition in Western thought, and showing how it is not only in no way incompatible with, but provides a surer foundation for, the good things that modernity has produced (such as modern science, limited constitutional government, and the market economy)."

    The trouble is that the classical tradition in fact doesn't provide a surer foundation for these things, and in fact all these things were bitterly opposed by many Aristotelians and Scholastics of the day, and are in fact opposed and bitterly fought tooth-and-nail by many even today.

    And this is because all of them are based on that "individualism" you so abhor and blame for the modern malaise: modern science, for instance, is based on the idea of attempting to overturn received wisdom whenever possible, rather than simply accepting what an authority has to say about it. Ditto for market economies (when not corrupted by corporatism): it rewards those who can do something more efficiently or better than what is currently being done. And the idea that subjects can have legally enforceable rights against sovereigns is simply foreign to the Scholastic mindset, since all legal rights flow from the sovereign - and it is shown par excellence in Church Canon Law, where the Pope simply is the law.

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    1. Thank you, Vince. It had to be said.

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    2. The only part of the liberal project that isn't found in medieval feudalism is treating women as minors for their entire lives and whipping Basque or Navajo children for speaking their own language. You like limited government? Even a very strong king, in feudalism, makes George Washington look like a god-emperor. You like free markets? Feudal lords didn't interfere in markets till the beginning of the reintroduction of ancient Greco-Roman customs at the end of the Middle Ages. Medieval women voted in any assembly where men of their rank did; they owned property, practiced trades, filed lawsuits, testified in court, and learned to read as often as men; the receipts of bookshops show they bought more books.

      What, did you learn the history of political rights from a bunch of liberals, classical or otherwise? The very name of English-speaking liberalism is byword for tendentious, triumphalist historical myth-mongering: "Whig history".

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    3. Yup liberals invented the Salem Witch Hunts.

      All that "liberalism = human rights" was just marketing. And you fell for it!

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    4. Vince, I don’t think you have proven your case. To argue that the Scholastics didn’t produce (or even were opposed to) free markets, etc., (whether true or not) does nothing to disprove the assertion that the “classical tradition” would provide a “surer foundation” for those endeavors—which is a different and more complicated argument, and one I believe Feser argues in his book Aristotle’s Revenge (though I’m only 75 pages in).
      You state that Feser “abhors” the basis of modern liberal achievements (which you attribute to individualism), but in the very quote you cite, Feser calls these “good things” produced by modernity. Obviously there is more complexity and nuance to the question than you are willing to concede.
      Finally, it is not true that the pope “simply is the law”, as the pope is subject to the deposit of faith and cannot change it. But I get your point that democracy (at least the modern, more individualistic type) has produced reasonably efficient safeguards against tyranny. But even there we see old and intractable problems resurface: in the U.S. for example, there are nine unelected Supreme Court judges (i.e. sovereigns) who can, and have, read into the constitution anything they want to see there (perhaps much the same way as a pope could, in theory, read anything he wants into deposit of faith--though it seems the Supreme Court has historically had a much easier go at it having dispensed with troublesome “natural laws” and such).

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    5. Thanks, Sophia's Favorite, it had to be said.

      Very few seem to be in possession of the facts pertaining to the Middle Ages, they just repeat hoary old lies from the, ahem, "Enlightenment."

      As you say, government was not just limited, it was virtually non-existent by modern standards. In addition, custom had the force of law, and kings absolutely obeyed it. A king who issued a decree contrary to custom found himself arguing his case, and very frequently losing. If he didn't concede in fact, when he lost in theory, he'd be facing serious unrest and perhaps open revolt. Men stood on their rights in a practical, robust, and very real way in that era.

      The division of powers was another feature emerging from the Middle Ages that few seem to have their heads around. You had a major power, the Church, to which everybody belonged, including the king, and it defended the natural law, the poor, and even the Jews. This factor, the Church, has been absent from public affairs for so long now that modern people simply don't get what it was like for the government to be restrained so severely as it was then.

      As for the rule of law, it was inherited from the Romans, but taken to an entirely new level under the Church. The Church is the native home of the rule of law. So much so that any layman can challenge any prelate on the basis of the commonly shared faith (the "law" in this case), and nobody disputes that right.

      Regards,
      John.

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    6. There is a lot to be said for the Middle Ages. The best think is to see John Locke as a continuation of the idea of natural law. That is the essence of of Thou Shalt not Steal is that one has the right to private property.
      One can draw a line from Aristotle through Saadia Gaon to Aquinas and then John Locke. That is to see one as a development of the previous.

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    7. T N:

      That the fierce opposition of many Scholastics to modern things like free markets doesn't absolutely prove, strictly speaking, that the classical tradition doesn't provide a surer foundation for these things, admitted; that this opposition is not evidence in favor of the claim, denied. In fact it is quite strong evidence and creates a strong a priori case in favor of it.

      I'm not conceding that there is "obviously" more complexity and nuance to the question. The mere fact that Dr. Feser calls all these modern things good and is yet a philosopher in the classic tradition does not entail in the slightest that the classic tradition provides a surer base for these things. You have not answered the claim that willingness and even eagerness to depart from accepted norms (e.g. "individualism") are what drives the success of these things and such individualism is decried by Thomism as vanity, curiosity, and avarice.

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    8. SF and Aquinian:

      Of course government (on the larger scale, at the kingdom/country level) was "limited" in the Middle Ages insofar as there were practical (even if not legal) limitations on what it was able to do. But what we (including Dr. Feser) are talking about here is CONSTITUTIONALLY limited government, meaning that subjects have legally enforceable rights against the sovereign, and that there is a supreme law even the sovereign is subject to. That idea was as foreign to the Middle Ages as it is to Scholasticism.

      Moreover, at the lower level (manors/serfs) government was pretty near what we would call today totalitarian, and gave lords of the manor rights over serfs we would not accept today.

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    9. Vince, you're talking so abstractly here when Aquinian and Sophia's Favorite have provided concrete examples that appear to undermine your initial post. If you have something substantial to rebut them why not actually post it? This last post of yours is fine and well, but when read against the critiques that you haven't actually addressed it comes across more as wheels spinning in the mud.
      Can you show where the rights of the individual in those aforementioned critical posts (critical towards your comments) are somehow not actually what they are claimed to be?

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    10. Unknown,

      This is a classic example of a motte-and-bailey fallacy (two in fact). The bailey is that the classical tradition provides a sound philosophical basis for things like political rights, scientific advancement, and the free market. When attacked, however, they retreat to the motte that that these things existed to some extent in the Middle Ages. But then they come back a little bit to the bailey that these things existed more so in the Middle Ages then today; and then you (at least) retreat to the motte that these things existed to some extent in the Middle Ages.

      Of course I'm talking abstractly, because the issue at hand is whether the classical tradition provides a sound philosophical basis for things like political rights, scientific advancement, and the free market, not whether or to what extent those things actually existed in the Middle Ages. Of course they did, to some extent; everyone knows the Middle Ages weren't 1984 and Big Brother couldn't have his eyes everywhere. So pointing them out is not an undermining of my initial post at all. It's simply a retreat to the motte.

      But of course the cheerleaders for the Middle Ages never point out the other facts, where rights were in fact violated, and severely so. Were the serfs freely working their lord's land for a freely agreed upon price, with crops they had previously agreed on? Of course not. Did they have any legal right to dispute all this against the lord of the manor? Of course not.

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    11. Vince S: Of course the opinions of the scholastics is "evidence" against the thesis of the article; I didn't dispute that. You have twice now claimed that it is definitive proof, and that is what I deny. The article is a thesis. It is not, nor does it purport to be, an exhaustive apologetic on the subject.

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    12. Vince, what do you mean by free markets and what do you mean when you say they are modern things? I'd be particularly interested in where you think they do, or have, existed.

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    13. Also, just what do you take the Schoolmen as opposing in terms of markets?

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    14. and the rule of law....

      and in fact all these things were bitterly opposed by many Aristotelians and Scholastics of the day,

      Oh, for goodness sake! What weed are you smoking? The roots of "rule of law" go back as far as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle (if not earlier): Socrates who submitted to the unjust sentence of death because it was the law. St. Thomas, who wrote a whole treatise on law which in part supports the position of human law as firmly founded. And, by the way, also approved the notion that kings could be deposed in some situations.

      And the idea that subjects can have legally enforceable rights against sovereigns is simply foreign to the Scholastic mindset,

      Actually, the only properly and fully sovereign ruler is God, and the scholastics (St. Thomas, at least) recognized inherent limits on every authority below Him. All human authorities have constraints on their rule.

      modern science, for instance, is based on the idea of attempting to overturn received wisdom whenever possible, rather than simply accepting what an authority has to say about it.

      Poppycock. You are describing BAD science, and it isn't by any means the norm. Try going into a physics university and getting a grant to "prove quantum mechanics is wrong" because it is (now) the received wisdom. Modern science when done properly doesn't have any bias against what has been held up till now. It only holds a bias against accepting what can be proven or disproven without any willingness to try to prove or disprove it, and is perfectly willing to accept proof of it when it comes along just as it is willing to accept disproof when that comes along.

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    15. Vince, your criticisms of the economic views of the Schoolmen are rather scatter-shot. Usually, what critics criticise is the Schoolmen's or Church's belief in things like a just wage and price which isn't necessarily the market rate, especially the enforcement of this just rate by the state (although many of what you Americans call libertarians object to such notion as a just wage or price and moral imperative to pay it where possible, whether or not the state is involved); the teachings against usury; and, perhaps, the support of guilds. Even critics don't consider usually specific comments on feudalism to be more than incidental or time bound.

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    16. VInce SJune 4, 2019 at 10:52 AM
      SF and Aquinian:

      Of course government (on the larger scale, at the kingdom/country level) was "limited" in the Middle Ages insofar as there were practical (even if not legal) limitations on what it was able to do. But what we (including Dr. Feser) are talking about here is CONSTITUTIONALLY limited government, meaning that subjects have legally enforceable rights against the sovereign, and that there is a supreme law even the sovereign is subject to. That idea was as foreign to the Middle Ages as it is to Scholasticism.

      Moreover, at the lower level (manors/serfs) government was pretty near what we would call today totalitarian, and gave lords of the manor rights over serfs we would not accept today.


      That is wrong on many levels. I don't know of anyone in the Middle Ages who denied that kings were subject to a superior law. That idea came in with the Renaissance, and in most of Europe was characteristic of the Enlightenment era.
      Quite simply, kings then were not absolute.

      Nor was the state seen as absolute within its sphere, as it is today. This can be hard to wrap one's mind around, for us moderns and perhaps especially Americans. But they just didn't have the kind of lines drawn within which different agents had clear sovereignty. So unless you wish to force a crisis, you ended up needing to negotiate consent. One example, which lasted into the modern era: as late as the Napoleonic Wars, the RN could not get away with impressing seamen in districts where the local magistrates didn't want to cooperate. It was a bit like the way sanctuary cities work today, but no one was shocked by it. And note, this was during a an actual war of survival.

      And the point about the need that they be constitutionally ensured is a bit puzzling. It sounds like you are imposing American assumptions on the question. Look, I'm American too, and I was raised with that attitude. But lets be real. Many countries have constitutions in the written, American sense. Has that made much difference? Remember, until the 20th C, the driver in the spread of classical liberalism was not the US, but Britain. And the Brits never did get around to adopting a constitution in our sense. Did that put them behind France? Not so far as I can see. (And we won't even talk about the Soviets.)

      On another point, you overlook that even serfs did have rights. No, they didn't negotiate wages for the days due the liege. But they could for other work, and they did. Further, one thing they did get from their labor was that they could not be evicted. Or fired, for that matter.

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    17. Another problem with the classical liberal case is the obvious fact that a liberal order an obvious weakness. Wherever it arises, there is a significant minority who hate it with a passion (see one of the posters here), and a pretty obvious majority who don't much care for it.

      CAN such an order maintain itself? I don't say we KNOW it can't, but it does look problematic.

      I must also point out that 'willingness and even eagerness to depart from accepted norms (e.g. "individualism") are what drives the success of these things' simply does not describe the norm for the middle classes who are the real backbone of the liberal order. That is in fact a stock argument against it. (One, I'll add, that I don't buy. But it's been continuous.)

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    18. George, excellent points.

      Saving extensive reading in the literature, perhaps those who want to comment about the Middle Ages and how things worked could read at least this one book, which is truly excellent?

      "Before Church and State: A Study of Social Order in the Sacramental Kingdom of St. Louis IX." By Andrew Willard Jones. This is a serious academic work, but quite readable. Here's the blurb:

      Willard Jones explores in great detail the "problem of Church and State" in thirteenth-century France. It argues that while the spiritual and temporal powers existed, they were not parallel structures attempting to govern the same social space in a contest over sovereignty. Rather, the spiritual and the temporal powers were wrapped up together in a differentiated and sacramental world, and both included the other as aspects of their very identity. The realm was governed not by proto-absolutist institutions, but rather by networks of friends that cut across lay/clerical lines. Ultimately, the king's "fullness of power" and the papacy's "fullness of power" came together to govern a single social order.

      Before Church and State reconstructs this social order through a detailed examination of the documentary evidence, arguing that the order was fundamentally sacramental and that it was ultimately congruent with contemporary incarnational and trinitarian theologies and the notions of proper order that they supported. Because of this, modern categories of secular politics cannot be made to capture its essence but rather paint always a distorted portrait in modernity's image.

      In addition to a detailed reconstruction of the institutions of the kingdom, the work offers a reading of the political and ecclesiological thought of St. Thomas Aquinas that is consistent with that reconstruction. Thomas is here rescued from the liberal or Whig reading that has dominated in recent centuries and is returned to his thirteenth century context.

      Previously, scholars interested in challenging modern conceptions of the secular and the religious when treating the Middle Ages, have had to rely largely on historical scholarship written from within the conventional modern paradigm. In this text, Jones provides these scholars with a methodologically and technically rigorous alternative. If the book's thesis is widely accepted, it will call for the reconsideration of the accepted narrative of medieval Church and State.

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    19. Aquinian,

      That may well be true, but it should also be said that Vince is mixing up the Middle Ages, and common practices in it, with Church teachings or the arguments of the Schoolmen, without differentiating between what exactly the Church/Schoolmen defended in the Middle Ages, how they did it, and the status of the teaching in the history of the Church as a whole. The Catholic post-liberal conservative is not under an obligation to defend the Middle Ages tout court nor even everything that every Schoolman or Churchman said about Medieval Institutions and beliefs.

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    20. "Vince S: Of course the opinions of the scholastics is "evidence" against the thesis of the article..."

      The problem is, Vince hasn't given us any examples of the opinions of the Scholastics, and anybody who is familiar with the Scholastics can see he has no idea what they taught.

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    21. @Vince S.

      "The bailey is that the classical tradition provides a sound philosophical basis for things like political rights, scientific advancement, and the free market. When attacked, however, they retreat to the motte that that these things existed to some extent in the Middle Ages. But then they come back a little bit to the bailey that these things existed more so in the Middle Ages then today; and then you (at least) retreat to the motte that these things existed to some extent in the Middle Ages."

      OK, let's make it clearer.

      Political rights in the modern sense didn't exist, because the notion of total government didn't exist. What did exist were an immense tangle of social and political realities, upon which and within which government, severely limited in scope and power, could influence things in one way or the other. "Political rights" arose as a reaction to absolutism, which was a new theory emerging from the Protestant Revolt. The thing to try and imagine is a world in which the default is the precise opposite of the modern one. In the Middle Ages, and indeed in ancient Rome, personal responsibility and the liberty that necessarily arises from it, came first, and government activity was added. Under modern conditions, government is primary, and we struggle to carve out some space for the human person.

      Scientific advance not only pre-dated the Enlightenment, it was steady during the previous era. What the new science did was to focus only on results, not on truth per se, and freed enormous energy for making new stuff. Newton's laws, for example, don't tell us much, if anything, about reality, but they provide a practical means for achieving results, which is all that modern man wants or cares about. It is important to understand this; I am not saying the laws are untrue, I am merely saying that they abstract from everything except quantity (and the relations between quantities), and quantity is not very much of reality, it is only one of many aspects of it. Take the law of gravity, which tells us nothing about what gravity actually is, but merely describes the manner in which it manifests itself mathematically. This kind of knowledge is all we need in order to make stuff work. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of chemistry, which is really truly practical, not theoretical in any realistic way. For example, the atom theory of matter, the little solar system, is not a proven fact but rather a pretty thinly supported hypothesis, but for modern science it doesn't matter whether it's true or not. What matters is whether our calculations and our mixing of various quantities of stuff under given conditions yield the results we need. In that realm, we are successful, because that's where we put our real focus and energy. This is, incidentally, the main reason that philosophical results derived from modern science are so incredibly facile and worthless. The entire project is about making microwave ovens and automobiles and smart phones, it isn't about understanding reality in toto.

      The market as the dominant and ruling paradigm for everything didn't exist, agreed. But this is the very thing than men today are beginning to recognise as an evil, a destructive and nasty construct.

      Regards,
      John.

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    22. @Jeremy Taylor

      Agreed. However, I think it incredibly useful to hammer away at some of the typical myths in order to open minds to a different view. My thought is to shift the terms of the debate, not merely to argue within the terms offered. So, for example, I reject outright this nonsense that personal freedom arrived with the Enlightenment. In a very real sense, the very opposite happened.

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    23. When debaters begin to insult me, completely erroneously misstate what I have said, and bring up completely irrelevant points I can be confident I am winning the argument. Were you completely confident in your positions you would find no need to do this, but would rather rebut me in substance.

      The issue, again, is whether the classical tradition provides a sound philosophical basis for political rights, scientific progress and free markets.

      Bringing up the Middle Ages is a red herring. Yes, I get you hate modernity and wish we were living in the Middle Ages, which you believe far superior. And you're entitled to your opinion. But the Middle Ages simply aren't the society we're in, whether you like it or not. And yes, all these things existed to some extent during the Middle Ages. But bringing that up is a red herring which proves nothing. They existed to some extent even in the Soviet Union.

      And no, I never claimed the opinions of many Scholastics against these things were absolute proof against the thesis. I do claim they are evidence against it, which they are, and yes, I know enough about Scholastic thought to understand WHY so many Scholastics strenuously objected, regardless of what Aquinian thinks about it (he has no idea what I have read or haven't read, but feels qualified nonetheless to dismiss me as ignorant.)

      Anyway, back to the substance.

      I am claiming a DIRECT CONFLICT between the classical idea of hierarchical authority and subjects with legal/constitutional enforceable rights against the sovereign. In the classical view, everything is ordered from the top down, with God at the top, and intermediary men/structures in between. All authority comes from God, as was stated, and is thus hierarchical, which is why subjects by definition CANNOT have political rights against the sovereign, who is the Divinely ordained authority. If the subjects had political rights against the authority, then they would themselves be the authority - the sovereign would, be, in some sense, subject to them and his right to rule deriving from them. Yes, indeed, monarchs could be deposed in theory BY THE CHURCH, but not by the subjects themselves. And yes, it's true sovereigns are bound by a higher law (as they are subject to God), but talking about absolutism is again a red herring; the people have no legal/political recourse if sovereigns abuse their power, which is what is at issue. Read Leo XIII; people can, indeed, choose their rulers, but cannot rescind the right to rule once chosen, for his authority comes from God and not from them: if they had the right to such rescission, the authority would be in reality from them.

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    24. Also, I am claiming a DIRECT CONFLICT between the classical idea of epistemology as the mind in direct contact with the thing known with the scientific epistemology which, is in essence, a "good enough for all practical purposes" kind of "knowledge" which is nevertheless not absolute truth and is thus always capable of progress and refinement. There is thus no real knowledge strictly speaking to be gained from the scientific method since we only deal with quantities and not with absolute truth, so the classical idea goes.

      There was bitter opposition from many Scholastics not just toward geocentrism, but toward Newton's Laws, germ theory of disease (thought to be caused by "imbalance of humors"), and so on. Why? Not due to a mere scientific disagreement, because their postulates about such things were not mere scientific hypotheses or theories susceptible to a posteriori refinement or even overturning, but supposed a priori knowledge about motion and disease, deriving from the knowledge of things known as such.

      For the poster who brought up quantum mechanics, for someone who could figure out how to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity (the discrepancy meaning that both theories are, to some extent, "wrong" and not the final answer), not only could you easily get a grant, you'd win the Nobel Prize. Yes, science does advance by overturning consensus whenever possible, via new evidence. It's how we know about ulcers and H.pylori.

      For the poster who brought up gravity, granted, science doesn't really understand what gravity even is, or why it works the way it does, scientific theories of gravity (whether relativistic or Newtonian) are just able to make "good enough" predictions. But then again, philosophy doesn't really know the answer to these things either. It pretended it did though, with disastrous results. And I am curious how you can say the classical tradition provides a firm philosophical basis for scientific progress when you have nothing but disdain for it? A firm philosophical basis should not only make such progress possible, but a worthwhile good to be acquired, wouldn't you say?

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    25. And finally, in the hierarchically-ordered classical worldview, the most important thing is obedience, since obedience to one's human superior is obedience to God, and obedience to God is what is most important of all, since everything flows from the top down.

      So, I am claiming a direct conflict between this view and that of free markets, which posits order coming from the bottom up. The classical view cannot tell us WHY free markets work better than a planned economy, why leaving things to individual initiative produces better results than ordering from above. (The typical answer that the ruler is not omniscient won't suffice. Neither are any of the actors in a market economy.)

      And all these things (free markets, political rights, scientific progress) do actually posit order from the bottom up to some extent also. They have at their core the idea that individual flourishing is a more important value than obedience, which the classical view simply cannot countenance.


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    26. "When debaters begin to insult me, completely erroneously misstate what I have said, and bring up completely irrelevant points I can be confident I am winning the argument

      Please cite examples of those who have done so. Actual quotes would be nice.

      In you last comment you seem to be just making it up. E.g., "And finally, in the hierarchically-ordered classical worldview, the most important thing is obedience, since obedience to one's human superior is obedience to God, and obedience to God is what is most important of all, since everything flows from the top down.

      You totally ignore the fact that most law, in the Middle Ages, was custom, which is not "top down" by any means.

      Nor do you give a source for that one. Not Bossuet or some other 17th C guy. Aquinas explictly addresses the problem of tyranny, as did other scholastics. Feudal vows worked both ways, and the king was just as capable of being the violator as the vassal. Generally, you have given no source for any of your allegations, nor have you actually addressed most of the points made against you. (The quantum/relativity point is surely a side issue.)

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    27. Vince,

      It was you who brought up random aspects of the Middle Ages as if the defender of Aristotelian-Thomism or Catholic post-liberals are obliged to defend them all, in all particulars. And your portrait of what follows from the Aristotelian-Thomist positions, so far as acceptance of science and social/political beliefs is concerned, is almost entirely lacking in references to primary sources or analysis of the actual conceptual links. It's essentially a strawman. (
      You A-T caused Scholastics to reject germ theory in favour of humours. What? Such claims are just bemusing, even to someone like me, who can hardly claim expertise. What is the actual link here you are asserting.

      Finally, again I ask, where are these free markets you speak of?

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    28. @Aquinian,


      Quote: "For example, the atom theory of matter, the little solar system, is not a proven fact but rather a pretty thinly supported hypothesis, but for modern science it doesn't matter whether it's true or not. "


      Are you sure? I thought the atom theory was a well supported scientific hypothesis with lots of empirical evidence for it (IIRC just off the top of my head is electronic microscope evidence of sub-molecular interactions that are predicted by atomic theory).

      In fact, it's well known that the high-school textbook version of the atom, namely a bunch of spheres clumped together with smaller spheres orbiting them circularly or eliptically, is in fact not the real model of the atom as current atom theory suggests it is, but just an artistic representation that is very imprecise.

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    29. Hi Joe, well it’s morphed substantially, but it’s the little solar system idea I was referring to.

      Skepticism about certitude in theoretical physics and chemistry is well founded. Read this: http://worrydream.com/refs/Mead%20-%20American%20Spectator%20Interview.html

      Cosmology is in immeasurably worse shape than physics.

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    30. Jeremy Taylor,

      "It was you who brought up random aspects of the Middle Ages as if the defender of Aristotelian-Thomism or Catholic post-liberals are obliged to defend them all, in all particulars. "

      It is Catholic post-liberals who are bringing up random aspects of the Middle Ages to defend against the charge that A-T does not provide a sound basis for modern advancements. This is a red herring fallacy. My charge stands regardless of what happened or didn't happen in the Middle Ages.

      "And your portrait of what follows from the Aristotelian-Thomist positions, so far as acceptance of science and social/political beliefs is concerned, is almost entirely lacking in references to primary sources..."

      This a blog post and not a research paper, so I am not obliged to give links and references to everything. Yes, it is simply a historical fact A-Ts bitterly fought against heliocentrism and even Newton's Laws, as you well know (read the correspondence between Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange and Pierre Duhem). You're perhaps right there wasn't a similar conflict with germ theory of disease specifically, but that is because scholasticism had already been defeated on the matter of atomism.

      Anyway, if you want to argue about the substance of my comments, feel free.

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    31. George S:

      "You totally ignore the fact that most law, in the Middle Ages, was custom, which is not "top down" by any means."

      It wasn't law, it was custom. You're just playing semantic games. And you don't respond to the meat of the claim. Is the scholastic view that things are organized from the top down, or not? Or is there room for self-organization from the bottom up?

      I put it to you, you have no substantive rebuttal, nor does anyone else. You're just bringing up random things from the Middle Ages in order to deflect. If I have mischaracterized the scholastic worldview, please feel to correct me.

      "Nor do you give a source for that one. Not Bossuet or some other 17th C guy. Aquinas explictly addresses the problem of tyranny, as did other scholastics. Feudal vows worked both ways, and the king was just as capable of being the violator as the vassal."

      I explicitly gave a source (Leo XIII) for the claim that subjects have no political rights against rulers. Nowhere in Aquinas will you find support the proposition that they should have such, regardless of how he addressed tyranny.


      Sure, there may have been feudal vows both ways, but WHO is going to legally enforce things against the king if he breaks his vow? Certainly not the vassals, obviously, for the king is not subject to "the law", he is the law (essentially, with the possible exception that his right to rule could be revoked in theory by the Church, superior to him).

      "Generally, you have given no source for any of your allegations, nor have you actually addressed most of the points made against you. (The quantum/relativity point is surely a side issue.)"

      The alleged points made against me are all red herrings. (See, what is gratuitously asserted can be gratuitously denied.)

      Anyway, let me ask you the following.

      Scholasticism, regarding authority, is diametrically opposed to the American constitutional principle that governments "derive their just powers from the consent of the governed", for authority, of whatever nature, comes from God and not from men. Do you deny this? Subjects having political/legal rights against rulers means that there are limits, set by what the governed are consenting to (and not merely by the natural law), on the civil power. Do you deny this?

      Scholasticism, regarding epistemology, is diametrically opposed to the principles responsible for scientific advancement, for scientific theories/models/etc. are not true knowledge; knowledge is knowledge of things as they actually are in themselves, which in the natural science realm is that of natural causes and effects. Do you deny this? In fact this is why science is attacked, even by scholastics right here on this very forum - models aren't absolute truth, and science only gets at appearances, but not the underlying reality. Granted, it's conceded these models have a certain utility insofar as they enable us to build better mousetraps, but this utility is only accidental - it's not conceded we're better building mousetraps because we understand the world better, nor is it conceded that constructing better models will necessarily enable to build even better mousetraps in the future.

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    32. ETA: I really liked this post on another blog, even though Kuhn is quite old, the OP really gives it a nice new look IMO:

      https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/01/08/book-review-the-structure-of-scientific-revolutions/



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    33. Vince,

      What you have to do is post a proper argument, free of blatant fallacies. It is good you have withdrawn the stuff about germ theory. What you haven't done is provide a proper argument as to why the examples of the Churchmen (I presume this is what you mean when you say A-Ts) not accepting certain scientific theories at the time refutes Dr. Feser's claims. It certainly doesn't follow necessarily that A-T isn't a good, or the best, underpinnings for modern science because some A-Ts in the past didn't always take the correct view of scientific theories. I suppose you make a start on such an argument when you bring up A-T epistemology, but your argument there seems to be that only anti-realist or instrumentalist positions on science are compatible with modern science. That is a hugely controversial view, and, in turns of practice, I think just silly, given the amount of realists amongst historical and even contemporary scientists. Also, it would be good if you engaged with Dr. Feser's positions, often stated, about why an A-T position (the intelligibility of nature, etc) is in fact the best underpinning to science.

      When it comes to constitutional government, you are confusing different things. Whether or not it is necessary that a good, free government take its power explicitly from the people, there are certain areas where it is best that governed and governors alike see authority and right coming from above both of them. In particular, this is case for fundamental right and just. As C. S. Lewis said, it is only the belief in a universal natural law or ethical code, which certainly doesn't originate simply in the majority will, that allows for authority that isn't tyranny and obedience that isn't slavery.

      On markets, I'm still waiting for you to define what you mean by free markets, where you think these do or have existed, and what you think the Church or Schoolmen said on the matter.

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    34. JT:

      "What you have to do is post a proper argument..."

      OK, fair enough.

      "It certainly doesn't follow necessarily that A-T isn't a good, or the best, underpinnings for modern science because some A-Ts in the past didn't always take the correct view of scientific theories.... Also, it would be good if you engaged with Dr. Feser's positions, often stated, about why an A-T position (the intelligibility of nature, etc) is in fact the best underpinning to science."

      The issue isn't that A-Ts were sometimes wrong on the science. Scientists themselves have plenty often been wrong on the science, after all. And the issue isn't the intelligibility of nature in itself, which I'll certainly concede A-T supports. The issue is how can that nature be understood? It's an epistemological question; does the scientific method yield true knowledge? My claim is that the A-T answer is "no", and thus does not provide philosophical support for the practice of science as an intellectual activity which results in gain of knowledge.

      "...your argument there seems to be that only anti-realist or instrumentalist positions on science are compatible with modern science."

      You seem to have misunderstood; I am saying that only these positions are compatible with Thomism, which is why the practice of science is under constant attack from them (often with the "scientism" epithet), as we see right here in this very forum - models may help us build better mousetraps (although we really can't explain why this is so) - but in no way help us gain knowledge of reality as such. For the Thomist, scientific "knowledge" is in reality mere opinion.

      This is a proper argument. It doesn't claim to be a strict proof, but it is an argument.

      "...there are certain areas where it is best that governed and governors alike see authority and right coming from above both of them... only the belief in a universal natural law or ethical code, which certainly doesn't originate simply in the majority will, that allows for authority that isn't tyranny and obedience that isn't slavery."

      Granted, but this is not the issue and it was never denied by me. Constitutionally limited government not only claims the sovereign is subject to a universal natural law, but also, legally and politically, to the people and to the law. This means that, to some extent, SOME authority actually does come from below. However, for the Thomist, ALL authority must come from above. Again, that is a proper argument.

      So, to recap:

      Thomist epistemology denies that real knowledge can be obtained from use of the scientific method (hypothesizing, experimenting and testing hypothesis, and refining (or rejecting) the initial hypothesis, etc.). Thus, it does not provide a sound philosophical basis for science as an intellectual activity which provides useful knowledge.

      Thomist ontology denies that authority can come from below; it must come from above. Thus, it does not provide a philosophical basis for constitutionally limited government, where some authority actually does come from below.



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    35. "On markets, I'm still waiting for you to define what you mean by free markets, where you think these do or have existed, and what you think the Church or Schoolmen said on the matter."

      "Free market" is not a binary term - economic activity is more or less relatively free from external constraints. "Free markets" actually existed in the Soviet Union to some extent - even if it meant black-market transactions for burned-out light bulbs.

      So the question is where the freedom to voluntarily engage in economic activity ranks on the scale of values. For the Church, social hierarchy and structure is evidently a much stronger value. For instance, it never spoke out against medieval serfdom or even against American slavery. In its world view, it is fine if people are constrained, even highly constrained, by accidents of birth, because this is good for societal hierarchy and structure.

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    36. Vince,

      I'm sorry, but those aren't proper arguments. You constantly leap from questionable, unsupported assumptions to unwarranted conclusions. So, the Church apparently believes in social hierarchy and structure, whatever that means, so didn't speak out against serfdom. This is without explanation or detail or support. It just strikes anyone with a little knowledge of the subject as bizarre.

      Similarly, you now seem to.be suggesting Thomists aren't scientific realists, so they are anti-science. This seems mostly to be based on the comments of a few posters here. It would perhaps be better to, for example, comment on William Wallace's extensive writings on philosophy of science and nature or Dr. Feser's recent work, including his defence of structural realism about science.

      I am not sure what you mean when you say that A-Ts believe only in top-down authority. You seem to confusing them with divine right theorists and Tory beliefs in passive obedience.

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    37. I am sorry but our conversation is likely at an end. Any argument, no matter how sound, can be simply peremptorily dismissed as "leaping from unsupported assumptions to unwarranted conclusions" by refusing to listen to the arguments in an intellectually honest way. Atheists do this in their denial of the philosophical arguments for the existence of God, after all. They simply refuse to listen to your arguments as to why causality is a metaphysical first principle and as to why an infinite regress is impossible. Voila.

      Of course (traditional) Thomists aren't scientific realists, for two reasons. They insist there must be an ontological "thing" to be known, and they insist knowledge of this thing (specifically, its nature) must come, in the particular, from the senses, and then, in the abstract, from the act of cognition abstracting from the "phantasm". Newton's Laws aren't an ontological thing, and knowledge of them doesn't come from an act of abstraction. Now one can of course change Thomist epistemology with "structural realism" or some such thing where we simply pretend an equation (or "structure") is allowed to stand in for or represent its nature, but that is a change from standard Thomist epistemology.

      And yes A-Ts believe only in top-down authority, meaning the right to rule comes directly from God. You're the one confusing this with absolutism, which not only says that but that the right to rule is unlimited; the Thomists are not saying this nor am I saying the Thomists are saying this.

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    38. Of course anyone can accuse anyone else of making leaps from unwarranted assumptions, but the fact is here it is true. You simply create non sequiturs and strawmen wherever you go. You explain and support very little. As I said, to anyone with even a little knowledge of the issues, it's just bemusing. You continue in this very post. What do you mean by the standard Thomist epistemology to you? And what is your actual, detailed, well-argued point against it? And what do you mean when you say that Thomists take all authority to come from God? Where is your explanation and support of this claim? And if all authority comes from God, how can it not be absolute?

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  9. What seems missing from this analysis is the rise of Civic, Cultural, Ethnic, and Religious Nationalism. Nationalism and Globalism are increasingly (rightly or wrongly) seen as the real dividing line, and conservatives in the tradition of "America First" (see Catholics like E. Michael Jones and Pat Buchanan and Steve Bannon) are making enormous inroads. This is a type of conservatism that is represented by both good people and bad people--Ethnic Nationalism being the most dangerous, and civic and cultural Nationalism being the most benevolent. But increasingly, "the Right" is expressing in nativism and nationalist sentiment; if that is anti-Conservative, it would surprise a lot of people. What used to be called "Paleoconservative" is increasingly simply becoming "conservative." This is important I think.

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    1. Well, maybe. But one thing that surprises me about today's talk of nationalism is that we seem to have forgotten that that, too, is a modern development. When I was in school in the 60s, and college in the 70s, it was a standard question. On any test, in certain history classes, you could be guaranteed to be asked about how nationalism developed in France vs Spain or England. (England was always the one making the early running.)

      But in the sense we use the word today, it was virtually meaningless in Aquinas's time. When they talked of nations, they didn't have the nation state in mind. And who ruled could be entirely incidental to nationality of the ruled. (Note, that change of rulers, whether by war or marriage, didn't mean much in the way of changing the laws a given area lived under. They didn't look at things that way.)

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  10. One should note, for example, that the re-emergent Paleoconservatism is sharply critical of Free Trade and Libertarian economics in general, sharply critical of foreign entanglements, sharply critical of the international banks and monetary systems, and more--and is growing not shrinking. Surely this type of conservatism must be treated seriously again, for it also represents much of Trump's base.

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    1. Is it possible to find a topic that doesn't have Trump at the center of it? Just asking.

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  11. I would also like to thank Ed for making all the atheist trolls that attend this blog look stupid. They're masters of hiding their reasons and they want to drag you into their surrealistic world of free association. They're beyond evil.

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  12. Peanut butter and jelly, tradition and Locke, Feser and Rorty. In other words, to dodge the accusation of authoritarianism, Feser introduces his own brand of fusionism: Thomism with pragmatism ("prudence").

    Read what Feser wrote: "[I]t is true that the reasons a post-liberal conservative would oppose authoritarianism are likely to reflect prudence as much as, or more than, principle. For example, a fusionist conservative and a Thomist might agree that it is a bad idea to make adultery a criminal offense. But for the fusionist, who accepts the fundamental liberal assumptions about the purposes of government, that is because such a policy would be an unjust violation of the individual right to personal liberty, which for the liberal includes even the liberty to make grave moral mistakes. By contrast, a Thomist would argue instead that while it would not be per se unjust to make adultery illegal, such a policy is very unlikely to do much good in practice and is likely to produce unintended evils as a side effect."

    Feser also makes authoritarianism go down more smoothly by deploying a term shift: "holding a paternalistic line." His examples for "holding a paternalistic line": opposing "drug legalization," supporting "censorship of pornography," and resisting "the push for transgender rights." He thinks those conservatives who collapse on such issues have imbibed "liberal individualist Kool-Aid"--but it's hard to distinguish these issues prudentially from adultery.

    Indeed, Feser appeals explicitly to phronesis (pragmatism) to settle issues surrounding the tensions between moral order and the market: "[they] call for the phronesis of a good statesman as much as they call for theorizing."

    In light of Feser's post, it's a relief that Locke, and not Aquinas, has been the basis for American legal reasoning over the past two centuries, for it is quite evident that Thomism can offer little intellectual defense for the individual against an ambitious or dug-in authoritarian like Putin or Trump. Can you imagine, for instance, the state of women's rights today absent Locke's famous dictum "not to be subject to the inconstant, uncertain, unknown, arbitrary will of another man"?

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    1. Santi Tafarella –

      Phronesis (prudence) is the meat of Saint Thomas’s political thinking. There is no peanut butter and jelly about it. To think politically, is to think prudentially.

      You say that it is hard to distinguish prudentially “censorship of pornography” and “ transgender rights” from adultery. What do you mean? There are institutions which can be legally targeted to avoid the spread of immorality by means of pornography, drugs and false sexual ideologies. But for adultery specifically?

      Dr. Feser evoques the idea of keeping the institutions inspired by liberal political philosophy without adhering to the philosophy.
      One kind of institution, or feature of institutions, which I too find particularly important, is the ability of subordinates to hold their superiors accountable, should they fail in important ways to discharge their obligations, or should they make conditions oppressive. Many of these were indeed developed in modern times, under a more or less Lokean philosophical inspiration.

      But why do you think that a Thomistic political philosophy would not offer a sufficient intellectual basis for these? The most a Lokean philosophy can do is to vindicate some more or less arbitrary list of individual rights. The Thomist can do much more: for the Thomist authority is always subordinate to the primacy of the common good of men (and women!)

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    2. Liberalism is sociopathic authoritarianism. In other words it's anti-authority authoritarianism. Authoritarianism is simply strict obedience to authority. A government that lacks the capacity to make moral demands that subjects are obligated to obey is a feckless government. This is essentially the incoherence of liberalism. It pretends to be neutral and nondiscriminatory while simultaneously discriminating with authority. This is obvious when you understand that discriminating with authority is a necessary function of government.

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    3. What do people mean by authoritarian in this thread? The term obviously has negative connotations, although I've called myself an authoritarian before because the defense of the principle of authority - the legitimate rule of one man over another, and that authority's moral prerogative to compel our obedience - is key to any genuine conservatism and is both necessary and good. Obedience to such legitimate authority is ennobling.

      Liberalism attempts to govern authoritatively while denying that such authority exists. This is incoherent.

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    4. I meant to acknowledge Kurt's post in my comment, as my comment basically just reiterates his.

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  13. "it's hard to distinguish these issues prudentially from adultery."

    Sure, but Ed's point was not to do with the ease of forming judgements, but rather the principles to be applied. If you're looking at the thing in terms of the prudence of taking action, that's how you're looking at it. It's different from dogmatic ideological nuttiness a la "safe spaces" and "transgenderism".

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  14. Focus Aquinian. How did you get from Feser's critique of the mixing of traditionalism with Locke via William F. Buckley to the anti-liberal distraction of "safe spaces"? My point (which you dodged for a straw man consequence of liberalism) is straightforward: if Feser is going to support the case for the superiority of a post-liberal authoritarian order over Lockean liberalism, then he's off to a sketchy start if the best he can do in a first pass is deploy euphemisms for authoritarianism ("holding a paternalistic line") and appeal to prudence and phronesis (pragmatism).

    Women and men valued as evolutionary variants--as peculiar ends in themselves, in need of no justification beyond themselves--is a necessary condition for the evolution of any non-authoritarian ethical and legal system. Feser, in declaring himself post-liberal, ought to face what it means to embrace authoritarianism, affirming God as the only ultimate, legitimate end in himself, trumping all individual claims as ends in themselves wherever they clash with God's (presumed) values and will.

    Contra Feser, I favor non-authoritarian ethics, biased toward the idea that "Everything is beautiful / In its own way."

    Thus non-authoritarian ethics begins at the moment an adult can value him or herself, and say (or at least give themselves permission to say, if they want), "I don't care what Jesus (or Mohammad, or the crowd, or my dad) thinks. I value x. I think y. I don't need Jesus's help or permission--or anybody else's approval--to value x and think y."

    So non-authoritarian ethics begins with questions like these: Am I an end in myself--or not? Is my uniqueness as an evolutionary variation in the world valuable in itself--or not? Can I imagine myself in the shoes of other unique evolutionary variants, valuing their peculiarity as they themselves value it? Do our ends clash--and if so, can we work out a compromise that can keep us in community with one another? These are the questions one confronts in the adult, diverse, modern world. They entail negotiation with others who value themselves as ends in themselves as much as you value yourself as an end in yourself.

    Authoritarianism, by contrast, tries to settle these complicated issues, not via negotiation among equal stakeholders, but via the (in Feser's words) "phronesis of a good statesman." But this is directly contrary to Kant's famous essay, "What is Enlightenment?" I'm with Kant. I don't want to outsource or otherwise give up my rights to negotiation to the judgment of a "good statesman," a good clergyman, or a good father figure of any sort. I want access to the powers of my maturity; I want Kant's "Supere aude!"

    Kant wrote the following: "If I have a book which understands for me...a physician who decides my diet...I need not trouble myself. I need not think...others will readily undertake the irksome work for me." Kant described enlightenment in the same essay as "the escape of men from their self-incurred tutelage."

    Feser's post-liberalism would return us to the tutelage of the good authoritarian ruler and the whims of his phronesis (presumably advised by good doctors like Feser). Good and wise as they might see themselves to be, I'll pass--as would Locke and Kant and Wollstonecraft.

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    1. "Contra Feser, I favor non-authoritarian ethics, biased toward the idea that "Everything is beautiful / In its own way."

      Thus non-authoritarian ethics begins at the moment an adult can value him or herself, and say (or at least give themselves permission to say, if they want), "I don't care what Jesus (or Mohammad, or the crowd, or my dad) thinks. I value x. I think y. I don't need Jesus's help or permission--or anybody else's approval--to value x and think y."

      So non-authoritarian ethics begins with questions like these: Am I an end in myself--or not? Is my uniqueness as an evolutionary variation in the world valuable in itself--or not? Can I imagine myself in the shoes of other unique evolutionary variants, valuing their peculiarity as they themselves value it? Do our ends clash--and if so, can we work out a compromise that can keep us in community with one another? These are the questions one confronts in the adult, diverse, modern world. They entail negotiation with others who value themselves as ends in themselves as much as you value yourself as an end in yourself. "

      Let me see if I've got your dictum right: nothing's wrong, everything's good, and anything goes. I hate it to break it to you but if you let self-interest rule in the name of Darwinism, things will look like a page out of Hobbes' Leviathan real quick. Also, self interest often dictates against forming community, this is the same reason why social contract theory will always be bankrupt, communities are never guaranteed nor able to be encouraged. Some moral obligation and duty must underlie the rock bottom of our society. Else, Leviathan awaits.

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    2. I'm an end unto myself, and in fact because I value myself thus, the end of all creation. You might say that everyone is an end unto themselves, but I disregard what you say, as you feel free to disregard what other say, and say that you're wrong. Anyone who fails to recognize me as their end can justly be punished by me (all that stops me is the injustice of not being able to act on this). Or, do you think that men have objectively inbuilt ends (with an overarching end) or not. If not, we have only the will to power. If so, then what is that end if not God? The only question if it is God is how do we contruct a state in light of this fact. Maybe people decide to form a community that explicitly recognizes this fact and outlaws, say, pornography, or which affirms the truth of the Christian faith. Is this authoritarian? Would you limit the exercise of the community to order it self in this way?

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    3. "negotiation among equal stakeholders"

      In what way are people equal stakeholders unless they come from one infinitely wise God to whom they are all ordered as to their final end and sole and supreme happiness? And if this is so, ought not the government and the community in general recognize this. Or is anything less than absolutely autonomous culture wrong?

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    4. @Sean Killackey:

      You are correct that a "will to power" is a danger in ethical reasoning whenever you set yourself up as an end in yourself. But it's also a double edged sword, isn't it? Absent valuing yourself as an end in yourself, you are exposed to manipulations to sacrifice, devaluing particularity (both in yourself and others). Clever psychopaths can deploy intellectual premises from Ayn Rand or Catholicism (or Buddhism or Islam, for that matter), as justification along the way in their rise to the top of a food chain. So I'm not sure how locating God as an end in himself, to which all must submit their own wills, solves the problem of will to power abuse by psychopaths. Most human beings reason ethically via empathy, walking in the shoes of others. Psychopaths also imaginatively walk in the shoes of others, but with the intent of harming or manipulating them. The religious whistle in the dark as to ultimate nihilism. If we posit God, nihilism doesn't just magically go away--it just gets transferred to God. In other words, what justifies God wanting something a certain way? (I'm thinking of Plato's Euthyphro argument.)

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    5. @RYoung: Your assumption that Darwinian logic (self interest, etc.) leads to life nasty and short (Hobbes), and nature red in tooth and claw (Tennyson), is true if your evolutionary strategy is that of the shark, but we are cousins of the bonobo. Our evolutionary strategy is tribal and cooperative for the most part. Evolution does make social animals. Humans have an interest in protecting their own interests, imagining and recognizing others' interests, and working out win-win, cooperative deals. Psychopathy as a social problem is always with us, of course, but adopting religious metaphysics doesn't make psychopathy go away--and may blind us to dealing with psychopaths effectively. (Psychopaths often target religious institutions as places to make their marks.)

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  15. OK, so you're a libertarian.

    I'll leave that to Ed or somebody with more time to pick apart, I was only answering a point of pure reason. Ed merely said that in fact a traditional authority (not an authoritarian) would not necessarily engage in repression of things that a classical liberal would insist be left to the choice of the individual. Another example is prostitution, which besides being contrary to divine and natural law, has rarely been suppressed by Catholic authorities, in line with the thought expressed by St. Thomas Aquinas on the matter (i.e. that the suppression of it will lead to worse evils).

    So, there really is a real difference between "authoritarian" approach and that of a genuine old-fashioned AUTHORITY. Of course, the media generally do their Orwellian best to eliminate any such distinction, and only ever refer to the two politically correct possibilities, tyranny and libertarianism/liberalism. Anything else is too subtle and could even constitute a thought crime.

    And as Ed has so eloquently pointed out, some of us are interested in what is TRUE, not merely what we LIKE or judge to be likely to produce congenial outcomes (congenial, that is, to our passions). And Hume, Kant, Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Mill, and all the rest of the Pantheon of modern intellectual greats are all demonstrably WRONG on just about everything that makes them significant in the first place.

    Men had a great deal more genuine liberty, with hardly any impact on their lives by government, back in the days of monkish superstition, before the great modern liberty project got rolling. The irony!

    Regards,
    John.

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    1. Santi is the king of trolls. He actually out trolls even SP. Please don't feed him.

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    2. Sorry, didn't realise. So, like Son of Ya'Kov. Got it.

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    3. I hear ya Aquinian. But if you’re going to convince Santi, you’ve got an uphill battle. I gave up when he started saying the dignity/value of the person is in competition with God (as if books could be in competition with the light used to read them). Then he ironically attributed individual dignity/value to the fact that “everything **is** beautiful” (emphasis mine), thus replacing “God” with an attribute of God. Seems like an investment with a very low ROI.

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    4. @T N,


      Quote: " I gave up when he started saying the dignity/value of the person is in competition with God (as if books could be in competition with the light used to read them). Then he ironically attributed individual dignity/value to the fact that “everything **is** beautiful” (emphasis mine), thus replacing “God” with an attribute of God."


      Yep. That's one of the issues that may crop up if one has an univocal view of God and compares God to creation.

      But what exactly do you mean to say by "replacing God with an attribute of God"? Santi said that everything is beautiful, and the attribute you are singling out is either "is" or "beautiful", which would mean that either you are saying everything is God, or that everything is a mere manifestation of God since God is Existence and therefore everything has God.

      Can you clarify?

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    5. Aquinian:

      I think it's a little more complicated than the failure of neo-Thomism to be a rousing success everywhere simply being due to the media obfuscating authority and authoritarianism, and modern man not wanting the truth. You are also not a Vulcan and not purely logical, so it's also entirely possible that your own biases and desires and emotions are influencing your own point of view. You are no less susceptible to mistaking your own desires for the truth than anyone else, and it is evident you have a visceral hatred for modernity, which leads you to make ridiculous claims such as a serf during the Middle Ages having more freedom than a Western citizen today.

      Yes, granted, a traditional authority would not NECESSARILY engage in repression of something a classical liberal would say should be left to the choice of the individual. The basis for such a decision however is decidedly NOT that the individual should have such choice, but that society will or will not be better off if it attempts to prevent such choice.

      Now, the idea that individual choices can and should be suppressed "for the good of society" is the very germ of totalitarianism: the goal of a society without doubleplusungood acts and crimethink.

      Now, the traditionalist will no doubt argue that this only applies to acts which are morally bad; the government doesn't have the right to punish things which are morally good. But this doesn't exactly answer the question of why it should have the right to punish morally bad acts. Why it, but not the guy across the street? The modern riposte is that this Puritan idea of the government is very dangerous, for socially "undesirable" people (e.g. those who pose a threat to those in power) are always accused of something morally heinous, witchcraft in Puritan New England, sorcery and heresy in the Middle Ages, sexual liaisons with "pure" white women for black men in the South, the blood libel against the Jews in the late Middle Ages, and so on, and this is used as a repression of them, under the pretext of repressing immorality.

      However, true liberalism is not libertarianism, for while upholding freedom of choice it recognizes that one's actions can have social costs one can be rightly required to pay, in the same manner as a company that pollutes can be made to pay the cost of the clean up.


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    6. @JoeD: I just meant that Santi is criticizing the authoritarian/classical tradition for basing human value on it's relation to the transcendent (God, in this case), and advocating for the liberal tradition of human value for it's own sake. But then he sneaks transcendent value in the back door after kicking it out the front by implicitly claiming that value is based on beauty.

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    7. TN: Perhaps I should clarify: everything is dreamy, beautiful, or desirable, not in a metaphysical sense, but in its own way to the conscious being that regards a thing as dreamy, beautiful, or desirable. Each thing that is valued has value to someone. A dung beetle sees dung as beautiful; a wolf regards the blood of the captured cat as beautiful. If these animals dream, dung and blood haunt their dreams. Value cannot be divorced from the subject. I realize I'm making a Nietzschean argument--but I would argue that the religious believer conceals from himself the nihilistic nature of his or her own values by attempting to locate value in God. But this move always elides Plato's Euthyphro dilemma--which keeps bringing us back to nihilism: why does God value it?

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    8. Saying that a human has value because he values beauty doesn't fix the problem. And merely saying we value humans because we just happen to doesn't fix the problem either. Either way, it just adds more words but doesn't fix the problem.

      Saying "humans have value because [insert any reason or non-reason here]" = same problem.

      But, honestly I've kinda forgotten what started this anyway.

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  16. The post doesn't show why any Catholic should engage in politics through conservative ideology, whatever label is used. The following features common to conservatism since Edmund Burke can't be avoided (or reconciled with Papal teaching):

    In Burke, Religion is emptied of its universality, sovereignty and properly religious content in favour of social utility, and natural law is made irrelevant to political discourse; a conservative ideology is provided to explain society to itself and guide it; his ideology justified both complete social upheaval and new artificial institutions(the sovereign market and the political party based on ideological combat), which replaced natural social sectors.

    A selection of political ideology revolving around the "astounding power of the market economy" and "evil socialism"?: what's the point of being a Catholic or a Thomist if all we can do is perform in the closed circuit of ideological debate?. Our "ideology" should be the refusal to have one. The assumption that what the sovereign market has done can be separated from the ideology that made it what it is, leaves realism far behind. What next - the imagining the collective farm free of Marxism? Material bounty has come at the price of uprooting societies everywhere, and profound social injustice (social justice is another Papal favourite shunned by conservatism). Deracination and social suicide began with the sovereign market and continue amid plenty.

    The assumption that government action to make up for the deficiencies of Burke's sacred market is socialism is bizarre. It reminds one of Burke's bitter fight against government action to alleviate famine in England. To engage in politics one can pursue short-term objective and make alliances. But holding aloft the banner of Burkean conservatism, or anything like it, is impossible for a Thomist.

    A couple of quotes from Christopher Dawson's interesting work, Dynamics of World History:
    The true opposite to the bourgeois is not to be found in the communist but in the religious man”

    “…the bourgeois now possessed the substance of power, he never really accepted social responsibility as the old rulers had done. He remained a private individual – an idiot – in the Greek sense, with no recognition of his responsibility as the servant and representative of a super-personal order. In fact, he did not realize the necessity of such an order, since it had always been provided for him by others…"

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  17. Trying to "tweak" conservatism to make it less incompatible with Catholicism is a bit like the Christian socialists and their grafting of an ideology onto the faith. The problem is the spirit behind he ideology which tens to make it breed true to type.

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  18. MC, nobody is trying to tweak conservatism to make it anything. Ed is arguing that it is possible to accept institutions that claim liberal roots, without buying the vacuous and false ideology of liberalism. (Actually, I would go further and argue that everything without exception that liberalism claims as an advertisement for itself is actually Christian and pre-dated liberalism by centuries. Whatever effects liberalism have had, on say parliaments (e.g. the party system) or markets (e.g. consumerism and crony capitalism) have been pernicious. Getting rid of liberalism won't demolish any good institutions, it will enable their effective reform and immeasurably improve them.)

    But your anti-"conservative" campaign raises another question, which is how people automatically identify themselves within a given cultural and rhetorical environment. We have nine children, most of whom are adults, all practicing Catholics, and I do NOT call myself a conservative; yet I overheard one of my daughters refer to herself as a "conservative" last week. It was striking because I don't like the term, for probably some of the same reasons that you don't like it. But I thought, what else will she call herself, unless she stops and reflects upon it, and makes a conscious choice to pick a self-identifier? She isn't political, at all, and so it's not important to her, so I imagine she just wants people to know that she's against modern moral horrors and socialism, and that suffices for her purposes. My point is, condemning the term as if it implies Burkian commitments is pointless, and potentially harmful.

    Cheers,
    John.

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    1. Yes, most people who define themselves as conservative do it in the general sense of wanting to keep things of value from the past, or as an elastic series of positions called conservative, mistakenly or rightly.

      Some institutions can't be divorced from ideology. The sovereign market is one of them. The post, by definition, refers to the ideological sovereign market because that is precisely the one which historically provided us not only with stupendous plenty but a whole host of other things. Of course there's no reason why economic activity free from conservative ideology or any other can't provide us with plenty. However, this is no obstacle to saying: thank you sovereign free market for providing us with fast cars and flushing toilets, now flush yourself down one.

      People have free will and intellect. Why must we carry around the ideological baggage of systems we know are wrong?


      Novak was indeed an enthusiast for tweaking, but I'm afraid it was Catholic social teaching that got tweaked. No good.

      The system of ideologically-based political parties is a great evil. This is not social representation per se - that democratic element well-spoken of by the Church - but the creation of an unnatural actor based on ideology instead of society: nobody was ever born into a party. It's another of conservatism's gifts to mankind. Without this and the sovereign market as a pseudo-social body (something beyond the imagination of St. Thomas), communism would never have been possible.


      I understand that we are all concerned about the civil order. Yes, we should take part in politics as we can. Flying under the flag of this ideology results only in the co-option of Catholics, who are the salt of the earth, into someone else's grubby political designs, and confuses and neutralises those who have keen co-opted.

      I know conservatism has always been keen to market itself as anti-ideological and "practical". The opposite is true. As Sir Humphrey Appleby in the old UK comedy series says about preparing misleading proposals for Government "Always dispose of the difficult bit in the title!"

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    2. I would say that the first real party was the Whig Party, which dominated British politics for close on a hundred years. Burke was a Whig.

      There was nothing conservative about it, except that it sought to conserve the rule of the commercial class over everybody else. This is why they emphasized democracy. It's always the way, Britain was the people's democratic republic of Britain.

      The Tories were the closest thing to conservatives. They didn't start the party system, the Whigs did.

      The same is true of the sovereign market, which was the pet of the same commercial class that created and was represented by the Whigs.

      I don't think we can credit the party system or the sovereign market to conservatives.

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  19. Christopher Dawson is worth reading. He really gets outside the various ideologies, and analyses things according to the faith. Doesn't make him always right, but he's a refreshing and rigorous analyst. I can only imagine he's not more popular because he's pretty dry.

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  20. One problem for Feser in declaring himself "post-liberal," even as he attempts to wave off the designation "authoritarian," is the Euthyphro dilemma: does God dis-value, say, gay marriage because it is bad or because God is a person, and therefore an end in himself, and homosexuality displeases him as a person--and he doesn't want his creatures, which he owns, engaging in gay marriage, period?

    That is, are there multiple centers of legitimate, personal, individual preference in the world that are recognized as ends in themselves--in need of no further justification beyond themselves--or is there only one legitimate, singular person and end from which all others must derive their justification?

    The conservative that has no use for Locke, Thomas Jefferson, and the Anglo-French Enlightenment in terms of ultimate ethical or legal justification, recognizing God alone as the singular end in himself, trumping all other conflicting ends, is necessarily authoritarian if he can make no room in his heart for William F. Buckley-like fusionism.

    Feser (I thus predict), if he persists as a self-described "post liberal," will find himself increasingly functioning as an intellectual apologist for authoritarianism going forward (either supporting in principle the divine right of kings or, in Feser's phrase, "the phronesis of a good statesman" over negotiated power-sharing among democratic stakeholders.

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  21. Bonshika JacksonJune 4, 2019 at 8:18 AM

    The biggest problem with Feser's take is that the only argument left to his brand of traditionalist conservatism against totalitarian government is an appeal to utilitarian considerations.

    Whereas, I think one can argue, on classical natural law grounds, that rational animals (at least, sane adults) are naturally oriented toward choosing the good freely, and to being persuaded as to what is good and true, instead of being compelled to do and believe the good through coercive means. One therefore can be a libertarian on natural law grounds without accepting or presupposing whatever is problematic in Locke and co.

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    1. "to being persuaded as to what is good and true, instead of being compelled to do and believe the good through coercive means"

      The state has the authority to punish, yet they don't have the authority to coerce? Not even in principle?

      A natural law approach to government starts with realizing that the ultimate aim is toward the good and the true. Government can limit its exercise of coercive actions out of recognition of human dignity, but ultimately the recognition of human dignity is out of recognition of the good and the true in the end.

      Recognition of human dignity does not inherently rule out coercive actions without also ruling the authority to punish.

      If you are making mere prudential claims about coercion, then I don't believe you are really disagreeing with Feser about the underlying point.

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    2. @Billy

      "Government can limit its exercise of coercive actions out of recognition of human dignity, but ultimately the recognition of human dignity is out of recognition of the good and the true in the end.

      "Recognition of human dignity does not inherently rule out coercive actions without also ruling the authority to punish."

      I agree with what you seem to be saying, but I suggest a change of terminology. The notion of "human dignity" is too vague to serve in any useful role (except as propaganda cover for revolutionary change). Classically we would note the _end_ of the human being, which entails duties (things that are obligatory because of our nature and purpose), which in turn imply rights (the liberty and/or power to do what is necessary to perform those duties). "Rights" un-rooted in duties make no sense. They have no foundation, they are pure abstractions.

      In a society composed of random individuals who believe anything and everything, so that there is no useful commonality of faith, the whole problem becomes perhaps too knotty to untangle successfully, and good government becomes the art of bungling through as best one can. But in the Middle Ages this was not true, and government could be, and was, rational and clear-minded. Coercion then had clear uses, and limits.

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    3. I don't think Feser would say that something like totalitariansm can only be objected to on prudentisl or utilitarian grounds. I think he would argue there are in principle reasons against totalitarianism, and at least in principle moral reasons to be generally against authoritarianism. Catholics are bound to defend some human rights in ways that go beyond merely prudential requirements; one big example would be religious liberty. Catholics should defend religious liberty as a natural right against coercion, and not simply as a prudential matter (read the Catechism, if you have any doubts).

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    4. Religious liberty was condemned by the Church repeatedly, and infallibly, then positively approved by Vatican II, and incorporated in the new catechism.

      So, traditional Catholics reject it completely, and Vatican II Catholics feel bound to accept it. The post-liberals are almost all traditional Catholics.

      And, of course, as Continetti says, you have no chance of gaining an American ear unless you do accept it, indeed vigorously promote it.

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    5. @Aquinian if you denied religious liberty to Protestants, they would be seen as martyrs and then grow in number and strength over the Roman Catholic Church.

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    6. Well, it needs to be defined, but basically the Church (pre-V2) held that there can be no "right" to be wrong, only a tolerance for people who are wrong. In a Catholic society, error can be repressed by legal means; in a society such as the USA, error must be tolerated as any repression would lead to greater evils than said repression could possibly achieve.

      So no, the Protestants wouldn't be martyred, in any sense.

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    7. "Utilitarian considerations." Agreed, Bonshika. You nailed it there.

      I'm less persuaded that humans choose the good freely. Rather, I would argue that alternative, future scenarios are naturally modeled in our heads in each moment, and we can then IMAGINE choosing among these freely. But what we actually choose is determined by factors we're not conscious of (neurons firing in response to an advertisement; pleasure centers in the brain triggered by randomly bubbling-up thoughts; competing impulses in our modular brains, with one winning out, etc.).

      In other words, just because we can imagine alternative routes through the future--or different routes we might have taken in the past--it doesn't follow that we could have actually taken those routes. The possession of a free will with the capacity to alter the future may be a delusion born of a genuine capacity that we empirically possess: the ability to IMAGINE that things can be (or could have been) otherwise.

      Artificial intelligence research is betting on determinism. It is betting that future algorithms will be able to predict what you will do in the next hour or week better than you can; that the alternative scenarios you imagine yourself navigating freely and consciously are actually constrained by probabilities that you're not even aware are in operation.

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    8. "So no, the Protestants wouldn't be martyred, in any sense."

      Do you believe legal sanctions against protestants would cause them to shrink/go away?

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    9. Bonshika JacksonJune 7, 2019 at 5:13 PM

      "The state has the authority to punish, yet they don't have the authority to coerce? Not even in principle?"

      Assuming that the punishments in question are for physical harm directly inflicted upon a victim or his property, or for violation of a contract, this is, in principle, consistent with respect for the offender's free will. Punishing a man merely for holding or voicing, or acting non-violently in accord with, an erroneous opinion is something else altogether. The problem with the so-called "traditionalists" is they reduce men to the level of brute beasts, by advocating that they be forcibly made to achieve their natural ends, with no regard whatsoever to their willing it. Essentially, they believe God made a mistake when He gave men the ability to sin, and that God needs their (traditionalists') help to correct it.

      I do concede that there are situations of grey area, e.g., when people (e.g., socialists, post-liberal neo-"traditionalists," Islamists) peacefully advocate for state persecution of non-violent people. When the commonwealth is really threatened by their ideas taking hold and being implemented, it can be prudent for legitimate civil authority to persecute such persons for advocating violence, even when they have not (yet) committed it.

      Of course, all this begs the question of what constitutes legitimate civil authority in the first place. The medieval scholastics all overwhelmingly held that legitimate civil authority is established by the consent of the governed; they did not take this principle to its logical conclusion, but later libertarians did. If by "legitimate civil authority" we mean that every man is, by nature, lord of his own body and property, then the questions revolving around religious and other liberties resolve themselves quite tidily, and are eminently reconcilable to traditional Catholic teaching: Every man is objectively obliged to embrace and promote the true religion, and every ruler -- i.e., property owner -- left to make his own prudential judgments of what sort of tolerance of false religions he will tolerate within his own domains (i.e., his own privately owned property).

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  22. JoeD:

    You wrote: "Santi said that everything is beautiful...which would mean that either...everything is God, or that everything is a mere manifestation of God..." No. I wasn't making a Spinoza-like claim. What I meant is simply the following: Everything is valuable and beautiful to itself in its own way--and each thing, as a locus of its own inner value, logic, and beauty, can be accepted by you or I with empathy--or not. We can imagine the joy of the hawk in catching a rodent--and also sympathize with the terror of the rodent. We can recognize each being as a locus of its own concerns, not needing justification or permission to exist, or to be of value, beyond itself.

    We can let it be.

    The particular is a variant stakeholder in the world. Its peculiarities are not to be buried into an overpowering classification system (species, troll, woman, etc.) or treated as sinful (not in accord with the will, values, and ends of God or a holy book, whose own existence needs no justification beyond itself).

    Instead, there needs to be more than one locus of end-in-itself power in the world. The particular hawk or rodent shouldn't be rendered invisible, or its joys discounted as displeasing to God. We might not be willing to live with this or that particular hawk or rodent, or be in community with them, but we sympathize with the value the hawk or rodent places on its own way of being in the world. This way of looking at things applies to homosexuals, atheists, and Catholics--even if we're heterosexual, theist, and non-Catholic. If homosexual, atheist, or Catholic joy is an end in itself for a particular homosexual, atheist, or Catholic, can we make room for this expression of joy in our society? Can we negotiate power with them as stakeholders in the world? Are we ends in ourselves, with our own eccentric logic and desires at play, or do we need a wider, God-based justification for our behaviors?

    The Anglo-French Enlightenment began to recognize multiple, diverse, end-in-itself power centers beyond God and king--as do all great artists. What justifies the existence of a sunflower painting by Van Gogh--as to whether it is to be valued--but the individual beholder of the painting itself?

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    1. @Santi,

      "Everything is valuable and beautiful to itself in its own way--and each thing, as a locus of its own inner value, logic, and beauty... We can recognize each being as a locus of its own concerns, not needing justification or permission to exist, or to be of value, beyond itself."


      So everything exists / has value for it's own sake, right?

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    2. @JoeD: Yes, everything is dreamy, beautiful, or desirable, not in a metaphysical sense, but in its own way to the conscious being that regards a thing as dreamy, beautiful, or desirable. Each thing that is valued has value to someone. A dung beetle sees dung as beautiful; a wolf regards the blood of the captured cat as beautiful. If these animals dream, dung and blood haunt their dreams. Value cannot be divorced from the subject. I realize I'm making a Nietzschean argument--but I would argue that the religious believer conceals from himself the nihilistic nature of his or her own values by attempting to locate value in God. But this move always elides Plato's Euthyphro dilemma--which keeps bringing us back to nihilism: why does God value it?

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  23. One thing I have some reservations about is the usage of "fusionism" here. Yes, that has become the preferred term, by it's advocates, of what they see as Reagan/Buckley conservatism.

    But I'm old enough to recall when it had a more limited usage, specifically identified with Frank Meyer, attempting to essentially derive libertarian ideas from a traditionalist basis. "Libertarian vs traditionalist" was the standard framing when I first read NR, in the 60s; the usage continued into the 70s. Meyer's approach was a bit analogous to Ben Shapiro's today. But it was emphatically not universal, even within the pages of NR. Buckley, so far as I remember, never enshrined it. Kirk would have nothing to do with it. And Kendall little more.

    That framing was replaced by the "3 legs" one you still hear used. It's one of the virtues of Continetti's article that he breaks away from it.

    And now - I think in the past 20 years - it has been supplanted by "fusionism" in the new sense. Though in fact I can't see how it differs from the three-legged variety. But it does seem to fit in with the way NR under Lowry has cast itself as the curia for conservatism, which entails bit of rewriting of history.

    Anyway, this is the best article on the subject I've seen. Most that touch on the Ahmari-French question wholly miss the points Ed makes. (Roger Kimball did see some of the above.)

    Now, let's see if I can comment in a dfferent browser.

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  24. The terms "liberal" vs "conservative" as political terms have undergone an evolution. I remember my conservative professor at college (I think I got the last one before the Purge) tell me a "conservative" in the 19th century professed the "divine right of kings" and a "liberal" was one who believed in universal suffrage and representative democracy and republican government. The terms clearly have different means over time and context.

    All that having been said I think I might be post liberal too. Especially since Post Liberalism doesn't endorse authoritarianism per say.

    >a Thomist would argue instead that while it would not be per se unjust to make adultery illegal, such a policy is very unlikely to do much good in practice and is likely to produce unintended evils as a side effect.

    I would agree with that.

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  25. The first thing a good philosopher does, in the footsteps of Socrates, is do research on the origin of terms---before discussion ever begins!!!! Continetti fails miserably!

    The term "conservative" is A FRENCH TERM denoting those that upheld the Old Order!!!!!! Now, if the Seal of the US has "Novus Ordo"---How the hell does one take the word "conservative" that was Coined for the Old Order French Catholics---and apply it to the Masonic faux construct of Amerika????

    There are NO conservatives in America. I have rejected in toto all of Americanism. Pope Leo XIII did not go far enough!

    "Autoritas", where your word "authoritarianism" derives from, is a Latin word for a common practice, ideology, of the Roman Republic. It was there in the Spartan Republic and this Graeco-Roman heritage was prevalent in Christendom! That "Roman Catholics" run away from authority when it was the essential ingredient of Christendom, where Sparta, Rome and Christendom formed a Continuum---Called Western civilization, is astonishing historical illiteracy!

    In the Anglo-sphere, "conservative" MEANS Liberal!!! A liberal is a soft anarchist, a Nihilist, a Gnostic! All Liberals are Gnostic. That "Traditional Catholics" consider themselves post-liberal? What idiocy.

    Conservatism is the Virtue of Righteousness. https://www.academia.edu/38214919/ (w/references to where said that in the Anglo-sphere, conservatism means liberals)

    Always, Always, do word research before discussing the word.

    If you do not uphold the Old Order, Hierarchy, Authority, Throne and Altar---you are NOT a conservative. Period. You are a Liberal, a Gnostic. America is a Masonic country, a thoroughly Gnostic country. Continetti doesn't know jack squat.

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    1. Did the Illuminati invent the triangle, or was it the Masons? They're the jar guys, right.

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    2. Actually, the term conservative applies very well to both "Anglosphere" political discourse and to the Ancien Regime overturned by the Revolution. The Ancien Regime wasn't very ancient, having resulted from a kind of political and philosophical revolution which took place in France under Louis XIII (and was recognised as such by horrified contemporaries). Divine Right monarchy is not a traditional thesis. It was opposed by the Church of the Counter Reformation (OUR Church - because the religious and philosophical questions continue today in this unresolved combat) in the writings of Suarez, Bellarmine and Botero.

      The problematic mentality which goes under the name of conservatism existed even in ancient Rome. Cicero demanded the maintenance of the established pagan religion because of its beneficial effects for the polity even though he personally thought the object of its worship to be false. The mentality resurged with a vengeance at the Renaissance (famously in Machiavelli), with Bodin, with the free thinkers around Louis XIII, and with Edmund Burke. The curious thing is that despite the insistence of all these thinkers that religion (considered as a reflection of national history) be established, we are not very sure about the personal religious convictions of any of them: the mark of ideological conservatism.

      Conservatism often combined a mythologised past now conveniently out of reach, with support for ideologically-based social and political upheaval (protestations about cherishing traditional society notwithstanding).

      The solution is modernity, that of the first modernity, much of which is still with us. When my forbear wrote Don Quixote in 1605, religious society free of ideology was hegemonic globally. Don Quixote himself was not the personification of that society, but a caricature of renaissance man dropped into the realism of a Christian world. The protagonist is a believer in a lost golden age and other notions he has learned from printed books. He is eventually converted by accepting reality. Cervantes expresses the ethos of his contemporary Christian world of realism very well in Chapter 39 (the partly autobiographical Tale of the Captive).

      Christopher Dawson, with his profoundly religious view free from ideology, does not paint the conservative picture of secular decline and a lost golden age. He explains how all ages are equally near to God.
      We are certainly on the back foot now in terms of combat against irreligion and false ideas, but we live with several legacies from that period of hegemony, one of which is the modern Papacy. This is something which the Middle Ages lacked, but reflects far better the true nature of the Church. It may seem to some that this strong universal institution is going to destroy the Church. However, that's just a human view which might have applied to the Church in England under Henry VIII. The Roman Church can never be subverted, even by the finest political schemes, fortunately.

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    3. Monarchy does NOT have to include "Divine Right of kings". Kings are the leaders of the Ethnos. Just as a Family has a father, Every nation must have a Monarch! The Monarch is the War Lord, and the Aristocracy are the War captains. Being rich, does not make one an aristocrat.

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    4. @WLW wow you are the first monarchist who gave an intelligent definition of a king.

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    5. Interesting definition of "monarch."

      However, in practice, "monarch" tends to be: The person who controls sufficient armed force to exercise totalitarian control over a territory should he choose, and who has already defeated and eliminated all other claimants/contenders so as to make himself unique in being able to control that territory.

      Actually, any "government" needs to match that criterion. You're not really "the government" of a territory if you're just one of 3 groups of roughly equal power. Armed control of territory isn't all we want from government, but any group that lacks that bare minimum doesn't qualify as a government at all.

      Now human societies naturally, as a matter of prudence, ought to have government. If they lack one, they ought to assemble one.

      But who has the authority to assemble it? God, of course; and any brigand who wants to control a territory of God-fearing people will quickly try to claim divine warrant for his rule. But unless that brigand's name is found somewhere in the Apostolic Tradition, his claim to divine warrant is at best predicated on a private revelation: No Christian need accept it.

      So mere power is insufficient: A Christian people wants to be governed by a government with both sufficient power and with just authority. And that authority needs to have been granted to them by God, from whom all earthly authority is derived.

      What kind of authority must they be granted, to justly act as a "government?" Simple: authority to use force. They already have the power; but do they have authority to exercise it? If not, who will delegate that authority to them?

      Fortunately, every putative citizen to be governed starts out with authority from God to justly wield force in the defense of the innocent (themselves or others), provided they do so prudently and proportionally.

      And it seems to me that when the citizens institute and authorize THIS government rather than THAT government, they thereby delegate to their hirelings (the elected officials) their own God-given authority to wield force. In that way, the government (which presumably already has unique control of territory) obtains legitimately delegated authority from God, through two acts of delegation: From God, to individuals; from the individuals en masse, to their hirelings the government.

      Without that delegation, granted at least in an implicit manner, I don't think a government has just authority.

      Now King Saul, and thereafter King David, surely had authority from God. But I don't suppose Samuel, or anyone else sent in response to divine revelation, showed up to anoint William of Normandy. Indeed, whatever bishop did anoint him (a.) had no special revelation that he ought to do so, since revelation was closed after the apostolic era; and (b.) probably wasn't given a choice in the matter.

      Whence, then, comes the authority of a conquering monarch? If not from his people, then not from God. The vote makes the avenue of divine delegation visible and specific. And lacking a valid public revelation, no monarch this side of the Ascension can have that authority delegated to them by God in any other way.

      How, then, does the monarchist get around the problem of obtaining delegated authority from God, without putting their kingship to a vote?

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    6. In answer to R.C. who writes: How, then, does the monarchist get around the problem of obtaining delegated authority from God, without putting their kingship to a vote?

      No king is voted in!

      The Natural Law is "Cream rises to the top".

      Nature puts in the king---and Nature is ordered by God thru Jesus Christ the Logos.

      Nature is a state of War. People gathered around strong capable, charismatic leadership, the national Patriarchical families to lead. Every nations has a Royal House. Those royal houses were created thru time by Nature. The Best and Brightest rose to the top. "Cream rises to the top".

      St. Robert Bellarmine counseled Mixed Government---i.e. true Republics that included the King, Aristocracy and commons. Such was the Spartan Republic, and the Early Roman Republic---Mixed government. Tudor England was a True Republic, i.e. Mixed Government.

      All the Royal Houses re-established. And those infected with Masonry like the British Monarchy either corrected---or be disbanded. And any British Aristocrat, Not infected with Masonic idealogy, be elevated to Monarch.

      Or let War precede---and let the litigants fight it out. Let Nature decide. That is how it has always worked for Thousands of years.

      Every Nation is Family, a family writ large and they all need their Monarch to led and guide.

      Did not Jesus use the simile of Sheep to describe men? I've worked in the agrarian field---sheep are the dumbest and most vulnerable of domestic animals. Sheep need shepherds! God gives the sheep Two Shepherds called Throne and Altar. As we see today, the democracy of America is genociding its own people. Democracy in America is killing its own. Democracy is the rule of the vulgar class, the low IQ people--who are easily deceived.

      The Natural Law is Righteousness---all things are constructed to do one thing. The Vulgar class can NOT rule itself. Nature did NOT fit the Vulgar class to rule---only the Monarch with is War Captains called the Aristocracy---the Warrior Elite. Counseled by the Bishop.

      Every Nation needs its Two Shepherds here on earth---Monarch and Bishop.

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    7. You know, it's not that hard to find nations in the historical record that had no royalty and never saw the need for one. The Swiss come to mind immediately. So your claim that every nation must have a monarch isn't borne out by the evidence.

      Moreover, your other claim that the qualities needed to wage war, or to govern, are hereditary - so that the son of a good king will also be a good king - also isn't supported by history. The dynasties of Europe weren't sustained by the personal excellence of the dynasts; they were preserved because the people who did excel, and who in other circumstances might have become rulers, gave the kings their loyalty.

      Finally, you might reflect on how Louis XIII, under the counsel of Richelieu, exactly fits your desired "throne and altar" government - and yet Richelieu did more than any other man of his time to dismantle Christendom, both by breaking the French nobility and by fomenting the Thirty Years' War. That Louis XIII was the legitimate king of France, and that Richelieu was a Cardinal of the Church, can't be denied; but was their rule good for France or Europe?

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    8. In answer to W.LindsayWheeler who writes: "No king is voted in! The Natural Law is 'Cream rises to the top.'":

      If my earlier argument is correct, then your assertion "No king is voted in!" is identical to saying "No king is divinely authorized."

      As for "cream rising to the top" being the Natural Law: That's an observation, but not a law; it isn't even formulated as a law. Were it a law, it would apply equally well to elected officials "rising" through a process of elective service as it does to warlords conquering territories and passing control of their armed men to their descendants. Why should anyone hold that the latter process always has the cream rise to the top? Or that it's the only way such a rise can occur?

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  26. Thomas Jefferson responding to a letter, wrote, "the introduction of the new principle of representative democracy has rendered useless almost everything written before on the structure of government; and, in a great measure, relieves our regret, if the political writings of Aristotle or of any other ancient, have been lost, or are unfaithfully rendered or explained to us."

    THAT IS NOT CONSERVATISM.

    In the Declaration of Independence, the phrase "Laws of Nature and Nature's God"

    Is a reference to Benedict Spinoza's conception of God----NOT Christian!!! Ref: Nature’s God: The Heretical Origins of the American Republic
    by Matthew Stewart

    THAT IS NOT CONSERVATISM!

    The American Constitution forbids "distinctions of rank". That is Gnosticism---the rejection of (true) nature and the Old Order!

    THAT IS NOT CONSERVATISM.

    "The idea that a republic is any government without a king received its exclusivist meaning from a teaching found in a "compendium of classical Midrashim" 147 which taught that monarchy is a form of idolatry. English Protestant pamphleteers picked this up and passed this into the common mainstream.
    They were proud to be called "Talmudical commonwealthsmen" 148 In the English Civil Wars, Puritans, Levellers and the Lollards, lead by Oliver Cromwell sought to implement a Hebraic style republic in their land. Hence, the title to their revolutionary government, along with the regicide, was titled a republic contrary to the Greek/Aristotelian/Classical meaning. The American style of government is a product of this revolution in politics."
    (Ref: Classical definition of a republic https://www.academia.edu/5280564/ quoting "The Hebrew Republic" by Eric Nelson)

    NOTHING ABOUT AMERIKA IS CONSERVATIVE!!!

    America is the continuation of the English Civil Wars---in their own day, Englishmen, Tories, described the American Revolution as the "Presbyterian War"! What Conservatism???

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    1. I think you could improve the credibility of your writing by cutting back on the all-caps and the use of "K" in America.

      But you may be right.

      If so, then it seems fitting for actual Christians, embracing an actual Christian worldview and an actually Christian political philosophy, to redefine the terms used by the Founding Fathers, replacing "the Laws of Nature" with "Natural Law" as understood by Aquinas, and "Nature's God" with God as understood in the Thomistic tradition.

      After all, such terms were in fact originally borrowed from Christendom and tendentiously redefined in accord with the post-Descartes anti-Scholasticism. Like Bono said about "Helter Skelter": "This is a song Charles Manson stole from the Beatles; we're stealin' it back."

      And if a little tendentious redefining should happen to be frustrating for those anti-Christian thinkers who oppose the transposition, so much the better. "Sauce for the goose." Why should they always have the benefit of overwriting history with their own myths?

      But of course, that's presuming you're entirely right. I'm not so sure about that. That the ideas of the American Founders departed from earlier wisdom in certain respects is uncontested. But that the American Republic lasted as well as it did because it retained some of that wisdom, albeit disguising the Catholic source. Why not "test everything, hold fast to what is good?"

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    2. There is NO such thing as "embracing an actual Christian worldview". There is NO such thing!

      ---All there is, is The Natural Order. There is NOthing else.

      What is the Natural Order?

      LXX Psalm 85: "...all the Nations whom thou hast created". The Natural Order is Nations. Jesus said, "Go unto the Nations". There is NO World View. God created Nations---you are to stay in them.

      At II Peter 1:5, the writer counsels, "Supplement The Faith, with Virtue".

      The four main virtues are Manliness, Righteousness, Sophrusyne, Prudence.

      What is the Virtue of Righteousness?

      "To righteousness it belongs to be ready to distribute according to desert, and to preserve ancestral customs and institutions and the established laws, and to tell the truth when interest is at stake, and to keep agreements. First among the claims of righteousness are our duties to the gods, then our duties to the spirits, then those to patrida [fatherland] and parents, then those to the departed; and among these claims is piety, which is either a part of righteousness or a concomitant of it. Righteousness is also accompanied by holiness and truth and loyalty and hatred of wickedness.

      V. 2-3 Loeb Classical Library. Aristotle, Athenian Constitution, Eudemian Ethics, Virtues and Vices. Vol. 285. pg 495.

      If God created Nations---What is the Christian to do? DO HIS DUTY to his Fatherland!

      Also, notice what is says, "to preserve ancestral customs and institutions and the established laws" THAT IS CONSERVATISM!!!

      If the Catholic Church read its own **** Scriptures---the answer is already there. There is NO "Christian World view". The Only thing is the Natural Order---and Obedience to the Logos!!!

      This is Western Civilization:

      "We are not in the world to give the laws...but in order to obey the commands of the gods".
      ~ Plutarch, priest of Apollo of the Doric Greek temple at Delphi.

      Idealism is Condemned. We are Here to Obey God and His Logos---Nothing more! And to do our Duty!

      If God Created Nations---He expects us to do our Duty.

      How about reading Scripture and Obeying "Supplement The Faith----WITH VIRTUE". And stop the Insanity.

      God EXPECTS US TO BE Righteous. We are to be a Virtuous People.

      What is Conservatism??? The Virtue of Righteousness on the back of the rest of the Virtues!

      The Catholic Church has UTTERLY FAILED To teach the Virtue and habitualize the faithful in Virtue.

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    3. I grant that, for a minimum of 60 years, the majority of the clergy and catechists of the Catholic Church have failed to teach the virtues or to habitualize the faithful in Virtue.

      Setting that plain fact aside, a Christian Worldview is that worldview which embraces that which is true, both communicated by revelation and by the Natural Order. Since nature and revelation do not contradict, your own embrace of the Natural Order is evidence that your worldview is a Christian one.

      (This is only true, of course, provided that you have not misunderstood either nature or revelation. To the degree you are in error about the implications of either, your worldview would be less Christian as a result.)

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  27. In his pamphlet Agrarian Justice, Thomas Paine, who was in France, a contemporary of Babeuf, would succinctly understand what the momentous events was ushering in when he stated:

    "A revolution in the state of civilization is the necessary companion of revolutions in the system of government."

    and

    "It is a revolution in the state of civilization that will give perfection to the Revolution of France."

    Thomas Paine knew what the heck he was doing! The American Revolution fueled the French Revolution. New style of Government showcases a change in civilization! America is a Novus Ordo---A NEW CIVILIZATION!

    Machiavelli, a "conservative"?????

    • "He who desires or wishes to reform the condition of a city and wishes that it be accepted and that it be able to maintain itself to everyone's satisfaction is forced to retain at least the shadow of ancient modes so that it might seem to the people that order has not changed—though, in fact, the new orders are completely alien to those of the past. For the universality of men feed as much on appearance as on reality: indeed, in many cases, they are moved more by the things which seem than by those which are And this much should be observed by all who wish to eliminate an ancient
    way of life (un antico vivere) in a city and reduce it to a new and free way of life (ridurla a uno vivere nuovo e libero): one ought, since new things alter the minds of men, to see to it that these alterations retain as much as the ancient as possible; and if the magistrates change from those of old in number, authority, and term of office, they ought at least retain the name." Niccolo Machiavelli as quoted in Republics Ancient and Modern, Paul
    A. Rahe, University of North Carolina Press. Vol II, pg 291.

    “To eliminate an ancient way of life” was the job of modern republicanism. The above was the blueprint for the elimination of Western civilization.

    America is also a Machiavellian "republic" which is about """"eliminating the ancient way of life"""".

    For anyone to claim to "conserve Americanism" or that anyone can be a conservative while upholding Americanism----is ludicrous. You people have lost your minds. You don't have a single clue on what it means to be a European, have no idea of the culture of being a European. You've all adopted a New Civilization with new values. It's called Judeo-Masonry---what trad European Roman Catholics have been complaining about.

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    1. Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu's political and social revolution was described as Machiavellian by its victims, the traditional elements of French society. The Divine Right Monarchy invention was combined with efforts to create a national Church and weaken the Papacy. Machiavellian "raison d'état" justified alliances with Muslim and Protestant states. Louis XIII was pious and weak, but the new system was backed up by a menagerie of intellectuals who continued the ideals of the Renaissance.

      The Ancien Regime and its imitations in Austria, Russia and elsewhere were statist versions of the same conservativism that came to characterize Anglo-Saxon societies. Like Machiavelli, both relativised religion, worshipped politics and the nation, and were ideologies that were developed mainly by unbelievers/heterodox, not surprisingly. The modernity debate featuring liberal/revolutionary versus conservative after the French revolution blinds many to the fact that great conservatives like de Maistre were profoundly modern and heterodox religiously. This debate is in reality a vicious squabble among siblings, and they all held in contempt the Counter-Reformation system of societies that was free from ideology.

      The Ancien Regime systems were largely destroyed by their own contradictions, unlike the societies which fully took part in the Counter-Reformation, which were finally defeated after more than a century and a half by external violence and contingencies which were unforeseeable.

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    2. All churches are to be National! That was the command of Jesus---"Go unto the Nations". That is the Natural Order.

      Look at Orthodoxy---Every Nation has its own Patriarch. In the East there were many Patriarchial Sees. In the West there is only One but as Catholicism converted Nations over tot he Faith---It should have established Patriarchs.

      Casearopapism is one of the causes of Protestantism. The Christian religion is not about ruling over nations---but of converting them. A lot of mischief would have been prevented had Rome devolved power and created Patriarchies.

      The ancien regime was NOT destroyed by "contradictions" but by a revolutionary ideology that came out of the Kabbala and Jewish missionaries.

      One of the planks of Jewish Messianism is Equality. That is seen in the Declaration of Independence where it says, "All Men are created equal".

      That is a joke. Nature does not produce equality but diversity. Scripture does not teach that, nor does science. It is an ideology.

      It was said by John Ball one of the leaders of the Peasant Revolt in 1381 in England where he said:

      When Adam delved and Eve span,[a] Who was then the gentleman?[4] From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men.

      This is the ideological basis of anti-hierarchialism. This is Gnostic!!!

      The progenitor but also the premier scholar of Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, Professor Gershom Scholem notes that Jewish Messianism fueled the chialistic and revolutionary messianism in the Taborites, Anabaptists and the radical wing of the Puritans, heretical Christian sects active in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.

      Scholem, Gershom (1971 {Eng. Edition}) “Toward an Understanding of Jewish Messianism”. The Messianic Idea in Judaism and other Essays on Jewish Spirituality. PDF from academia.edu. Schoken Books: NY. (pgs 15-16) “This Messianic activism, incidentally, lies on that peculiar double line of mutual influence between Judaism and Christianity which goes hand in hand with inner tendencies of development in both religions. The political and chiliastic Messianism of important religious movements within Christianity often appears as a reflection of what is really Jewish Messianism.”

      Jewish scholars in England and on the Continent gave important aid to the rise and development of the Hebraic movement which played so vital a role in English Christianity. These phenomena were not confined to England alone, but characterized the reform tendencies throughout all Christendom. Newman 101

      Jewish Influence on Christian Reform Movements by Louis Israel Newman, Ph.C. Columbia University Press, 1925

      "That all men are created equal" which is the foundational precept of Americanism is Jewish Ideology of deconstructing the Natural Order and levelling all of society. That is NOT conservatism.

      The Ancien Regime was NOT destroyed by internal contradiction of the Old Order but by Revolutionary movements spurred by Jewish proselytizing, of Jewish messianism.

      John Ball, a very heretical priest, statement found its way into the Declaration of Independence.

      That is NOT European culture or Western Civilization. It is NOT conservatism.

      Every national group from the Welsh, to the Scots, to the Irish, to the Burgundian, to the Bavarian, to the Austrian Deutsch and many others are to have their own Patriarch. Whose loyalty is to his people and the preservation of their culture.



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    3. That is a joke. Nature does not produce equality but diversity.

      Equality in value and diversity in being are not mutually exclusive concepts.

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    4. ErotemeObelus. Your statement is equally dangerous. First, you are making a distinction because you have been trained but that is rare, your wording is still dangerous. "That all men are created equal" is still a dangerous revolutionary statement because (a) it is not a full presentation of reality (b) one must have training such as yourself to know the full picture. My opinion---it should have never been said. The way it is designed is so that it CAN BE deliberately misunderstood. It is better that it was never stated nor given to the vulgar class who WILL take it out of context.

      ErotemeObelus, let's take your statement and use it as Socrates would. (Socrates was a great teacher of Doric philosophy.) Socrates would ask that your statement be put in another situation to see if it works.

      Scripture has it "Study the Ant, and learn its ways". Plato said, "From the nature of the universe...is where we derived philosophy from".

      Take an Ant colony. All are equally ants. Yes? You use the word "value". Does the Queen go out an gather food, or go out to fight? No. It's too dangerous. She is so valuable--she doesn't leave the nest. It is the Lower classes that die outside the nest or to protect the nest. All are equally Ants but NOT of equal value!. The poor come dime a dozen. There is only One queen. The same is the Monarch and the Aristocracy is more valuable, because that is where the wit and smarts are, than the poorer classes.

      Philosophy always asks, and at its core asks, "What does Nature teach".

      It is very wrong that Pope Francis is changing the Lord's prayer, to wit, "...and lead us not into temptation..."

      I have a saying "Beware of God". God sets traps. Even within the Gospel and Scripture is evil stuff---if taken out of context. But they are there to be taken out of context by evil people!

      Look, why did God put Adam in the Garden of Eden, where it was soft living? We can tell what happened when God afterwards threw Adam out of the Garden and Cursed the ground. Adam was the effeminate Apple-eater. God placed Adam purposely in a soft environment that Adam sinned. The soft environment led Adam to being soft. God does lead men into, not sin, but temptation. Christian theologizing has done this because it has been separated from Nature.

      One part of the rise of International Socialism, i.e. Communism, was due to the influence of the New Testament Church that "held all things in common".

      The Natural Law is the "Cone of Darkness". Light, which is good, Throws off shadows, which is a metaphor for evil.

      Scripture is full of minefields. Yes, Scripture is Good, Divine. Yet, it has minefields in it. Ohh, yes, Catholic theologians go on fantasy flights that all men are made in the image of God and all are divine---but when that is translated into the political sphere---and it is used as a revolutionary device!---you get the American, French and Russian Revolutions! You get the Spanish Civil War.

      Look Mussolini wrote only two books. One attacking the Catholic Church and the other on Jan Hus--the founder of the Taborites! Mussolini had great influence upon Adolf Hitler. Where did Jan Hus, a Roman Catholic priest, get his ideas from? or half of them? All these Roman Catholic priests, Wycliffe, Luther, Hus---Where, or where did they get their ideas? What did they not have---and understanding of Nature.

      The Natural Law is "Cone of Darkness", Light creates Darkness. Light throws off Shadows. Scripture and Christian theology is full of minefields. Jesus was quite right "...and lead us NOT into temptation..."

      The World is a very very very dangerous place.

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    5. One part of the rise of International Socialism, i.e. Communism, was due to the influence of the New Testament Church that "held all things in common".

      This is because of ignorance. The economy described in Acts was not communist but rather a palace economy. If you double-check the categorization for the "Palace Economy" article on the desktop Wikipedia site you can see that it is not sorted under "communism" or "socialist economies."

      In nature what we see are many types. Types are immutable. In computer science a variable of float type is created as a float type and remains a float type until it is popped out of the stack and destroyed.

      There are also obviously cases where the types differ in value. The queen type of ant is obviously more valuable than the worker type or the gamergate type. But there is also cases where types are distinct but not differing in value. In chess the bishop type and the knight type are different types but have the same value.

      It may be possible that in nature distinct types are never equal in value, but the existence of some types in human systems (e.g. chess) resolve whether this is logically necessary in favor of "no!" Despite the fact that the existence of types does not imply unequal evaluations, it is still very wrong to equalize non-equals and the idea of equality with God is insane.

      It is also worth mentioning that Pope Blessed Pius IX in his encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum affirms that only Christianity offers the hope of equality and those seeking the hope of equality in communism or the freak ideology of liberalism hope in vain.

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  28. JoeD:

    You asked me, "So everything exists / has value for it's own sake, right?"

    Yes, everything "has value for its own sake," but perhaps only to itself, in its subjectivity. It may have no value to others--or it may be repugnant to others. But there is no value anywhere that is independent of a subjective consciousness (a person or animal, insofar as the animal is conscious).

    If God exists and is a person, then values might adhere to God (preferences, etc.). What those preferences might be, who knows? Buddhist monks are persons--but they try not to have preferences. Maybe God is like that.

    Or perhaps God could declare his preferences and values, put them in a book, and use this method of communication to demand obedience to his laws, insisting the we follow his preferences, giving up our own.

    That would be an authoritarian power play on God's part, but he could do it. Obviously, there are numerous religions that posit that God has done this, and they performatively enact, I think delusionally, how a human community might be organized to fulfill such demands.

    But I would argue that such religions have merely set the problem of justification of values back a step, pretending that making God a person with preferences somehow grounds and objectifies values.

    Values merely grounded in a Super Person's subjectivity, and declared to be in no need of further justification, strikes me as a way of hiding nihilism from oneself. The Super Person stops the infinite regress of values justification artificially.

    So maybe it's best to get rid of the idea of God as a person. But if God is not a person, then religious justification of values falters yet again, for values clearly cannot be grounded in objective reason either, as I believe Hume's is-ought distinction and Plato's Euthyphro dilemma have both long illustrated.

    So do you have a different take? I posed the issue of values as ends in themselves to see how philosophy oriented conservatives (or, in Feser's case, authoritarian post-liberals) might reply. If you think my formulation of the issue is incorrect, what is my blind spot on this? What am I missing, in your view?

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    1. @Santi,


      So you say that things exist and have value for their own sake.

      And the essence of love is desiring the good of the other for the sake of the other.

      So if God exists, He created everything by giving it existence and thus giving it real value. And He did this for the sake of all the things that exist. For their own sake they have existence and value. God is, after all, Love itself.

      Unless, of course, you deny that anything has any objective value in itself (which is what value being purely subjective means).

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    2. Welcome back, Gaius and Titius! Of course, these days you're seldom away for long.

      Delete
    3. @Santi Tafarella:

      You say, "But there is no value anywhere that is independent of a subjective consciousness." Do you have an argument for that?

      You say, "If God exists and is a person, then values might adhere to God...," but by formulating it in that way ("values might adhere") you are necessarily redefining the term "God" in a way that is (a.) unrecognizable to classical Theists, and (b.) presupposes the falsity of the Aristotelian-Thomist analysis of actuality and potentiality. The only thing a Theist would say in response is, "If I thought God was like that, then I wouldn't worship Him either"; and the A-T philosopher might simply say, "One must offer an actual rebuttal to our analysis; it's skipping a step merely to presume it false."

      When you say, "Maybe God is like that," are you intending (with "Maybe...") to indicate that you're just lobbing ideas in a casual way, but not intending to argue for them?

      When you say, "perhaps God could declare his preferences and values, put them in a book, ... demand obedience to his laws..." do I correctly guess that you think this to be descriptive of Christian belief? If so, then I think you're caricaturing or straw-manning (but not necessarily knowingly).

      You later say, "I would argue that such religions have merely set the problem of justification of values back a step, pretending that making God a person with preferences somehow grounds and objectifies values.... The Super Person stops the infinite regress of values justification artificially. "

      Ah, there it is.

      No, that's not the view of Classical Theism, including Christianity.

      Christians who're ignorant of the philosophical tradition of their faith might sometimes think that way, and less-ignorant persons might sometimes talk that way because they're being careless or imprecise. But in fact there's no arbitrariness or artificiality. (You can't call a conclusion "arbitrary" if an argument proceeds from non-question-begging, widely-accepted premises and the conclusion emerges as a logical necessity from them.)

      Ed Feser's written a lot on this previously, in Aquinas, Last Superstition, Neo Scholastic Essays, Five Proofs, Aristotle's Revenge, and elsewhere. I think you should use Ed's explanations to first familiarize yourself with what Christians mean by "God," so that future discussions avoid equivocating.

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    4. @JoeD. You wrote: "So if God exists, He created everything by giving it existence and thus giving it real value."

      Okay, but then how does this apply to, for instance, homosexual love? Or masturbation? Or the creation of the snake in the Garden of Eden? These are part of God's creation. I might have done it differently.

      You also wrote, "Unless, of course, you deny that anything has any objective value in itself (which is what value being purely subjective means)."

      Here I agree. I do not believe that values are objective. I appeal to Plato's Euthyphro dilemma. All values adhere to a subject, and one might give reasons for valuing a thing, but one cannot rationally establish, metaphysically, the value of a thing. Not even God (or Feser) can do that. Is homosexuality, for example, wrong because it is objectively wrong--or because God doesn't like it? Is homosexuality wrong to the person who enjoys being a homosexual? An appeal to natural law is just another magician's trick (in my view) for dodging an honest confrontation with the Euthyphro dilemma and the ultimate subjectivity of values. God is an Oz curtain put up to conceal nihilism. Every subjectivity is an end in itself--and where it denies itself, it devalues its own life and particularity for something else. That something else, however, is also in need of justification. It's an endless regression.

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  29. Feser's title for this blog post strikes me as not quite right: "Continetti on post-liberal conservatism." Post-liberals are actually authoritarians, and thus the more accurate title ought to be: "Continetti on post-liberal authoritarianism." Once you have no use for Locke and Thomas Jefferson in terms of justification of rights and government, and have reached the conclusion that the Anglo-French Enlightenment and French and American revolutions were basically mistakes that ought not to have ever happened, it's really not fair to designate such a stance as just another iteration on American conservatism. Indeed, "post-liberal conservatism" amounts to an oxymoron. To declare oneself a "post-liberal" is actually to put yourself in alignment with the European anti-Enlightenment, authoritarian tradition.

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    1. But part of what Feser is arguing is that a rejection of the framework of Enlightenment philosophy does not imply a turn towards authoritarianism. He is differing from Continetti here.

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    2. As Mary Angelica notes, by calling the post-title "not quite right" as you do, you're begging the question against the argument Feser is making.

      Now at least one of Feser's points is doubtless correct: Post-liberals, when they are working in the Scholastic/Thomistic tradition, are not authoritarians because their philosophical principles naturally forbid authoritarianism. Their philosophical principles also don't permit libertinism in the same way that fully-evolved liberalism does. They do permit libertinism in different ways, but with less of a guaranteed scope of permissiveness.

      I fear, however, that competing definitions for political terms in the United States have substantially clouded the issue, making mutual comprehension nearly impossible. What is, after all, "liberalism?" What is "conservatism?" How many different senses of each term must we clarify before we can communicate fruitfully?

      For example, folk like Dave Rubin have noted that, in the last few years, it seems that only "conservatives" are at all interested in preserving "liberalism." (This is a recurring theme of "Intellectual Dark Web" figures.)

      Now such a claim seems counterintuitive in a culture where "liberal" and "conservative" are assumed to be antithetical. But that's because the terms are used in so many radically different ways.

      What Feser and others are calling to our attention is the fact that the William F. Buckley brand of "conservatism" (dating from after the excommunication of the John Birchers) is a subspecies of liberalism (albeit not quite the same subspecies of liberalism as the liberalism of the post-JFK American Left). This is why the conservative "movement" and the conservative-friendly 1/3rd of libertarians are so fond of the phrase "classical liberal."

      Now, it happens that both species of liberalism (that of the American Right, and that of the American Left) are susceptible to infection or undermining by Leftist Authoritarianism. But one (that found on the American left) is vastly more susceptible than the other.

      The one which calls itself "conservative," which views liberalism as under constant attack (and its preservation as a thing requiring constant effort), naturally is more vigilant against inroads from Leftism, and persistently rehearses its early source material in a constant effort to retain integrity through originalism. Democrats in America almost never know or care about their intellectual forebears; but right-leaning writers are forever citing Locke, Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Kirk, and other such names.

      The form of liberalism which called itself merely "liberalism" lacked this instinct of self-preservation or historical continuity, and thus succumbed more rapidly to takeover and transmogrification by the anti-liberal regressive Leftist Authoritarianism we see today. That is why the few remaining public "liberals" (Rubin, Dershowitz, etc.) seem constantly to serve as political allies of "conservatives" at present. The mature organism, Censorious Regressive Leftism has crawled out of the juvenile liberal pupa. The remaining "liberals" seem, to Leftists, to be asking Leftism to crawl back into the cocoon.

      The question, though, is whether BOTH species of liberalism are ultimately prone to undergo this same metamorphosis. It is clear that the "conservative" branch doesn't succumb as quickly. But is it philosophically guaranteed to succumb in the end, even if the process takes much longer? Or might it be the one form of liberalism that can survive long-term?

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    3. That is such good work, RC. It's also a kind of precis of the work of Deneen in "Why Liberalism Failed."

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    4. To Santi Tafarella, Mary Angelica, R.C., And Aquinian.

      I wish Catholics would read The Bible. Why are you all arguing "To Enlightenment or Not to Enlightenment".

      Psalm 1 reads:

      "Blessed is the Man who has NOT walked in the counsel of the ungodly,
      Nor stood in the way of sinners,
      Or sat in the seat of evil doers".

      The Whole of the Enlightenment was an Atheist Intellectual movement!!!! All of them. (I don't care about so-called deists because they had no religion to go with it.)

      I consider America a failed State. America is a failed state. There is NO society, there is NO rule of Law and the Foundation of it all is based on Atheism! and other revolutionary ideology. Liberalism is the first stage of Nihilism. What R.C. is talking about, if you read between the lines that he is not aware of, is the progression of Liberalism to totalitarianism. Nihilism also has a telos. That Nihilism which was small in the FFofA---will blossom into greater Nihilism.

      America is a Failed state. It is now in an Oclocracy, Mob rule or as the Greeks said, Faction. Ruling mobs of faction. What you see is two sides of Liberals battling it out. American conservatism in the last 50 years has only adopted leftism sooner or later. Sean Hannity, Roman Catholic, spouts it "Conservatives are not Sexist, Racist, homophobes" where 100 years ago---Christians and Conservatives (true) were Sexist, Racist and homophobic. What is "Sexist, Racist, Homophobe"? It is Marxist sloganeering. A RC priest told me that St. Paul is a misogynist!!! What?

      True Conservatism is the Old Order. Men and Women had different spheres. Female Altar servers is Gnosticism! It is the hatred of Particularity. Equality, the bedrock of Americanism, is the modality of Gnosticism. The leveling of all particularity. Tolerance is also Gnostic---that particularity has NO meaning, no substance, no true nature in-and-of-itself. Sean Hannity is a Gnostic---Not a Conservative. Rush Limbaugh is not a Conservative but a Liberal.

      The hatred of the Old Order, which is the Natural Order, is Gnostic. Everybody in America is a Liberal! Liberalism always descends because it is only a transitional stage. It must go to its Purity, its Telos. Liberalism always holds the seeds of its own destruction because it is Gnostic/Nihilistic. Americanism is Liberal, is Gnostic. You can NOT conserve a revolution; you can not conserve even mild liberalism. It is an oxymoron.

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    5. W. Lindsay Wheeler:

      Folk who aren't long-accustomed to participation in the conversation at a given blog can take a while to acclimate to its culture of a community of commenters. Inasmuch as it is a good thing for a community to grow while preserving whatever is good in its culture, a blog-comment community ought to welcome new additions who can contribute constructively and adapt to the local style. The prospective new additions, correspondingly, ought to get a sense of that style and adapt their native modes of argumentation to the local conventions.

      While I'm open to listening to an argument for monarchism, it doesn't appear to me that you've offered one. What I mean is this: You've asserted a bunch of things quite loudly, but bare assertion, with whatever level of emphasis, doesn't constitute an argument.

      While I don't think every commenter here exhaustively provides a syllogism for everything they say, it seems that the local habit is to either...
      (a.) say something one only supposes, but can't back up with argumentation, pretty tentatively; or,
      (b.) say something one can back up with force, but back it up in a way that anticipates popular counterargument and defeats it.

      Since monarchism is clearly one of your hot-buttons, perhaps you could argue for it a bit more persuasively, with less visible impatience? Perhaps all the rest of us are obtuse, in which case you'll be acting to "instruct the ignorant," the first of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. Or, at the worse, we'll be able to agree where your premises diverge from our own.

      And, yes, I do read my Bible, but I could always read it more, so thanks very much for the admonition.

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    6. Ian,

      Thanks.

      But I don't find that the essay in question provides any argument in defense of monarchy against the relevant critiques.

      It doesn't address the fact that elections exist as formalized alternatives to civil wars, and that any society lacking such an alternative can expect every transition-of-power to be potentially violent.

      Consider also that kings are, in some loose sense, always elected: They are agreed-upon by a very tiny franchise of men whose smaller armed forces might pose a threat if they shifted their loyalties elsewhere. They also always rule at the sufferance of those they govern (who, were they to rebel in unison, would be ungovernable). Why not formalize both realities through elections?

      If we care for such niceties as whether one man has just authority use force against another man, then we must note that the mere conquest of a territory is not the same thing as receiving just authority from God to make and enforce laws for the humans in that territory. (Which is, by definition, a kind of using force against another man.)

      When a fighting man at the head of a fighting force conquers a territory and eliminates all other fighting forces that could contest his control of that territory, he does not (barring a new public revelation) thereby gain just authority from God to wield force against others.

      If he really has eliminated all other potential ruling cadres, one might argue that he has the moral obligation to institute governance precisely because human societies need governance and he's the only guy left alive with the armed capability to govern.

      But...
      (a.) Someone has to judge that this is really the situation (i.e., that he's able to govern and nobody else is). But it's repugnant to reason that he should be the judge of his own case! And yet there's nobody else around to impose a judgement upon him. (Other than the people....)
      (b.) Supposing him to be the only guy around in a position to rule, surely there's moral hazard in the fact that he got that way by killing all the other potential claimants.
      (c.) In all likelihood, his elimination of the other potential claimants involved a lot of extreme uses of force sans just authority from God. Is this a person whose habits make him a good candidate for serving the people?
      (d.) It doesn't stand to reason that a successful warlord and his progeny are necessarily more likely to be wise rulers in peacetime than persons selected by vote, no matter how venal the "bread and circus" routine.
      (e.) If the king's powers are indeed limited in scope (e.g. by some kind of parliamentary arrangement) then one could plausibly hold that having a king is not a sin against prudence. If they are not limited, then (given the fallen nature of humankind) surely it is the monarchist who is obligated to offer some argument that such a concentration of power is not a grave sin against prudence.

      Oh, I wouldn't mind living under another Louis IX. But even France would up with Louis XIV instead. Would there be any serious difference between a future U.S. monarch, King Juanito Dwahalabi Hassan of the United States, and his contemporary equivalents elsewhere? (Namely, Saddam Hussein, Xi Jinping, and Muammar Gaddafi?)

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    7. It doesn't address the fact that elections exist as formalized alternatives to civil wars, and that any society lacking such an alternative can expect every transition-of-power to be potentially violent.

      That democracy differs from monarchy or other forms of government in this regard is a false conceit of liberalism: elections exist as alternatives to civil wars only insofar as people agree to abide by election results. So how is this different from monarchy? If people agree to abide by established rules of succession, monarchy also has a built-in alternative to civil wars. The reason liberalism seems different is twofold: postwar liberalism has developed an incredibly strong consensus around it in the West after having vanquished its rivals decisively, and the modern liberal state is vastly more powerful and comprehensive than any medieval monarchy ever was, so that challenging it with force is unthinkable (and a suicide wish). Regarding the first reason, any form of government will be peaceful if there is a strong consensus around it. And if one were to take the long view of democratic liberalism (i.e., including its history before World War II), I am not so certain that democratic elections would come out ahead in terms of peacefulness (our own nation lasted a mere 80 years before experiencing a horrific civil war). And there have certainly been monarchies that have lasted far longer without succumbing to civil war.

      Consider also that kings are, in some loose sense, always elected: They are agreed-upon by a very tiny franchise of men whose smaller armed forces might pose a threat if they shifted their loyalties elsewhere. They also always rule at the sufferance of those they govern (who, were they to rebel in unison, would be ungovernable). Why not formalize both realities through elections?

      I agree, but there is already a formalization process: the rules of succession and the coronation ritual.

      And again, no different from democracy: if the military in a democracy were to shift its loyalties and support someone else this would pose a major threat.

      If they are not limited, then (given the fallen nature of humankind) surely it is the monarchist who is obligated to offer some argument that such a concentration of power is not a grave sin against prudence.

      A king’s authority and power is always limited. Medieval Christendom always recognized other legitimate loci of authority. If the king encroached upon the proper spheres of these other sources of authority – e.g., the Church, the family, the nobility, etc. – it was regarded as unjust usurpation.

      Does a father have an obligation to offer some argument for his concentration of power over his wife and children? I would say not: his authority is justified by his role as father; he does not have to offer an argument to justify it. This does not mean that a father has unlimited authority over his wife and children. Likewise with a king.

      The charge of imprudent concentration of power is much more appropriately leveled against the modern state, which with its elevation of individual autonomy and denial of any transcendent source that might limit its scope has hallowed out and destroyed all other institutions that might act to limit its power.

      Regarding your points that might doesn’t make right, I agree. But if it is wrong when kings do it – and it is – it is also wrong when liberal democracies do it. I don’t see how democracy is any different in this regard.

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    8. Ian writes the following: "That democracy differs from monarchy or other forms of government in this regard is a false conceit of liberalism: elections exist as alternatives to civil wars only insofar as people agree to abide by election results. So how is this different from monarchy?"

      This is well put. There is a lot of abracadabra set around issues to conceal the nihilism and will to power that is always just beneath their surface.

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  30. In spite of the problems in current day USA, I look upon the basic foundations as being sound. I see the development of natural law from Saadia Gaon through Aquinas and John Locke as being a development and not a change of venue.

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  31. @Mary Angelica. You wrote the following in response to my observation that Feser's essay is better titled "Continetti on postliberal authoritarianism":

    "But part of what Feser is arguing is that a rejection of the framework of Enlightenment philosophy does not imply a turn towards authoritarianism."

    Yes, I agree that he's trying to make a distinction between post-liberal authoritarianism and post-liberal conservatism, but I suggest that the distinction fails, and in place of good reasons for his position, Feser substitutes repetition (using the phrase "post-liberal conservative" again and again, perhaps in the hope it will stick).

    But all 21st century authoritarians--religious or not--face Feser's dilemma: science and liberal capitalism--two of the fruits of the Anglo-French Enlightenment--stupendously work. Hence, what shall we do about this? How do we avoid killing the goose that lays the golden eggs?

    So by my lights, Feser is simply being imprecise. What he's really trying to do is figure out how to blend the pragmatic best of Enlightenment liberalism with what he takes to be the pragmatic best of the authoritarian tradition--but because the word authoritarian is toxic, he wishes to elide its use.

    Put more precisely: Feser is trying to articulate a fundamental dilemma for the post-liberal, 21st century neo-authoritarian: if one likes four empirically good aspects of Enlightenment liberalism in the world (science, the market economy, constitutional government, and small government), how does one then go on liking religious and nationalist authoritarianism?

    I submit that Feser thus sounds too much like the old Protestant bumper sticker: "I'm not religious, I just love the Lord." Feser is saying, I'm not authoritarian, I'm just trying to figure out how to blend authoritarian sexual, family, religious, and nationalist values and mores with the Enlightenment liberal, economic, and intellectual freedom tradition.

    Authoritarianism is necessarily in tension with freedom, and Feser is trying to square the circle, calling the effort "post-liberal conservatism."

    If we're not going to massage the plain use of language, and be direct and honest, don't you agree that this is what his post is actually wrestling with? Why dodge the word authoritarian? Isn't the Catholic Church, for example, a religious authoritarian institution--or have words lost their meaning?

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  32. @R.C. You wrote the following: "Post-liberals, when they are working in the Scholastic/Thomistic tradition, are not authoritarians because their philosophical principles naturally forbid authoritarianism."

    This strikes me as an abuse of language. Could you please clarify in what sense Thomism is not part of the intellectual authoritarian tradition? Is the institution that takes its direction from Thomism (the Catholic Church) not an authoritarian institution?

    You also wrote this:

    "Democrats in America almost never know or care about their intellectual forebears; but right-leaning writers are forever citing Locke, Burke, Hayek, von Mises, Kirk, and other such names. The form of liberalism which called itself merely 'liberalism' lacked this instinct of self-preservation or historical continuity, and thus succumbed more rapidly to takeover and transmogrification by the anti-liberal regressive Leftist Authoritarianism we see today."

    This is an interesting genetic theory, but it's false. I hear you saying the following: liberal movements are susceptible to being hijacked by anti-liberal, leftist authoritarians because they are not reading their best historical forebears, whereas conservatives do read these forebears, and are thus less susceptible to their movements being taken over by anti-liberal, right-wing authoritarians.

    Two observations in retort: (1) Ever heard of Donald Trump? (2) Ever heard of Locke or Burke discussed on Fox News?

    In other words, the average Republican and Democrat don't read--and of course intellectual Republicans and Democrats read and write a lot--and so both intellectual Republicans and intellectual Democrats know Locke and Burke--and some conservative, not just liberal, intellectuals have even read Isaiah Berlin, Richard Rorty, and John Rawls.

    In other words, authoritarians of the left and right--and whether they are intellectual or not--are always confronted with the same dilemma, whether they know their forebears or not: how does one progress an authoritarian agenda or check-list of authoritarian "to do" items without poisoning or killing the two geese that lay most of the world's golden eggs (Anglo-French Enlightenment science and capitalism)?

    Feser's authoritarian dilemma is the same as anyone else's, left or right, whether it's Xi Jinping, Pope Benedict or Francis, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Putin, Hugo Chavez, or Donald Trump. How do you force people to run in grooves they're not otherwise inclined to follow? How do you get people to let go of being ends in themselves, with their unique obsessions and dreams, and get in line with your dreams?

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    1. Santi Tafarella,

      Thanks for your reply. I'm in danger of running late for another obligation, so I can only provide quick responses for a couple of items.

      You say: "I hear you saying the following: liberal movements are susceptible to being hijacked by anti-liberal, leftist authoritarians because they are not reading their best historical forebears, whereas conservatives do read these forebears, and are thus less susceptible to their movements being taken over by anti-liberal, right-wing authoritarians."

      That isn't quite what I meant. I think there's a left-liberalism and a right-liberalism. They currently share an affinity for republicanism. For the right, republicanism is viewed as a prudential way to proceed given the corruptibility of men and mobs. That won't change because human nature doesn't change. For the left, republicanism is just the train they're riding today because it usually goes where they want it to; they'd switch trains if authoritarianism went there faster. The left likes to immanentize the eschaton; the right favors traditionalism, incrementalism, and to preserve intermediary institutions.

      Now it is just in the different natures of these two flavors of liberalism that the former preserves its Patristics, but the latter would co-opt Susan B. Anthony (!) as a pro-abortion symbol if they thought the public would buy it.

      Thereafter, you say: "Two observations in retort: (1) Ever heard of Donald Trump? (2) Ever heard of Locke or Burke discussed on Fox News?"

      In reply to Question (1): Yes, why? Trump's Tweets have the bombastic style we associate with men like Hugo Chavez, rather than George Washington. But ignore the Twitter feed (which has no force-of-law) and ask: What has Trump done thus far involving the powers of his office? Measured by that standard, he's less authoritarian than, say, Obama, Bush 43, Lyndon Johnson, Warren Harding, Woodrow Wilson, or FDR. To this day, most of the public fails to recognize how Trump stirs up the media outrage machine precisely to serve as radar-chaff, so that his relatively commonplace presidential agenda (if judged by the historical standards of conservative politicians) can proceed. His mouth is Burt Reynolds in a Trans Am; his administration is Jerry Reed with a truck full of Coors.

      Re: Question (2): Yes, and on multiple occasions. But I admit it's been more than a decade since I've seen a FoxNews program, so standards may have changed in the intervening years. (If you're interested, they were brought up by the panel in "Brit Hume's Special Report." I think I recall Mara Liason and Bill Kristol being on the panel, but I don't recall any more details.)

      You say, "...the average Republican and Democrat don't read..." but I dispute that. I think the average Republican has, at bare minimum, read popularizations of the ideas of their tradition. He usually has them on his coffee-table or nightstand.

      No one doubts, of course, that "intellectual" ones do so more, at a more academic level. And sure, the same holds on the left. But it isn't natural, given Democrats' positions on public policy topics, that they should reference predecessors: Their earlier figures usually held opposite views! A Democrat can't quote from 2008-era Barack Obama in support of their views on marriage, let alone Cesar Chavez on immigration. Why would they reference DWMs like Rousseau, Paine, or Jefferson?

      I realize that's a partial answer, and this is an abrupt ending, but, sorry, I've got to go.

      Cheers,
      R.C.

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    2. @R.C. You wrote, "His mouth is Burt Reynolds in a Trans Am..."

      I'm liking the Smokey and the Bandit reference. That made me smile. : )

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    1. I suspect we'll see less. :)

      Big clean-up coming, surely?

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  34. @W.LindsayWheeler. Your truth telling ignores that you too abuse language at times, as when you write the following: "A RC priest told me that St. Paul is a misogynist!!! What?"

    Of course he did, Lindsay. Why? Because you met a Catholic priest who is trying not to be Orwellian. In plain language, St. Paul is a misogynist. Tell me how one can define "misogynist" clearly and then reject a passage like I Timothy 2:11-14 as not an instance of misogyny. The passage embodies pure male aggression, domination, essentialism, and reduction towards women as a group--and it even includes an admirable example of a non sequitur (if one woman sinned, then all women are not to be trusted, etc.).

    You also wrote this: "True Conservatism is the Old Order."

    Agreed, and that Old Order is authoritarian. Your rhetorical trick for eliding this is to make "authoritarian order" equal with "natural order," and therefore beyond the pale of reason to oppose it. But as with the Pauline passage, it's a power play, as when when you write the following:

    "Men and Women had different spheres. Female Altar servers is Gnosticism! It is the hatred of Particularity. Equality, the bedrock of Americanism, is the modality of Gnosticism. The leveling of all particularity."

    Your particularity in this instance, Lindsay, stops one convenient step short of actual particularity. If you were serious about natural order and natural law, you would be serious about the bedrock principle of natural order: evolution. And you would know that the driving force of evolution is variation.

    That is, a singular offspring always differs in small--and sometimes large--ways from its parents--and this is what is particular to it. A woman with a strong religious AND liberal streak--whether acquired by genetic temperament, her environment, or an interaction between the two--may wish to be a priest in the Catholic Church. That may be in accord with her eccentric particularity--to seek religious change in an authoritarian, patriarchal institution--which you then attempt to render invisible by hijacking the word "particularity" from her, ignoring her own sui generis mix of organismic traits and uniquely personal dreams.

    In place of her particularity, you insist on her perfect conformity with a natural category (woman coupled with the feminine) that evolutionary nature and history actually dices forward, each generation, along a spectrum that is always in flux. If the spectrum wasn't in flux, evolution wouldn't continue--and of course evolution does continue.

    So some of us are more temperamentally religious than others--and more comfortable with institutional change (liberal) than others. And this too is natural (in accord with particularity; with evolutionary variation from generation to generation).

    Thus natural law, as a bolster to authoritarian stability, is a pre-Darwinian notion--and an example of yet another tension between post-liberal authoritarianism and a product of the liberal Enlightenment (biological science). Pay no attention to that evolving particularity behind the sacristy curtain!

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    1. Anybody that calls St. Paul a misogynist has stopped being a Christian and is in Apostasy.

      Western Law below has answered correctly: a misogynist is a hater of women. Funny, how Santi criticizes my use of language and yet it is Santi that doesn't apply the word "misogynist" correctly. The Misuse and abuse of language, as Socrates points out harms the soul; It is the sign of a Leftist and a dishonest character.

      Equality is the cry of the Marxist and so women and men have to be treated the same. They are creating what is called Unisexism. And if you disagree or do not comply with their ideology of Unisexism, you become a misogynist and/or sexist.

      I don't think Santi knows what "Particularity" is. It is cojoined with the term Universal. All things are constructed with a Universal and a Particularity. Dog is the Universal and a Boxer, Chihauhau, and a Great Dane are Particularities. Particularity matters. One of the signs of a Gnostic is the Hatred of Particularity. (q.v. Against the Protestant Gnostics by Phillip Lee. Great book.) One doesn't run the Kentucky Derby with Belgium or a pony. Particularity matters.

      St. Paul lays out in I Timothy 2:11-14 is the Virtue of Sophrusyne for women. There is NOT a single bishop, Catholic or Orthodox, that can preach and teach on the fullness of II Peter 1:5. It is amazing to behold the grand ignorance out there. Sophrusyne is untranslatable into English. It means "Know one's place in the kosmos" and "Keeping ones place". It is a very deep, very Greek value. St. Paul was a Hellenized Jew. He is teaching the Virtue of Sophrusyne here. In other places, he commands the teaching of sophrusyne. In the Roman Catholic pantheon of Virtues, they use the term "Self-control" but the Greek for that is "enkration". Sophrusyne is about Limits. Knowing one's proper place. Rudyard Kipling said, "A man should, whatever happens, keep his own caste, race and breed".

      What runs in the European is a sense of Order. Rudyard Kipling is expressing the Virtue of Sophrusyne---it is deeply held European instinct.

      To uphold order and the decorum of women, to preach and teach it, is teaching and preaching of Virtue. It is European Culture and Civilization. It is Marxist critique to attack anything European, Greek, with slime word propaganda and this is how Santi uses the term Misogynist---it is about beating down their opponents and agree to their Unisex agenda. To throw the term Misogynist at Christians and at St. Paul, show oneself to be a Marxist--and has Apostazised--adopted another religion. (Marxism is a religion because ensconced within it is Jewish Messianism.)

      Santi writes -to seek religious change in an authoritarian, patriarchal institution. That is NOT Christian, nor Conservative. God is about Order and we are to keep the Order. Cosmos means "Ordered Beauty".

      St. Paul also taught that Women are to be taught to be submissive. Marxists seek to "empower" women. The empowering of women is to cause dysfunction in society. That is now how society or the family works.

      The Apostles are to be held in the highest respect and anybody that denigrates them with Marxist slang is anathema.

      That same priest decried racism from the pulpit as well. I have another saying, "Modern Roman Catholicism is nothing more than Marxism with a cross". 99.5% of the Catholic Church is infected with Marxism! It is bloody amazing.

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  35. @ Santi

    "Tell me how one can define 'misogynist' clearly and then reject a passage like I Timothy 2:11-14 as not an instance of misogyny."

    You yourself didn't define the word clearly. Male aggression has nothing to do with it. Domination isn't accurate. Essentialism? No clue what that is doing in there. Reduction towards women? What the heck does that even mean?

    Misogyny comes from the ancient Greek "miso-" μισο, which comes from μισεῖν (hate) , μῖσος (hatred) and "-gynaeco", which comes from γυνή (woman, female).

    Misogyny is a hatred of women. It is no more complex than that. 1 Timothy does not preach hatred toward women. If it did, it would forbid women from learning about God or anything else, period. It preaches the exact opposite. And the part that everyone today points to from this passage to indicate misogyny ("to teach or to assume authority over a man" comes from a Greek work that appears a grand total of one (1) time in the entire Bible. Scholars cannot agree on the translation of that word. Regardless, the passage is not about women in general, it is about women in the church - and not just that, but verses 11-14 come after discussion of false teachings and heresy by women, or maybe just one woman, were mentioned earlier in 1 Timothy. Again, the ancient Greek is different than the many English translations we use today, and there is more evidence throughout the chapter and elsewhere in the Bible to indicate Paul was talking about a specific situation instead of a universal one.

    The Bible has versus explaining women as teachers of the wisdom of God, including teaching men, specifically:

    Deborah from the book of Judges
    Luke 2:37–38
    Proverbs 31:1
    Proverbs 31:26
    Acts 18:24–26

    For some weird reason you don't include these. Oh that, right. Because it contradicts the nonsense that you tried to argue.










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    1. @Western Law. You make reasonable arguments against reading the passage as indicative of misogyny. Your reading certainly suggests, at minimum, that you yourself are not misogynist.

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    2. @Western Law. I would add, however, that an explicit expression of hatred of women is not necessary for misogyny to be clearly present. For example, would you call a Muslim honor killing of a daughter for adultery or fornication misogynistic? From his vantage, he might argue that he loves women (his wife, his daughters, and so on), and is merely upholding standards of community purity, etc. I of course would argue that the community purity premise entailed here is itself misogynistic (that patriarchs have a governing role over their daughters' sexuality to this degree). You agree?

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  36. Seriously, why are you guys engaging with trolls and nutjobs. Santi is the worst troll ever to blight this blog, and that is even counting SP. He doesn't argue properly. He engages in self-indulgent emotivism, some of which reaches ridiculous heights of bathos and stupidity. Wheeler is some kind of white supremacist crank. If you value the blog, ignore them.

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    1. To Santi and anonymous above, to come to a blog and throw stuff around---while hiding one's identity and provenance is unethical. That is not the sign of Manliness. It is the sign of cowardice. A man should stand behind his convictions--it is about being Upright and Clear. Only evil sits in the shadows. A true man, A Godly man stands behind his words---and owns them. To run in, spout judgments and criticisms, while hiding in anonymity--well, then those judgments are nonsense.

      It is, again, Marxist agitprop to sling as a charge "white supremacy" at their opponents. It is an act of deracination and hence Genocide; if anonymous is a European---you are a traitor. National preservation and doing ones duty is Righteousness.

      Earlier R.C. said something about a "Christian world view". The only world view is that said by Clinias the Cretan in Plato's Laws when asked by Plato what is the basis of their laws, he replied:

      "He (King Minos) meant, I believe, to reprove the folly of mankind, who refuse to understand that they are all engaged in continuous lifelong warfare against all cities whatsoever".

      The German classicist Werner Jaeger laconized that into "Life is War".

      Aristotle notes a Natural Law, "All things are either in Authority or in Subjection". All things.

      Nature abhors a vacuum. That is another Natural Law. Either you lead---or you have to follow. Nature doesn't play games.

      This "White Supremacy" schtick is about Marxists emasculating European men, demoralizing them and prepping them to be a minority in their own country. That is wrong. Love of one's kinsmen comes first---to care and seek one's own Nation to be healthy and strong comes first. It is part of the Moral Order.

      This is Scripture for Catholics:

      LXX Ecclesiasticus 8:15 "Every beast loveth his like, and every man loveth his neighbor. All flesh consorteth according to kind and a man will cleave to his like."

      It's right there--- "All flesh consorteth according to kind and a Man will cleave to his like".

      An Agrarian saying which holds the Natural Law:

      "Birds of a feather flock together".

      That is how God set up the cosmos.

      Joseph Sobran, a great Roman Catholic intellectual wrote in 1997:

      "Western man towers over the rest of the world in ways so large as to be almost inexpressible. It’s Western exploration, science, and conquest that have revealed the world to itself. Other races feel like subjects of Western power long after colonialism, imperialism, and slavery have disappeared. The charge of racism puzzles whites who feel not hostility, but only baffled good will, because they don’t grasp what it really means: humiliation. The white man presents an image of superiority even when he isn’t conscious of it. And, superiority excites envy. Destroying white civilization is the inmost desire of the league of designated victims we call minorities."

      Us Europeans have NOTHING to be ashamed of. As Hillaire Belloc said, "The Faith is Europe, and Europe is the Faith".

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    2. @WLW

      Why nihilism has risen is very simple. First, what is the definition of nihilism? It is the proposition that the world is dying of its own accord. And what better way to disguise the fact that someone is killing the world than to blame it on the universe?

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    3. True. The hatred of the material universe, the cosmos, is the sign of Gnosticism. They hate Nature (because The Logos is IN Nature).

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    4. Anon,

      I engaged with both precisely because I don't have prior experience with either. My habit is to give someone a bit of a dialog before I permanently categorize them as trolls.

      Also, I had things I wanted to think out and say in response to them. Most of what I've posted above was for my own working-out of ideas, and perhaps other 3rd-party readers will find something in them worthy of comment.

      But as for Santi and Wheeler: Whether they substantively engaged with my replies to them would be a good litmus test to distinguish "troll" from "guy with eccentric ideas, willing to hash them out in good faith."

      We'll see.

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    5. R.C., okay, but trust us, we have a long and tawdry experience with Santi. He shouldn't be encouraged in anyway. And it should be obvious to you now the kind of person Wheeler is.

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    6. R.C. and Anonymous:

      R.C.'s rationale for engagement is similar to my own. As I assume is also true with R.C., I am curious as to how my own thoughts will be responded to. I'm frequently surprised by the direction of counter-arguments--and I often find these interesting. I've been, my whole life, interested in encountering people who think differently from me. I feel the same way about books: I'm curious to read books from people with views dissimilar from my own.

      But please note that in a democracy readers are earned. It's always a two-way street. If you say something interesting to me, or if you write something I'm not interested in discussing, you might not hear from me either. You shouldn't presume the value of your own thoughts to me; that you're somehow punishing me as a "troll" by not responding to my ideas; that you've got something to give me. You're thinking much too highly of the value of your own ideas to me, and how you articulate them, to make such an assumption.

      So if you say something interesting in these threads, and I see it, I might say something in response. If not, not.

      As to Anonymous, he appears to assume that I'm here for a "troll" thrill--which is not the case. I'm here for the thought. Also, I'll note that I haven't entered a thread at this blog since about 2015 or 16. I originally visited out of a genuine interest in learning about Thomism: is there anything to Catholicism that I missed in my youth and ought to reconsider? My father's side of the family are all Italian Catholics. I grew up going to mass, etc.

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    7. R.C. and Anonymous:

      A quick example of my disappointment in the quality of thought in this thread: I have asked for a definition of authoritarianism and for someone to address whether a Thomist institution like the Catholic Church is properly described as authoritarian. This clearly is pertinent to the question of whether Feser's post-liberalism is accurately described as conservative or authoritarian--but as yet the response has been...crickets.

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    8. Go away, troll.

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  37. In politics we'd get correspondence from time to time that looked crazy: different types of paper, different types of writing, up and down, boustrophedon, backwards altogether, English, French, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, sometimes in tongues, doodles and real clip art, codes, numbers, conspiracy theories, the whole nine yards. That's what this whole discussion would look like if it wasn't typed on a keyboard and formatted by this website. I am,

    Didymus

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  38. Liberalism does not believe in the political nature of man whereby man is organized into particular, self-ruling morally authoritative units we call tribes, nations or polis.
    The political nature divides all men into neighbors and strangers.

    The libertarian does not believe in moral authority of the community. To him, all men are equally strangers. Thus, the crisis of solidarity.

    The progressive does not believe in particularity. To him, all men are equally neighbors. He likes World Government. Thus, the crisis of subsidiarity.

    The American conservative flounders between these two denials.

    Essentially, the classical political theory has man organized into three irreducible levels.
    i) The individual
    ii) The family
    iii) the City or the nation or tribe.

    The liberals are forever trying to reduce The City to a collection of individuals. From Hobbes and Locke this effort to derive political authority from something that is not City.
    But it has never worked--consent of the governed is neither sufficient nor necessary. Patently, even the most liberal states do not actually run by "consent of the governed".

    All actual government is by classical theory by which the City is self-authoritative. REad Belloc's French Revolution--a political community derives its power from itself.

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  39. I wholeheartedly second Gyan's analysis. Spot on.

    The Natural Law is "Parts make up the whole". We are Parts---not individuals. We are part of a whole.

    The Liberal is the return of the Sin of Adam. When you see a Liberal--you see the Sin of Adam. Thomas Jefferson did say something correct, "The Yeomen of America are not the Canaile of Paris". Meaning there is a difference between Agrarian people and urban people. Agrarianism naturally produces Conservatives while urbanites are mostly liberal. Nature is hard while the city is soft. Nature has Hard rules that must be obeyed--while a city's rules are man-made. Urban environments create Liberals, Soft living creates soft men which is the basis of Liberalism.

    A Liberal essentially hates Discipline. And hates being disciplined. He is too soft. He is an anarchist and a syncretist because as Gyan points out above---hates particularity.

    The German classicist Karl Otfried Müller, c 1834, recognized a very fundamental characteristic portrayed by Athenian democracy. He noted,

    “...democracy likes a large mass, and hates all divisions.”

    That observation expresses one of the most fundamental intrinsic mentality and modality of Gnosticism: hatred of division and moving all into one large mass.

    What the liberal does is strip meaning away from Particularity. Particularity has no value!!! Rules have no value.

    A liberal, Royer-Collard, said, “I despise facts”. (Found in Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn's Liberty or Equality or Leftism Revisited)

    This is the general attitude of liberals. They are not beholden to facts. Facts have to be obeyed just as the parameters of particularity have to be obeyed. Liberals scoff at this. They are Free---Free from reality.

    Obedience is a Virtue. It must be ingrained when young.

    We were meant to live in Nature. This is why Lord Baden-Powell created the Boy Scouts---to take boys out of their homes and put them IN Nature. Man must be formed by Nature. --not the city.

    Liberalism is a form of Gnosticism. One of the major hallmarks of Gnosticism and Gyan points that out without naming it; it is called Syncretism. Pope John Paul II and our Marxist Pope Francis both exhibited this behavior.

    Freemasonry is a Gnostic sect. Liberalism is a form of Gnosticism and Marxism is a carrier of Gnosticism. Gnosticism has thoroughly infected all of the Christian religion. Protestantism is basically all Gnostic.

    We are in deep, deep, deep trouble. And yet this is nowhere on the minds of our bishops because they are all liberals--all gnostics! That is why I am so counter-cultural, so strange---I'm not a Gnostic.

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  40. Excellent prognosis in this post. And noting the benefits of such a prognosis - being better able to resist temptations to compromise for short-term political gain; being better able to focus on the truth - is especially important.

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  41. @Thomas L.C. You wrote to me: "You say that it is hard to distinguish prudentially 'censorship of pornography' and 'transgender rights' from adultery. What do you mean? There are institutions which can be legally targeted to avoid the spread of immorality by means of pornography, drugs and false sexual ideologies. But for adultery specifically?"

    You make an important distinction here, Thomas L.C.: it's pragmatically easier to go after identifiable, organized groups as opposed to individuals sneaking around. But wouldn't making porn and cross-dressing illegal drive these behaviors underground, exactly like adultery? Isn't a law an expression of social disapproval--and isn't part of the power of a law the social shame brought on the individual who realizes his or her friends will find out? Privacy is one reason not to make adultery illegal--and this in turn applies to porn--or gay/cross dressing bars. There are people who want to do things in private that they don't necessarily want their work colleagues, etc., to know about. A law against the behavior raises the risk they'll be outed. Maybe you think people should not have control of their public personae. Is that the case? In any event, laws against drugs and sexual deviance erode privacy generally.

    You also wrote with approval the following: "One...feature of institutions...is the ability of subordinates to hold their superiors accountable...[which] were indeed developed in modern times, under a more or less Lo[c]kean philosophical inspiration."

    Whistleblowing is an important right. Agreed. But notice the important modern reversal. In Lockean terms, the individual secures greater privacy/autonomy and institutions lose their insularity/secrecy. Light is cast, not on private vice, but public institutional corrosion/abuse of power, etc.

    So it seems that the tensions between sexual privacy/shame and institutional secrecy/abuse are, as we speak, front and center in the Catholic Church, a Thomistic institution. It also strikes me that Lockean premises are at work in bringing sunlight on the hierarchy of the institution. Do you agree? Did Thomas Aquinas ever formulate a process for institutional correction? How does a Thomistic institution self-correct?

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  42. We can NOT fix the political order---until The Church gets its act together. The Church is hopelessly mired.

    When one thinks of it---Karl Marx is more powerful than Jesus Christ. ---The Catholic Church is thoroughly corrupted with Political Correctness which is Cultural Marxism. Cultural Marxism is about creating Liberals. How is our death spiral going to come to a stop---if we don't stop the growth of Liberalism?

    For instance. Check out Catholic Preaching. It is on "Love" 24/7. Love, Love, Love. Nothing else is preached upon---That is what liberal clergy and hierarchy do! Like to Like.

    Catholics don't even have the real original Natural Law. For if they did---they would discover something else. The Natural Law, or Laws of Nature, (the real, original one) includes Two sets of Laws---The Laws of Beauty and the Laws of Order. What does "Cosmos" mean? Ordered Beauty.

    The Laws of Beauty are Symmetry, Proportion, Harmony.

    What is the importance of that? Proportion. Without right proportion of ash, sand, water, air and lime, Concrete can not be made.

    Good is centered on proportion.

    I have a saying, "Even Good, taken out of proportion, does evil".

    The Overpreaching of Love in the Catholic Church is turning everybody into a raving Liberal!!!! How can anybody correct our political order, when the religious authority is so ensconced in Liberalism. It is literally destroying itself!

    How does one correct theology into going into extremes? The real, Original Natural Law---i.e. The Logos.

    Jesus said, "Man does NOT live by bread alone, but by EVERY word that proceeds from the Mouth of God.". One must have Theology---and the Real, Natural Law.

    One must have proportion---and one must preach from the WHOLE Word of God. Why is there NO preaching on Virtue on Sundays--anywhere in the Catholic Church?

    The whole failure of Catholicism right now, is because there is NO preaching on II Peter 1:5. How can you have a Right Political Order-----WITHOUT VIRUTE?????? Please tell me where Contentti and all these "conservatives" speak once on Virtue? Nowhere!

    You are dead right out the gate.

    Jesus said, "Love thy neighbor" is the greatest commandment-----BUT He didn't say it was the ONLY one! Somehow that gets missed out there.

    How can one reach the pinnacle without the foundation? The Foundation----is Virtue.

    And what everyone misses is that the first Virtue is Manliness. What was Adam missing? Adam is missing the first Virtue, Manliness.

    Manliness includes within it Ruggedness, Stamina. Agility, the ability to give and take a punch, Strength.

    A frightening statement of purposely effeminizing men is found in the first plank in “The Communist Rules for Revolution” which were claimed to be found in Germany in 1919.
    141 It states:

    “1. Corrupt the young; get them away from religion. Get them interested in sex. Make them superficial; destroy their ruggedness.”

    To destroy ruggedness in men is to enervate them.

    There it is. How to create a liberal. Boys have NO idea what it means to be man. Boys have to be trained into Manhood.

    Would we be having the problems today---if Manliness was inculturated into Catholic male youth? Would we be having a problem with liberals/gnostics in our Church?

    One can't have a right Political Order, until the virtues are taught, preached upon, and habitualized throughout Catholic communities. The Political Order doesn't rest on "intellectual argument" or books---it rests on Human character.

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    1. Many people don't understand one wit when Socrates counsels that the children need to be taken away from parents.

      Listen to the howls of thunder. The crys of Nazi and totalitarianism.

      But Socrates knows something---you don't.

      Why must children be taken away from Parents.

      When does Virtue start? Virtue must be habitualized. Parents are incapable of instilling most virtues. The Natural Law of Righteousness prevents that. Mothers are busy with house chores, fathers are busy working---who has the time to train. All things are constructed to do one thing.

      Virtue starts at a young age. Boys must be separated from the female in order to become masculinized. (q.v. The Church Impotent, The Feminization of Christianity by Leon Podles. Great, Fantastic book)

      Furthermore, the parents of ancient Athens were instilling bad behavior in their children. Overbearing fathers create homosexual children. St. Paul counsels against overbearing fathers.

      Without manliness, there can not be Truth, or Courage to maintain the truth.

      The teaching and living the Virtues is the antidote to liberalism/Gnosticism. Boys and Men have to be hardened to reality. It is NOT words and theories, and deep thought---It is Character training. Is that not what Plato points out at the end of his Republic--it is the character of the man that forms the style of government. It is all right there in Plato's Republic. Socrates asks Can Virtue be taught? Well, not only is it NOT taught---nobody in today's world know what it is. The Church is in complete Total collapse---it is totally Incompetent. Totally converged.

      Vatican I has been disproved.

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  43. In this post Feser disses Arianism as a means of casting shade on liberalism, but in the process exposes numerous of his own historical and intellectual blindspots.

    Here's Feser Arian observation: "[T]he post-liberal conservative must think in centuries. Arianism did eventually disappear, so thoroughly that in hindsight it is difficult to recall what all the fuss was about. And in the long run liberalism too will disappear, because it is now so deeply contra naturam that its ultimate collapse is inevitable. Future generations will look back and marvel that such a freak show ever existed. What remains to be determined is how much damage it will leave behind it, and how far it will go in persecuting those who resist its ever more extreme permutations."

    First, Arianism did not disappear--and I'm not talking about small sects like the Jehovah Witnesses. Feser, an expert on a medieval philosopher (Aquinas), surely knows that Islam adopted the Arian position with regard to the trinity (that God is one and has only messengers and prophets--with a particular messenger at the top of the creator's food chain--in Islam's case, Mohammad).

    One can readily imagine, if Arianism had not morphed into Islam, that the characteristic formula for contemporary Arianism would be, "There is no God but God, and Jesus is his Messenger."

    It should also be recalled that Dante's "Inferno," which Feser surely has read, regards Islam as a Christian heresy dividing the Church--and thus depicts Mohammad as split open and disembowled for causing division.

    So when Feser writes that liberalism is contra nature and a "freakshow" (presumably referring to gay pride parades, among other things), one can only wonder if the cultural practices of Christians seemed freakish and contra nature to ancient and medieval Jews, who might well have spoken among themselves in the same manner as Feser: "What remains to be determined is how much damage it [the Jewish heresy of Christianity] will leave behind it, and how far it will go in persecuting those who resist its ever more extreme permutations."

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  44. Nothing makes me laugh more than conservatives claiming "rationality" and "morality" when you guys are the one endorsing racism, xenophobia, sexism, and other vile ideas. Get off your moral high horse and look in a mirror before criticizing others for a lack of "obligations" as you lack the obligation of treating your fellow human beings with the respect they deserve.

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    1. Nothing makes me laugh more than liberals claiming "rationality" and "morality" when you guys are the ones are the ones endorsing child murder, anti-Christianity, perversion and other vile ideas. Get off your moral high horse and look in a mirror before criticizing others for a lack of "morality" as you lack the morality of treating your fellow human beings with the respect they deserve.

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    2. Wow, copying. So original. Tell me how is supporting Trump(family separation, Muslim ban, sexual offence, African countries being "sh#tholes, denying climate change, Yemen, etc) in line with "rationality" and "morality". And spare me the caring about "child-murder" as once a child is out of the womb you don't care what happens to it and oppose healthcare, gun control, and other things that would save children's lives as well as having no problem with keeping kids in cages, separated from their parents, being sexually abused or dying while detained, banning refugee kids, etc. Conservatism is one hell of a delusion.

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  45. Yeah, murder the child because it's going to be be poor. And even if nobody really cared for its fate, somehow that means it can be disposed of like rotten meat. Liberalism is one hell of a delusion.

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  46. Your pro-abortion argument is the same BS that was tossed about in the 70s, so you whining about copying is pretty silly.

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    1. Notice how I never made anything pro-abortion. Just called out the hypocrisy of the so-called pro-life movement who only seem to care about fertilized eggs yet not fully developed child based on your willingness to let them be detained in cages and be sexually abused/dying, be shot with automatic weapons, denied healthcare, banned from securing refuge, etc. And stop with the copying it's tiresome.

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