Saturday, December 12, 2020

What was the Holy Roman Empire?

According to Aristotelian-Thomistic political philosophy, the state is a natural institution.  It has as its natural end the provision of goods that are necessary for our well-being as rational social animals, but would not be otherwise available (such as defense against aggressors).  According to traditional Catholic theology, the state also serves functions relevant to the realization of the supernatural end of salvation, such as protecting the Church. 

However, while these things are true of the institution of the state in general, they do not entail the existence of any particular state.  That is to say, while the natural law and our supernatural end require that there be states, they don’t require that there exists Germany, specifically, or the United States, or China.  For the most part, the same thing is true of empires.  Nothing in natural law or in our supernatural end requires that there be a British Empire, specifically, or a Mongol Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire is philosophically interesting because it did have a special status under natural law and in the supernatural order.  Or at least, it did according to one view.  There is nothing abnormal or contrary to the natural or supernatural order of things that the Mongol Empire or Yugoslavia no longer exist.  But on the view I’m describing, there is something abnormal, and contrary to natural law and the supernatural order, that there is no longer a Holy Roman Empire.  Indeed, on this view of things, given that the natural and supernatural orders require that there be such an empire, it is not quite correct to say that the Holy Roman Empire no longer exists.  It is more accurate to say that it is dormant.

Dante’s peak

This all may sound strange, so let’s try to understand it.  Start with a line of argument developed by Dante Alighieri (who was a philosopher and theologian as well as a poet) in Monarchia.  The state, though taken by Aristotle to be the perfect or complete society, cannot in Dante’s view be the highest level of political order.  For just as there are bound to be disputes between parties within a state, there are bound to be disputes between states.  And there would be an imperfection in the social order if there were no way to resolve these disputes justly (as opposed to simply resolving them by force).  So, there is a need for a higher-level political authority whose role is to settle these disputes – an emperor to which even the different kings are subject.

Now, if this higher-level authority is himself just one higher-level authority among others, then he and those others might also find themselves disputing with one another.  And there would therefore be need for some yet higher-level authority to resolve those disputes.  This regress can terminate only in a single highest-level authority – a world monarch or emperor standing at the peak of political authority, with jurisdiction over all kings. 

Dante holds that, because such an emperor would have no equal, and thus no rival, he would be capable of ruling more disinterestedly and thus more justly.  A common recognition of and subordination to his authority – and not merely the force of arms – would also provide mankind with the unity of wills that is the precondition of true peace.

Before continuing, it is worthwhile to pause to consider a potential objection.  You might think such argumentation would justify globalist projects of the kind to which traditionalists are hostile – the United Nations, the Great Reset, and the like.  But you would be wrong.  Remember, reasoning of the kind Dante is engaged in is in the broad tradition of classical philosophy and natural law.  A world empire of the kind he envisions would be one governed by, and governing in light of, that tradition.  For guidance, it would look not to John Rawls, Bill Gates, and the like, but to the likes of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Aquinas.  And a world empire that governed contrary to that natural law tradition would be a world tyranny – a grotesque counterfeit of what thinkers like Dante envisioned.

The Roman way

Now, the fact that there are unjust states does not undermine the legitimacy of the institution of the state itself.  Similarly, the possibility of an unjust world empire does not undermine the legitimacy of the notion of a world empire per se.  Original sin has corrupted all social institutions, but we can see through it to determine what the uncorrupted versions would look like.

That brings us to the model in terms of which the tradition I’m describing conceptualized the idea of a world empire – the Roman Empire.  Such a model might seem ironic, given that we’re talking about the Christian tradition, and the Roman Empire had persecuted the Church.  Indeed, the New Testament devotes a whole book – the Apocalypse of St. John – to a characterization of that empire as a satanic force of oppression.  Don’t forget, though, that the New Testament – in Romans 13 – also characterizes the very same empire as God’s servant, instituted to uphold justice.  As with any other state, it wasn’t the empire itself that was bad.  What was bad were the corrupt ends to which the empire had been put.  And the conversion of the empire to Christianity could remedy this corruption.  Not perfectly, of course (nothing human is perfect).  But through the influence of the Church, grace could heal fallen nature, in the case of the empire as in the case of any other institution damaged by original sin.

That was the idea, anyway.  Now, one reason the Roman Empire suggested itself as a model to medieval theorists of world empire is that it was an actually existing example of such a thing – or an approximation to one, anyway.  A single emperor had jurisdiction over other kings.  A common citizenship, legal code, and language united diverse countries and ethnicities.  A common cult united the different religious traditions – albeit it was, before the conversion to Christianity, a false and idolatrous worship.

But it wasn’t just that the Roman Empire happened to be there as a concrete example.  Scripture was taken to reveal it to have a special world-historical role.  As James Bryce points out in his chapter on the theory of the Empire in his book The Holy Roman Empire, the grounds for this judgement were found in the book of Daniel.  The fourth beast of Daniel’s famous vision, and the legs and feet of Nebuchadnezzar’s, were taken to represent the Roman Empire.  And these images in Daniel are also intended to represent the last of a series of world-dominating empires that would exist before the coming of the Messiah.  The implication, for the Christian theologian, is that any empire that would exist in the heart of Christendom before the time of Christ would in some sense be a revival of the Roman empire – either in a healthy, normative form (a Christian or Holy Roman Empire) or in a corrupted, persecuting form (an empire of Antichrist). 

As early and medieval Christian thinkers saw things, Greek philosophy had prepared the way for the Gospel by discovering through natural reason the fundamental truths of natural theology and natural law.  And in a parallel way, Roman governance had prepared the way for a sound social and political order.  In both the realm of thought and the realm of practice, the pagans had made indispensable contributions that the Church could adopt and perfect.

Houses of the holy

It is often claimed that the Catholic Church abandoned integralism at Vatican II.  And yet Pope St. John Paul II’s Catechism teaches that:

The duty of offering God genuine worship concerns man both individually and socially.  This is “the traditional Catholic teaching on the moral duty of individuals and societies toward the true religion and the one Church of Christ.”  By constantly evangelizing men, the Church works toward enabling them “to infuse the Christian spirit into the mentality and mores, laws and structures of the communities in which [they] live.”  The social duty of Christians is to respect and awaken in each man the love of the true and the good.  It requires them to make known the worship of the one true religion which subsists in the Catholic and apostolic Church… Thus, the Church shows forth the kingship of Christ over all creation and in particular over human societies. (2105, emphasis added)

and

Every institution is inspired, at least implicitly, by a vision of man and his destiny, from which it derives the point of reference for its judgment, its hierarchy of values, its line of conduct… Only the divinely revealed religion has clearly recognized man's origin and destiny in God, the Creator and Redeemer.  The Church invites political authorities to measure their judgments and decisions against this inspired truth about God and man:

Societies not recognizing this vision or rejecting it in the name of their independence from God are brought to seek their criteria and goal in themselves or to borrow them from some ideology.  Since they do not admit that one can defend an objective criterion of good and evil, they arrogate to themselves an explicit or implicit totalitarian power over man and his destiny, as history shows. (2244, emphasis added)

The clear implication of such passages is that the Catholic faith ought to inform the governance of a society, and that when it does not, totalitarian secular ideologies tend to fill the vacuum.  Such teaching is not surprising given the doctrine of original sin.  To suppose that a just society is possible in the absence of any guidance from the faith smacks of a kind of “social Pelagianism.”

But integralism per se is not our topic here.  The point is rather to elucidate the theory of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Catholic doctrinal principles still reflected in the Catechism are those that informed the theory of the empire.

In general, grace does two things.  First, it remedies the defects in the natural order that have resulted from original sin, at least partially restoring what would have existed had the Fall not occurred.  Second, it directs nature to an even higher, supernatural end – the beatific vision.  Now, in theory at least, the Christianization of the Roman system would accomplish such ends.  First, it would remedy the tendency of fallen rulers to govern for the sake of their own glory, or for the sake of acquiring wealth, or for the sake of some other unworthy end.  It would teach them to govern instead for the glory of God and the good of their subjects (that is to say, in obedience to the first and the second greatest of the commandments, respectively).  Second, it would assist the Church in her supernatural mission of saving souls, by protecting her from enemies, both foreign (such as the relentless military assaults on Christendom arising from the Islamic world) and domestic (such as heretical movements like Albigensianism).

Needless to say, this didn’t always work out too well in practice.  But that was the theory.  The practice suffered in part because of a common theological problem – a failure to respect the difference between the spheres of nature and grace.  An occupational hazard of theologians is either to collapse the supernatural into the natural or to absorb the natural up into the supernatural (thus “destroy[ing] the gratuity of the supernatural order,” as Pope Pius XII put it).  Similarly, in politics there is always a danger that the state will meddle in the affairs of the Church, or that the Church will take over functions and judgements that rightly belong to the state. 

The theory of the Empire held that, rightly understood, the Empire and the Church are like body and soul, both necessary for a complete order of things and cooperating with and assisting one another, but each nevertheless having its own distinctive role.  This certainly did not entail a separation of Church and state, any more than the soul and body ought to be separated or kept hermetically sealed off from one another.  But it did entail a distinction between Church and state, and between those matters that are primarily the concern of the former and those that are primarily the concern of the latter. 

At a minimum, though, the Empire would intersect with the Church insofar as the Catholic faith was its official religion, and insofar as the emperors (most famously, those of the House of Habsburg) were always Catholic.  For since the Church, like the individual human being, has a temporal aspect as well as a spiritual one, it needs protection from worldly threats.  The soul needs the body, and the Church needs the Empire.

The emperor’s new clothes

Well, again, that was the theory, anyway.  But in the wake of Napoleon’s triumphs, Francis II, last of the Holy Roman Emperors, renounced the throne and dissolved the Empire (though retaining the office of Emperor of Austria).  This had the advantage of ensuring that the title of “Holy Roman Emperor” was not one that Napoleon could usurp.  But as Friedrich Heer judges in his own book on the Empire, the dissolution of the Roman system was “an act for which [Francis] had no legal justification.” 

Indeed, as I have said, the theory of the Empire implies that it cannot be dissolved, not exactly, because the natural law and supernatural order require that there be such an institution.  The most that can happen is that the Empire becomes dormant, perhaps for a long period of time.  Nor was this unprecedented.  After all, after the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476, more than three centuries passed before it was (according to the theory) restored by Charlemagne in 800.  (Though of course, the Eastern Empire continued, and Justinian temporarily restored the Western empire in the 500s.)  It has been just over two centuries since Francis’s abdication.  Might some Charlemagne of the future pick up the crown a century or so from now?  Stranger things have happened.  (According to a medieval legend, a Last Roman Emperor will arise to repel the enemies of the faith before the coming of Antichrist.)

What can be said with certainty is that, where the satisfaction of a natural need is frustrated, it will tend to manifest in distorted forms.  Hence, if the Empire is something required for human well-being, we would expect corrupt approximations to it to arise.  And arguably that is indeed what we have seen.

In a recent article, I discussed Plato’s classification of five basic types of regime, one just and four increasingly unjust.  The just regime is that of the Philosopher-Kings, oriented toward the Good and ruled by reason.  The first and least bad of the unjust regimes is timocracy, oriented toward military glory and ruled by the spirited part of the soul (the part moved by considerations of honor and shame) rather than by reason.  Next and worse, we have oligarchy, oriented toward the accumulation of wealth and ruled by the desiring part of the soul, though by desires of a bourgeois (and thus somewhat more disciplined) kind.  Yet worse is democracy, which as Plato understands it is oriented toward the egalitarian satisfaction of desire – no desire being regarded as any better than the others – and is thus ruled by the lowest common denominator of the basest desires.  Finally and worst, we have tyranny, an outgrowth of the anarchy into which democracies tend to collapse.  It involves the most ruthless sort of egalitarian democratic soul imposing its will on the others.

Now, what immediately displaced the Holy Roman Empire was the empire of Napoleon, which can be seen as a timocratic empire, the point of which was to advance the glory of Napoleon himself qua conqueror.  The British Empire, meanwhile, might be seen as having been essentially oligarchic (in Plato’s sense) insofar as its orientation was toward commerce.  That is even more true of the Pax Americana that succeeded the British Empire, the United States being an empire in everything but name.  And as American economic power has increasingly shifted away from an emphasis on manufacturing to the information economy and the dissemination of American popular culture, it has come to approximate something like a democratic empire, an empire of egalitarian desire. 

But the dissolution of national loyalties has also begun to move this empire’s center of gravity outside the United States.  Indeed, it seems that the heart of this evolving oligarchic-cum-democratic empire will ultimately not be found in Washington, New York, Silicon Valley, or perhaps any other specific location.  It will be dispersed throughout the world, a vast network of governments, multinational corporations, and NGOs, whose leaders are all committed to the same basic program – liberation, equality, and an ever increasingly radical sexual revolution.

Plato indicates what this kind of system is likely to morph into, as does St. John.  And while it might be characterized as a Roman empire of sorts, it is more like the pre-Christian version, and most definitely not holy.

Related posts:

Tyranny of the sovereign individual

Liberty, equality, fraternity?

A clarification on integralism

Continetti on post-liberal conservatism

111 comments:

  1. You really are taking serious those medieval political texts. Great work, professor!

    Question though: Dante's work Monarchia was put on the list of forbidden books back in the day. That indicates that Catholic authorities found some or most of its ideas problematic. As a theologian, what would you say is wrong with Dante's argument, if anything?

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    1. I'm not Catholic, so I can't say "what is wrong" with Dante's argument from that perspective. But, I'm guessing Monarchia was forbidden because Dante argued that papal and imperial authority should reside in different persons, and that neither authority is derived from the other, but both directly from God.

      For those interested, you can access the full text of Monarchia (Latin and English) at Princeton Dante Project

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    2. My recollection from the Divine Comedy is that Dante did not regard the temporal power as subordinate to the spiritual power on earth, but rather its equal though with separate jurisdictions.

      In Canto XIX, for example, he denounces the Donation of Constantine, whereby Constantine is alleged to have granted sovereignty over the western part of the empire to the Pope:

      Ah Constantine, what evil marked the hour--
      not of your conversion, but of the fee
      the first rich Father took from you in dower!


      I think that was one of the main themes of Monarchia that got him in trouble.

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  2. I can see the philosophical rationality, ok. But can this even possibly work? Is giving power to someone to rule places completely disconected from where this persons is and with completly diferent cultures, contexts and problems really a good idea?

    I dunno, it seems to me that a ruler of a empire would hardly be capable of understanding most of the people he rules, not to mention that it will be dificult to even make him care. Original sin screwed things a lot, i don't think i trust the idea of having organizations with even more power that modern States existing. Trans-national corporations for instance are not very cool.

    We have examples of contries that are mini-empires today,and it not that pretty. Sure they would in no way resemble Dante view, but even his version of the empire still would be made of men, and they usually are not canonization-material...

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    1. The problem with modern states is that there is imperium in imperio that leads to chaos and destruction. Formalizing power will, in the abstract, lead to greater stability, but we've been accustomed to informal power for so long that the thought of someone assuming direct control will surely be rejected by the majority of people, resulting even greater chaos. I imagine there will be dark times ahead of us.

      The point here is that we ought not see modern states as being examples of what empires necessarily look like. Especially not what Christian empires will look like. And even then, Feser talked about the practical difficulties of the theory when he pointed out the theoretical mistake it makes (the danger of collapsing the natural and supernatural into a single category).

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    2. I don't think i understood your point about the diference between a empire and a modern state. Are you saying that besides the state there is other informal powers that tend to wreck our stability? I agree that these(like corporations for instance) exist and that they need to be tamed, but i don't think a empire would help much, the emperor is a man after all.

      Don't get me wrong, i hate the idea that the modern state is supreme in its dominion and don't have to answer to a superior, not to mention other problems with it. Having the christian view and a common culture as the defalt would be superior to pluralism in every metric, but i just fail to see how it could actually work in pratice.

      Maybe that is because i tend to think in modern states only and i admit that, for i really need to study history, so i can just have a modern head when the subject is politics. But i can't see how things could be better in reality.

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    3. Imperium in imperio is literally a state within a state. See, people tend to fight among each other for rather stupid reasons, so they need a common reference point, a center of power, to act as the arbiter of conflict. When the center crumbles, conflict emerges.

      In our modern society, you have two political tribes (Leftists and Rightists) who do not share a common center. This creates a civil war. This outcome is inevitable whenever you try to destroy the center, which is what democratic regimes claim to have done when they overthrow monarchies. But doing this only transfers the monarch's power from one to several. You have a bunch of people that are all making decisions rather than a single, executive decision. You can see why this is bound to cause chaos, no?

      Now, a modern might question whether putting power into the hands of a single man is a wise idea. But someone like St. Thomas or Dante, were he to have full knowledge of our current situation, would say something like "the difference between a monarchy and a 20th-century-style dictatorship is that the latter were not stable royal dynasties, or anything close; they rested entirely on the personal position of the dictator, whose absolute authority concealed contending factions at all times, and could at any time have shattered into those factions. If the mere death of a single human being, for instance, can result in regime change, a regime cannot be regarded as stable. It thus exists in a state of permanent if suspended civil war.

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    4. Don't get me wrong, i hate the idea that the modern state is supreme in its dominion and don't have to answer to a superior, not to mention other problems with it. Having the christian view and a common culture as the defalt would be superior to pluralism in every metric, but i just fail to see how it could actually work in practice.

      I believe that the answer to the problem is subsidiarity. The ideal solution is that there is a higher government to appeal to, but its sphere of action is narrower than that of individual states: it's job is not to see whatever errors the individual states are making and over-write the laws of those states to fix them. It's job is more that of seeing what are the problems of the lower states impeding them from successfully acting and help them overcome them. (Think of a parent of grown children who are starting their own households: the parent's job is not to RUN the household of each adult child, but to guide, suggest, and on occasion help out with 'bigger problems' that the child cannot solve alone.) And, of course, keep the individual states from starting unjust wars between each other.

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    5. @Mister Geocon

      I agree with almost all you said, only that i feel like democracy could work in smaller and way more homogenous and traditional states while not creating the tribalism we see on our modern states.

      Monarchy is cool, the problem is more with the emperor above the individual states. There i become more skeptical.

      @Tony

      I can see how it works in theory, it looks very good. It is just that in pratice the emperor likely would not be capable of connecting much with most countries, thanks to the cultural diferences, and likely could get away with protecting his own interests in several ocasions. To me this makes the probability of the power getting abused pretty high.

      But i'am more familiar with our modern politics and a do see the appeal of having a adult taking care of politics, so i admit that i could just be overly-skeptical.

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    6. Talmid, there is no doubt that when there is a locus of power of any sort above a more local power, there will be a tendency for the overarching power to (a) accrue to itself more power, and (b) to use the power it has so as to feather its own nest rather than solely for the common good. This is inevitable, given fallen human nature. And no doubt constitutes a major reason to question the rightness of erecting such an overarching power.

      But this problem (and the argument) applies at ALL levels above the household or neighborhood (as Feser hinted at). In order to have a city government, or county, or state government, you have to cede authority to a higher power that itself then constitutes a potential basis for corruption.

      The answer can't be simply "then don't allocate power to any higher level" across the board. And given that, it seems likely that at least in part, the answer would seem to entail something like "how do we restrain / check the tendency toward corruption" in the higher power(s)? Subsidiarity, arguably, proposes something of a framework for doing so - while leaving the details still to be worked out. And yes, even with a "pretty good" arrangement, it can still fail because humans are endlessly inventive for taking care of numero uno. Short of the Second Coming, there is no definitive way to preclude corruption in government.

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    7. Tony, I really appreciate your response because I think it goes to the heart of the issue. On the one hand, so long as there is not an ultimate authority to settle disputes, there will be a state of war between those authorities which are not ultimate. On the other hand, as soon as you have an ultimate authority with necessary power to enforce his judgements, original sin will begin its dirty work of corruption away from the common good.
      The founders of America were not unaware of this problem, it seems to me. Their solution was a pragmatic one. Instead of instituting an ultimate central authority which would be overly threatened by corruption, they decided to institutionalize perpetual, civilized warfare. Faction would be trained to fight faction not with guns but with votes and public argument. The ultimate authority would be an unchanging document (the constitution) not any one member of the competing branches of power. In this way, the effects of faction would be mitigated, since the founders judged that only a tyrannical power could mitigate the cause of factions.
      Now, I have reservations about this argument. Nonetheless, it seems to me that monarchists and integralists tend to straw man the arguments of the founders. Would you be willing to steelman this argument from the founders, and then respond to it?

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    8. @Tony

      I see. Every level of government will have this problem, that is true. It is just that it seems that the more one level of rulers is separate from the ruled it becomes easier to corruption to happen, so i tend to be very skeptical of the idea of a world-authority.

      But subsidiarity is actually a possible way of dealing with that yes. Having the empire only taking action when necessary would be great. It is just that i don't see a good way of ensuring that this would be how things normally operate, but that can just be me lacking imagination because of the way the world is strutured now.

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  3. A thousand, nay, a million times thank you!!!
    - John

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  4. It's an interesting subject. The Holy Roman Empire never quite got off the ground in terms of universality or effectiveness, but the aspiration was certainly there, from the time of St. Augustine.

    Dante might not be the best exponent of the idea. According to the great sociologist and historian, Christopher Dawson (Dynamics of World History) "[Dante's] views... differed widely from those of St. Thomas [Aquinas] and even more from those of St. Augustine. Here for the first time in Christian thought we find the earthly and temporal city regarded as an autonomous order with its own supreme end...” Dante had been influenced by Greek humanism and idealization of ancient Rome: “Dante's view of the Empire is entirely opposed to that of St. Augustine. He regards it... as a holy city specially created and ordained by God as the instrument of his divine purpose” In this, he looked forward to the Renaissance according to Dawson. Dante's hero-worship of Henry VII and attitude towards the Papal States does not help matters.

    The quotes from Pope John Paul II are light years from Quas Primas. Pius XI wanted personal recognition for the lordship of Christ from political and social institutions. Since Vatican II, this demand of the Church has also become dormant.

    In the same work, Dawson explores St. Augustine's views on Church and state and concludes that he was unjustly characterised as a supporter of theocracy: "Under the Roman Empire, as in the sacred monarchies of the oriental type, the state is exalted as a superhuman power against which... the individual will has no power... In the West, however, St. Augustine broke decisively with this tradition by depriving the state of its aura of divinity and seeking the principle of social order in the human will".

    But the idea of a Christian international like the HRE is great and worthy of attention. We've reached a dead-end with nationalism.

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  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3yp6Z8N3Xc&t=1s

    I made this video which many in tradcath circles really liked about the HRE. I feel it's relevant?

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    1. Interesting video, i admit that i did not know that you could actually appeal to the emperor back them. It is a bit diferent from today where if you have a problem with the State you are pretty much screwed.

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    2. One man vs. an impenetrable bureaucracy. There is something striking about that, as well as the idea that one bad man just has to die and then you get a chance at a good or half-decent ruler. Then again, there don't seem to be many of those either.

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  6. It is perhaps noteworthy that there was a serious response to Dante's Monarchia by a Dominican theologian:

    https://www.amazon.com/Monarchia-Controversy-Historical-Accompanying-Translations/dp/B00891FPS4

    The introduction puts the controversy into context. It's too bad that the book is so expensive.

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    1. This one is a bit cheaper https://www.abebooks.com/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=30738269107&cm_sp=det-_-bsk-_-bdp

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  7. Thanks for articulating why you and your kind need to (and will) be kept from political power by any means necessary.

    You're all for world government, as long as YOU get to be the ones in charge. Of course, when you aren't, THEN it's a "violation of national sovereignty" and "tyranny". But these aren't (and never were) sincere objections.

    And what happens when your Dear Leader decides he isn't going to go by Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas? (Or, on the other hand, if he follows Aristotle to the letter and decides that slavery is just the way things have to be?) I'd really like to know.

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    1. GoneOffTheDeepEnd,

      1) The possibility of a corrupt world government doesn't prove that world governments are bad any more than the possibility of corrupt government doesn't prove that governments are bad.

      2) Someone who takes seriously the teachings of Classical philosophy and Christianity isn't going to be a tyrant simply because they're going to (attempt to) act in accordance with the correct morality. So your point about Feser not having "sincere objections" is moot.

      3) Edward Feser doesn't endorse Dante's position and, in fact, points a flaw in it. You are either an idiot or were so hasty that you didn't bother to read the post.

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    2. Get real.

      1) World governments are bad, unless the Church is running the show of course, in which case there is a real case to be made for it, and never mind national sovereignty or subsidiarity.

      2) Except for those pesky historical details about how many who did take classical philosophy and Christianity actually did act like tyrants and supported slavery and perpetrated things like the Crusades and Inquisition, put heretics to death, kidnapped Jewish children from their parents, forced young women to work in Magdalene laundries, and many other things, all in the name of acting "in accordance with the correct morality". Yes, I know you'll make a No True Scotsman reply, but it won't be availing.

      3) These are weasel words. He quotes it approvingly, saying that Catholic doctrinal principles informed this theory of the empire, and strongly implies it would be far, far, superior to our modern democracy. Rather than rejecting it outright for the dangerous nonsense that it is. What do you call a person who says, "Well, I personally don't think blacks are inferior to whites, but it is a serious view which deserves serious consideration, and was and is held by many important people"? That's right, a racist.

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    3. GoneOffTheDeepEnd,

      1) Obviously, a hypothetical Catholic world government would need to respect subsidiarity. The model that is suggested is that there'd be an emperor on top, kings below him ruling regional areas, and lower governments ruling on down. The emperor would only get involved if there was a dispute between two or more kings, and he'd get involved because the alternative to this would be violent conflict.

      2) Your argument presupposes that Christianity is immoral, which is something you need to actually argue for, as opposed to, you know, just asserting. Pointing to this or that historical instance of a Christian doing a bad thing isn't going to prove anything. I can just point to historical leaders that agreed with your politics (whatever they are) and say "look at these bad things they did! Therefore, we can't endorse this ideology whatsoever!"

      For instance, you can point to Jews being kidnapped from their parents as an example of Christians being evil, but it's not an example of Christians behaving according to Christianity, as such behavior violates the Natural Law.

      3) Saying that it's better than modern democracy doesn't mean that he has no problem with it. And claiming that it's "dangerous nonsense" comparable to racial supremacism makes you look unhinged. At least give an argument as to why it's dangerous rather than asserting it.

      Overall, your entire complaint rests on two unproven assertions (that Christianity is evil and that Dante's monarchism is comparable to racism) and on reading into Edward Feser's text evil intentions. I suggest you get onto proving those unproven assertions if you want to continue this convo.

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    4. Inquisition and the Crusades were good as a whole, if not in all their details. So there.

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    5. 1) Fine, and when a country decides it no longer wishes to be a part of this world supernation (in order to prevent violent conflict), then what? Send in the troops, right? Conservatives constantly tell us how the Civil War was really the "War of Northern Aggression" and the South had the right to self-determination. But, if the Catholic Church is in charge, suddenly this principle no longer applies.

      2) Huh? I'm nowhere claiming Christianity or classical philosophy is intrinsically immoral (not as a fundamental component of my argument, anyway). I'm asking what happens when your Dear Leader, despite all his rhetoric, doesn't actually act in accordance with it. Like Pius IX, when he ordered the kidnapping of that Jewish boy. And I'm saying that simply because someone SAYS he is going to act in accordance with all that doesn't mean he ACTUALLY WILL.

      3) And what's that supposed to prove? No government can be perfect. But yes it is "dangerous nonsense" to suppose that a world Emperor could wind up better than modern democracy, despite all its flaws. That world Emperor might just decide to put Christians to death, after all. (And happened during the history of the allegedly wonderful Roman Empire). It kind of reminds me of that famous line in A Man for All Seasons, where St. Thomas More isn't willing to throw out the rule of law to go after the devil.

      @Kyle:

      Yeah, sure. Just don't whine to me about "cancel culture".


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    6. Conservatives constantly tell us how the Civil War was really the "War of Northern Aggression" and the South had the right to self-determination.

      Such conservatives are wrong. The 'right to self-determination' is liberal codswallop.

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  8. This entire discussion just confirms what a bunch of cranks Feser and his doting acolytes are. There could be no greater nightmare than a world government of the kind they advocate.

    I still strive for the rebuilding of the Communist International myself , and for the international socialist revolution. There is unfinished busness from 1917.

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    1. So the world government you advocate for is going to be just peachy, eh?

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    2. "There could be no greater nightmare than a world government of the kind they advocate."

      Under a world government of the kind we advocate, the sort of capitalistic careerist nonsense that's going on today would go out the window - not in favor of socialism, mind. But in favor of a vocationalism that views one's work as more connected to the good of one's family and community than as connected to personal wealth, power, or gratification. With less incentive to accumulate wealth (as one's sense of well being is no longer connected to financial success), income gaps would shrink. With dramatically decreased pressures towards competition, the workplace would become a saner, gentler place. This is the beginning of social justice, is it not?

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  9. Classic. Simply reporting what Dante et al. said is enough to give GoneNuts and Anonymous the vapors. Meanwhile, calling to finish the "unfinished business from 1917" is totally non-crankish. Got it.

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    1. Dont waste time on the trolls professor!

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    2. There is a certain type of simpleton that believes that just talking about an argument and seriously entertaining it means that you must be 100% on board with it. I fear that the trolls you suggested are of that nature.

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    3. Actually Feser, there are plenty of academics, far more eminent and accomplished than your maggot level in philosiohy, who would support the completion of the attempted project of 1917. I have been reading recently the writings of Prof Alex Callinicos of London University for example.

      The point is that it is easy to spot and decry what one takes to be extremism in another, but to be oblivious to it in oneself. With respect to you, it fair knocks a neutral unbiases observer over the head.

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    4. So those are mainstream cranks then, anonymous?

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    5. Hey professor, why are you feeding the trolls? You are always telling us not to.

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    6. Imagine unironically thinking that the project of Lenin is worth continuing. Were 390,000 kulaks, 800,000 executions, 1,700,000 gulag victims, and 400,000 deaths during forced deportations not enough blood for you? And the Marxist infestation of academia is the source of a fair number of the cultural problems afflicting the West today.

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    7. Dont waste time on the trolls professor!

      Hey professor, why are you feeding the trolls? You are always telling us not to.

      Touche. I need to stop checking comments at bedtime.

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    8. Cantus

      The slightest reflection should reveal to you that the items you list were not a consequence of the struggle for international socialism per se, but of the failure of the revolution to spread - particularly to Germany in the first instance - and so to its isolation in Russia. Trotsky analysed the ensuing events in great detail, culminating in the degeneration of the revolution and the establishment of a political formation under Stalin that I would characterise as state capitalist, though there are other Marxist analyses of it.

      The take away point is that between the idealism and hope of 1917 and the unfortune events you list, a lot happened, and this needs dissecting in detail if it is to be properly understood. Rubbishing the project of international socialist revolution because of how things turned out in 1917, without a full analysis of what actually occurred and why, is idiotic.

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    9. Anonymous,

      Just out of curiosity, are there any countries in the world today that you think represents (at least to some extent) "the idealism and hope of 1917"? If so, which characteristics of those countries appeal to you the most? If not, what do you think needs to be done to make them a reality?

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    10. @Anonymous

      I chose Stalin merely because he is the most prominent and outstanding example of the horrors that the Soviet Union imposed on its people and on the world, but Lenin has plenty of blood on his hands too, as does every socialist country. Your utopian dream has been the primary or secondary cause of the vast majority of the great evils of the 20th century, the bloodiest in history, and your use of the classic "Not Real Socialism" canard to evade the fact that your ideology is responsible for Stalin is utterly typical. Certainly Stalin believed he was a socialist, and very great swathes of socialists both historically and even some today believe that Stalin was a socialist (some of them even believe he was one of the greats). Tell me, then does "real Socialism" exist, or has it ever existed at any point? I find that this question ends up being a moot point fairly often, as nearly every Leftist has their own different definition of "real socialism". If you won't define what you mean by this, then I will consider you as merely saying whatever you need to protect the lustre of your ideology. If you will, then I will consider continuing discussion with you.

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    11. Nemo

      Of course not. Socialism can only be achieved permanently on an international basis, as the economic and military pressures from the capitalist world would limit, undermine and ultimately subvert/overthrow it in one country.

      What is required is the building internationally of revolutionary socialist parties in the Bolshevik mould and tradition, and the recreation of a communist international devoted to the international revolutionary overthrow of the existing order, by the organised working people themselves.

      Of course, the above is a Herculean task, and although I am involved in the building of a revolutionary socialist party here in the uk ( part of a nascent International), the bulk of my regular political activity is much more pedestrial of course!

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    12. Anonymous,

      In other words, you won't have true socialism until socialists take over the entire world and crush their opposition utterly?

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    13. Anonymous,

      The fact that you're devoting your life to this task suggests that the socialist ideals strongly appeal to you. So I'm still curious what they are.

      Why do you think an international revolution will realize those ideals, if they have never been realized even on a very limited scale?

      Incidentally, I've read Communist Manifesto, wherein Marx and Engels made an amazingly prescient and accurate prognostic of the problems of capitalism, which are currently being exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, I find their proscribed cure lacking in substance, and therefore far less persuasive: It doesn't even work in theory, let alone in practice.

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    14. Right Ed, because it's not nuts to believe Dante was actually correct, right? What's next? An article on how spontaneous generation is a reality (as was believed by many Medievals) and the truth is hushed up by the scientific community?

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  10. Any book suggestions to learn more about the HRE?

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    1. I don't have any book recommendations of my own, but Feser linked to two books in his post, so presumably those might earn his recommendation.

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  11. I have been reading 'The Cave and the Light – Plato versus Aristotle, and the struggle for the soul of western civilisation' by Arthur Herman. I think the writer overstates his thesis at some points, and the last few chapters are overly America-centric. However I think he is generally right about political systems. He contrasts that of Plato, which leads to various kinds of totalitarianism, with that of Aristotle, which leads to states where there are checks and balances and therefore greater liberty. I say this through gritted teeth, because in most things I am a Platonist rather than an Aristotelian.

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    1. Don't worry. The idea that Plato is totalitarian is false. It's baseless slander.

      First, Plato is not an idealist in the sense that Kant and Hegel were. Idealistic metaphysics and epistemology are incompatible with Platonism, which is a realist philosophy. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that Plato would endorse the idealistic theory of society as an organic mental entity, living a life of its own apart from the individuals included within it. Though he was no pluralist or individualist, you will not find within Plato the idea of a group will or a group mind. You instead find in his writing an emphasis on the power of ideas to unite different individuals into a community. He endorsed the idea of the common good, but this isn't some kind of totalitarian concept (as some libertarians claim it is).

      Second, though who consider him to be a "collectivist" will be surprised to find in his work a great emphasis on the power of individual reason. The human person, according to Plato, is not entirely determined by historical forces. No matter the conditions man finds himself in, so long as he has his reason, he may choose to either follow the crowd or strike out on his own. In the human soul, the battle of reason and humanity against materialism and tyranny rages, and the results of this battle will decide the flow of history. Social justice in society must first come from the personal justice within the human person. No matter how degenerate a society may be, virtuous individuals always can rebel and reverse things.

      I'll quote from John Wild's book Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law: "Plato's final answer to totalitarianism is the life and work of Socrates. To anyone who is seriously about this, the only possible suggestion is: read the dialogues for yourself and see." If you read Plato's works for himself (as opposed to through the lens of unhinged liberal ideologues like Karl Popper or Ayn Rand), you find that Plato, while far from perfect, is not a totalitarian.

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    2. Someone could write a very interesting, compelling book on how Plato's and Aristotle's philosophies influenced political thought in the West, but The Cave and the Light is not it. The author's analysis is too superficial and Manichean. He tries to attribute every negative aspect of modern political thought to Plato (and every positive aspect to Aristotle). The author is a classical liberal of sorts, so he tries to attribute the liberalism he likes (e.g., the sort represented by Enlightenment thinkers like Locke) to Aristotle and the liberalism he doesn't (e.g., Rousseau, the Romantics, Marx) to Plato. I think a more compelling theory would be that modern political theory (including classical liberalism) has suffered insofar as it has rejected both Aristotle's and Plato's thought.

      The basic problem with modern political theory is that it is secular, i.e., it tries to prescind from questions of man's ultimate good. Instead, modern political theory bases the political order on either some this-worldly good (e.g., the state, or the race in the cases of Fascism and Nazism, respectively) or the individual freedom to pursue one's own vision of the good (liberalism).

      Such a conception of the state is very far indeed from Plato's.

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    3. Thank you Geocon and Ian for your helpful comments. I suspected, and said as much, that Herman overstates his case. I find it useful to read different views on the Plato versus Aristotle question.

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    4. Jonathan,

      You're very welcome. I do recommend John Wild's book Plato's Modern Enemies and the Theory of Natural Law. It's pretty good, actually.

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    5. A few more thoughts on Plato and totalitarianism:

      No doubt the reason that Plato is sometimes regarded as an incipient totalitarian is because of the grotesque and inhuman features of his 'ideal' state in the Republic. (Although it's perhaps worth noting that this is not actually the ideal state according to Socrates: Socrates initially proposes a much more minimal state for consideration as the ideal state. This is rejected by his interlocutors as too 'spartan', so he then proposes the notorious 'totalitarian' state as a sort of concession.) In my opinion thought, it is a mistake to get caught up in the details of this state though, because it misses the larger point of the book. The larger theme of the book is to illustrate what justice is, in both the soul of man and in the city, and this consists of the parts of the soul/city being properly ordered and in harmony with one another, with reason/wisdom guiding the lower parts of the soul/city. Since reason is ordered to God as its highest good, it follows that the just state ought to be ordered to God as its highest good.

      No doubt some aspiring totalitarians have drawn inspiration from the more unsavory aspects of the Republic, but at a fundamental level, what has animated every aspiring totalitarian is not Plato's philosophy, but secular ideology.

      Totalitarianism arises from absolutizing some this-worldly principle. When you make the individual, or the race, or the state your ultimate standard, then in principle nothing outside it is permitted to limit it, and the standard is allowed to take over every aspect of life. There is no higher standard by which to judge or restrict its reach. Modernist ideologies are also afflicted by rationalism, whereby every problem in society is regarded as susceptible to human, 'scientific' solutions. Things that transcend our full comprehension are relegated to the private sphere where they are not allowed to matter. The practical consequence of this is that they are suppressed from having any public significance.

      Plato's philosophy is oriented toward the transcendent Good. A state that is ordered to the transcendent Good absolutizes not a finite good, but rather an absolute, transcendent principle, one that is capable of ordering human society properly without one finite good overtaking all the rest.

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    6. That's all true, Ian, but one might also argue that since the state has, as its proper end a temporal common good, a state that is "A state that is ordered to the transcendent Good absolutizes not a finite good, but rather an absolute, transcendent principle" is also on the wrong track, it isn't the state's job to attend to that transcendental good as such, and a state that TRIES to is also totalitarian in a bad way. I think the answer is that the state must be limited precisely by acknowledging that there is an end outside its own proper good, to which it must be subordinate and allow its citizens to pursue not qua citizen but qua pilgrims of the heavenly city. I think it is hard to pull such a limiting corrective out of Plato.

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  12. So, what is the Holy Roman Empire? would seem to be the question being posed. It is, in Catholic terminology, the beatific vision applied to the state. Something, expressed in this-worldly terms, akin to an ideal, an ideology, excepting now informed or aided by divine intuitions, together with our natural reason.

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  13. Professor, you have a lot of really good material here. I liked especially your basic argument in for some form of governmental overlordship of the states. I feel sure that your usage of the term "empire" is a stand-in for "whatever form of authority stands above the individual states and can restrain them (to some extent, at least)", and need not be found, specifically, in the form of an emperor, i.e. one individual man. Though that would qualify as one example.

    I fear, though, that is line is unfounded and illogical:

    But as Friedrich Heer judges in his own book on the Empire, the dissolution of the Roman system was “an act for which [Francis] had no legal justification.”

    Indeed, as I have said, the theory of the Empire implies that it cannot be dissolved, not exactly, because the natural law and supernatural order require that there be such an institution.


    To me, that makes no sense. It is clear from all natural law theory that "the state" has a natural origin, in that man's social/political nature CALLS FOR there to be a political order, and there being ANY political order calls for there being some higher form that is (relatively) self-sufficient and holds something like "plenary" political authority. Good enough.

    But the theory that there should be a state does not, all by itself, CAUSE there to be a specific political state in existence. When a state first comes into existence, there are always contingent, accidental circumstances that might have been otherwise, and that mean the state might have been called into existence a little earlier, or a little later. The Republic of Texas was called into existence in 1836, but it might have been started in 1835 or 1837. One cannot reasonably say that Texas "really existed in 1835 because it could have been made a juridic operating "person" in 1835 (though it wasn't), and be making a juridic thesis. At best one might be making a "de facto" thesis, that the polity of Texas began to exist de facto in 1835, but this is decidedly NOT the de jure claim, and no official enactment later would point to a 1835 date as a formal (de jure) basis for authority.

    Your assertion holds even less water for dissolution: while the coming to be of a new state is always somewhat cloudy precisely because, before it exists, there is no clearly authoritative source who can proclaim its existence, the reverse is true of dissolution: In the case of an existing monarch, he can indeed use his political authority to dissolve the government and abdicate. He can also, (arguably) also use his acknowledged authority to cause one state (his own state) to merge together with another to become one new entity of which he is not the sovereign authority thus accepting something of a demotion or even eradication of his own particular office in favor of a newly constituted office with higher authority. Monarchs have done so repeatedly, and nobody claims that they can't have done so because there is no such authority.

    The fact that "nature desires such a thing and 'tends toward' it as to a good" does not cause there to be an ACTUAL (as opposed to the potential for) a political state. No more, then, does nature alone cause an overarching imperial authority over states to actually exist. And because any given actual state or empire comes into existence contingently with a certain form and a certain juridic set of specifications - through the specific acts of men in certain specific ways that were not metaphysically necessary - it can also cease to exist through some contingent events carried out by men acting in certain specific ways, such as by dissolving the juridic body, or by being defeated in battle.

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    1. It is a non-starter to claim that the "Roman" empire "went dormant" in the 400's when defeated by barbarian tribes with nobody to pick up the pieces, and that it "came back to active status" 300 years later among a DIFFERENT people, with rulers who in no way received their authority from the Roman state or the juridic authorities of the Roman Empire. The new empire was a new juridic being, whatever the paper claims were to color it.

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    2. Tony, you're right to say that states and the revived Empire are contingent. Generally speaking, monarchs needed at least tacit approval from social institutions to radically alter the nature of those societies, or should have; they weren't their private property.

      Personal union is the best form of supranational unification in modern times. The chances of recreating institutional uniformity along the ancient Roman model are nil. The example of the universal monarchy that existed in 1605 shows that sharing a monarch (or being allied with him) entailed practically no social or political changes in each country, while preventing them from making war with each other. It's unlikely to happen again except by agreement and in extraordinary circumstances.

      While it's true that the HRE lacked continuity, the link was provided by the Church, and the Papacy in particular. Political authority might not come from the Papacy, but the Papacy is universal and Roman.

      Just as there are many Roman Churches that have been in continuous use since classical times, the Papacy and the Church is the only living link with that past. In addition it is the universal guarantor of faith and morals and should counsel, adjudicate, and even intervene in civil society in special circumstances.

      As you say, societies are contingent. Only the Church will last till the end. The rest, like families, have a beginning, the result not of myth or divine intervention but human decision (and often an end as well).

      Roman universality still walks the earth in the shape of Pope Francis. While jumping through PC hoops as he sees fit, he still runs a Roman institution which is on the same plane as the superpowers of today. Part of this universality is a refusal to be subject to any of these powers. His policy on China and treatment of Pompeo made this clear. How his deal with China works out is another matter. However, he was dealing with the Confucianist naturalist heart of darkness and got them to agree to something which is against their laws (Chinese accepting instructions from foreigners). The Pope intervenes in many other ways, and gets criticised for it. But the link to ancient Catholic Rome continues and will outlive him and his good and bad actions. We are lucky!

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    3. Generally speaking, monarchs needed at least tacit approval from social institutions to radically alter the nature of those societies, or should have; they weren't their private property.

      Agreed. But with that social approval, they could indeed merge two kingdoms into one, juridically, (often with a de facto merger having already taken place in part, with the rest occurring over the next 100 years). Spain in 1700 was one monarchy, not 3. In 1200, the king of England held one monarchy over England, not 4 or 7 or 20, (Essex, Wessex, Northumbria, etc).

      While it's true that the HRE lacked continuity, the link was provided by the Church, and the Papacy in particular. Political authority might not come from the Papacy, but the Papacy is universal and Roman.

      Yes, I had considered the Church and specifically the papacy. But it is extremely doubtful that the spiritual authority, which is distinct from the temporal authority (and both being granted from God and not derivatively one through the other), can constitute a bridge over which the juridic entity that had been the Roman Empire can hand on its authority to a new generation, separated by 300 plus years. Certainly not without the earlier temporal juridic person formally constituting the Church to be its delegate, vicar, etc. And especially when the new empire rules a different people.

      I have no problem with there being a new Roman-like Empire. There could even be two or three, one for Europe, one for the Americas, one for Asia (for example). There is simply no sound philosophical reason to suppose that a new institution of empire MUST be the old Roman Empire made active today. Certainly the British Empire in her heyday was not merely the revived Roman Empire, any more than the Chinese Empire was "the Roman Empire in China".

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    4. What I had in mind with the events of AD 800 was not the Papacy as a means of transmitting the juridical entity of imperial Rome, but as adjudicator, intervening to push Christian countries towards unity.

      Government has its conventions concerning legitimacy, but, as Francisco Suarez argued, having political power pass from God through the people, who then alienate it to their government (through conventions or tacitly) allows the establishment of new political structures and the renovation of old ones. The Christian peoples who looked back to the empire were always in a position to establish new political structures.



      In itself, universality doesn't have to be Roman, but in practice, it is, not because Romans earned the right to rule others, as Dante argued, but because with them the potential of any pagan system had been reached. The Incarnation within the Roman empire was not a coincidence; Christianisation made it even more universal.

      Peoples of Catholic culture today mostly speak languages derived from Latin and have temperaments and a material culture that is closely linked to that of the Romans. The fact that they haven't really taken to any of the attempts at empire over the last 1500 hundred years is due to their realism, another Latin trait. Rome is in their being, but empire, to be taken seriously by them, will have to be real and universal. On the other hand, as such people are very, very numerous and live all over the globe, who can say what circumstances will induce them to produce a universal political expression.

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    5. The fact that they haven't really taken to any of the attempts at empire over the last 1500 hundred years is due to their realism, another Latin trait.

      Wait, I thought that much of Feser's point is that they "took to" an attempt at empire for nigh on 1000 years, in the central alleyway of Europe. Is 1000 years not enough time to be a real effort? Or is it that it was the Franks, the Lombards, the Bavarians, the Swabians, who formed the core of the HRE, none of whom had actually been ruled by the original Roman empire?

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    6. For sure the Carolingian and Ottonian versions almost got off the ground and were great examples of aspirational universalism and means of strengthening the Roman heritage. However, Dante himself does not prove continuity with the Roman Empire. Within their borders was an example of how a truly Roman and universal entity might have worked in those times. The problem was that most of the Christian world always lay outside those borders.

      The HRE, as it ended up in its final centuries was Germanic and not very universal in its profound religious division. When Francis II decided to become Francis I of the Austrian empire even before dissolving the HRE, he was not just reacting to Napoleon; image just couldn't be made to match reality.

      Dressing up doesn't help either. Napoleon's France couldn't be taken seriously as empire any more than Bokassa's Central African Empire.

      It has to based on universal principles like religion and a supranational political dimension. The obsession with Rome by Italians of the Renaissance filled them with dreams of a Roman revival in Italian form, but they weren't truly religious (esteeming pagan religion and despising the post-classical period) and were more a prefiguration of modern nationalism and romanticism in their chauvinism. Their infighting made them incapable of preserving themselves from external threats. Baroque civilisation, through its defeat of the Renaissance in Italy, gave the peninsula two centuries of comparative peace. Baroque civilisation was the true Renaissance of late Antiquity. It laid the basis, by bringing into being those countries populated by a billion people, and surrounding the "Old World", of any future universal political society.

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  14. This goes to show just how poor non-libertarian political philosophy has always been. The medievals were no exception. The "natural law" reasoning supposedly justifying -- nay, necessitating -- the existence of Muh Holy Roman Empire is based entirely on an obvious non-sequitor. It does not logically follow that because peoples need ways of peacefully settling their disputes that the existence of a supra-national empire is necessary.

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    1. As a curiosity, would you accept that on a smaller scale, a state monopoly on the dispensation of justice is necessary for a civilised society? In other words, that there must be a single legal system with the final jurisdiction over all disputes within a society?

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    2. As opposed to libertarian political philosophy, which can be summarized as "apathy as a political principle"? I mean, you can't even argue against Feser's position without strawmanning it. This shows the weakness of your own position, Anonymous.

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    3. "This goes to show just how poor non-libertarian political philosophy has always been."

      Which sort of libertarianism? Please do not say it is the right-wing kind...

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    4. Murray Rothbard was a much more astute political philosopher than literally any of then medievals. All of medieval political philosophy can be accurately summarized as "Man is a social animal, therefore the state." That's just poor logic.

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    5. Scholastic political thinkers did not move immediately from our social animality to political authority. You might find their views unpersuasive, but scholastics are pretty well-known for their logical form:

      https://books.google.com/books?id=Dt2yRMI8HKMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Annabel+Brett+social+political&hl=en&newbks=1&newbks_redir=0&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj1qKbVztDtAhUDKKwKHVYTAUgQ6AEwAXoECAIQAg#v=onepage&q=%22very%20society%20and%20familiarity%22&f=false

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    6. Anonymous,

      Murray Rothbard was a completely incompetent philosopher who couldn't give a competent argument for the self-ownership principle, as Edward Feser showed.

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2009/08/rothbard-as-philosopher.html

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    7. @Ancap Anon

      Give us one example of a criticism that Rothbard make of the State that:

      1. Is a necessary feature of the State
      (for if it is a contingent one them you can't use it to reject ALL States)

      2. Can't also be aplied to a capitalist or a landlord
      (For if they also do the same thing then the ancap view is incoherent)

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    8. I love that a bunch of athiest jews who love abortion are somehow the first ones to really get it right or have any coherent political philosophy in several thousand years. Does encouraging mass child murder do something to boost your IQ or something?
      Perhaps they are able to keep their passion for killing unborn children distinct from all their other ethical and political philosophy, however I am content to disregard anyone who seriously advocates murdering children without any further consideration and I think it's a perfectly reasonable position to hold.

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    9. This passion is also shared by millennial cultures around the world ("first nations", China etc). Doubt if this excludes them from philosophizing.

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    10. It excludes me from taking anything they say seriously. If someone gets the most basic/obvious things wrong why would you expect them to somehow manage coherent insight into anything more complex? Sure they some disconnected point you find insightful, but their philosophy as a whole can't escape being either totally incoherent or totally out of touch with reality.

      Killing innocent children isn't just one political issue set we can agree to disagree on, it's an extremely basic moral question that ought to be obvious to anyone of sound mind. If someone supports abortion everyone also knows they will also support a long list of other depravities. If someone's mind is in contact with reality, there isn't any room for doubt on which side they will come down on that question.

      It's a very useful test to just see if someone is at a basic level in contact with reality, and if they are not why would I care about their descriptions of it?

      There is also the question of people who love and praise the thinkers who love mass child murder, are they in some similar way disconnected from reality as well? I'd assume it's just a lack of serious thought hopefully they will heal from with age, but I can't dismiss the possibility.

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    11. Rothbard was wrong on abortion, but no more wrong than the scholastics who believed Christian governments had a right and duty, where feasible, to torture, mutilate, and slaughter people who for no other offense than apostasy from the true religion or peaceful propagation of false ones.

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    12. Wait: wrongly killing those manifestly innocent is no more wrong than wrongly killing those manifestly guilty?

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    13. That's funny, because all of libertarian political philosophy can be accurately summarized as, "Do whatever you want, I don't care."

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  15. Please stop with the bath salts Ed. We are pretty worried.

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  16. Apologies in advance for an OT, but the Thanksgiving thread is weeks old now, and that's where I asked about the following. I will still be grateful for instruction:

    Why is the sentence, "all humans are rational animals / a human is a rational animal," synthetic and not analytic? It's not because some humans fail to actualize rationality, is it? The sentence analyzes out two concepts contained in our concept, Human. I ask about this example because GoneFishing generously offered it when asked to provide an example of a necessary truth that is not analytic.

    Thanks, F

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    1. Because necessary truths imply both logical and metaphysical necessity, whereas analytic propositions imply only logical necessity. It isn't logically necessary a human be a rational animal; only metaphysically necessary.

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    2. Sorry, not quite what I meant. I should have said that necessary truths imply either logical or metaphysical necessity.

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    3. @GoneFishing, thank you for your reply. I am sorry to belabor the point, and no need to answer again... so far I don't see why "a human is a rational animal" is synthetic and not analytic. I'm assuming here that if a proposition is not analytic, it is synthetic.

      Douglas Odergard seemed to say that "a human is a rational animal" is analytic: " ... the analytic truths that a man must have a body and that a body is something which is solid and extended..." (p. 249); "discovering the analytic truth, e.g., that a man is a rational animal" (p. 251), from "The Discovery of Analytic Truth," Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 26.2 (Dec., 1965), pp. 248-252.

      Analytic propositions are generally defined as those in which the predicate is contained in the subject, such that it can be analyzed out without requiring that we appeal to experience. Sextus Empiricus seems to have taken "man is a rational animal" as what we'd call analytic, for he wrote, "For just as, if we wish to learn what Man is, we ought to know first what Animal is, and what Rational is, and what Mortal is (for the concept of Man is compounded of these)..." M. VIII.87, tr. Bury. [Sextus includes Mortal because Stoics et al held that the gods too are ζῷα, living beings, but immortal.]

      Can you tell me who has argued that true analytic propositions might not be necessary truths? That seems to be the implication of your first reply. I haven't seen that position stated elsewhere.

      Again, no worries if nothing to reply. I'm trying to get this point right!

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    4. @GoneFishing, adding (I wish we could edit on this platform!):

      I should think that “a human is a rational animal” is true in all possible worlds, i.e. is a necessary truth, even in worlds in which there exist no humans. “A goat stag is an animal compounded of goat and stag” or the like is true in all possible worlds, is it not, even though goat stags do not exist in the actual world? This proposition, not being derived from experience, hardly seems a synthetic proposition. Or take the sentence, “If something is a goat stag, it is a goat stag.” That is a necessary logical truth and, some say, a kind of analytic proposition. It’s hardly synthetic. But it is true necessarily, for A = A.

      So I am confused.

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    5. On the other hand: is a rational animal necessarily a man?

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    6. @ Miguel Cervantes: I don't think a "no" answer to your question nullifies the analycity of "if it's human, then it's a rational animal." If there are other animals that are also rational, it doesn't follow that rationality is not part of the concept, human. This was already confronted by Sextus Empiricus (cf. above), whose formulation allows that gods as conceived of by many could be rational immortal "animals."

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    7. Yeah, but you have to appeal to experience to conclude that man is a rational animal, even though there are no possible worlds in which this isn't true. How do we know that dogs aren't rational animals? We observe them.

      And that's why "man is a rational animal" is a necessary truth, but not an analytic proposition (which can be seen as true a priori). It's true that by observation we can see that men have bodies and rational souls. But we can't get there without observation. Without observation, it would be epistemically possible that man in fact is not a rational animal. This is different than say, "A pentagon is a five-sided polygon" which we can see is true even if we have never seen a pentagon.

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    8. @ GoneFishing: what do you think of Kant's contention that "7 + 5 = 12" is a synthetic and not an analytic proposition?

      And I gather that you would think Odergard, whom I quoted above, was just wrong.

      Thanks for the feedback.

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    9. ficino4ml,
      @ GoneFishing: what do you think of Kant's contention that "7 + 5 = 12" is a synthetic and not an analytic proposition?

      Kant, not being a mathematician and having died before Peano ever lived, was wrong. It may have seemed synthetic to Kant with the level of knowledge he could access at the time, but 12 being the fifth successor of 7 is a definition of 12.

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    10. I agree with OneBrow's response regarding 7 + 5 = 12.

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  17. Dr. Feser, anyone, I'm a fledgling Christian struggling between RC and EO and this nativity scene feels like a punch in the gut. What can I do? Who is there to read? I love your work and it's something that will always compel me but at some point the dissonance becomes too much.

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    1. Hey Anonymous,

      I feel for you brother. Just remember, even a shabby Ark is still keeps you out of the raging seas.

      I think it would be good for you to follow the work of Erik Ybarra. He is a Catholic who writes a lot on Orthodoxy.

      Here he is on Pints w/ Aquinas talking about whether people should go Eastern Orthodox. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0LFumbMBnnc

      Here is his website: https://erickybarra.org/

      Here is a great podcast where Erik is a co-host. The other co-hosts are excellent too. https://reasonandtheology.com/

      I hope and pray that the peace of Christ reigns in your heart, especially during these times.

      Kyle

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    2. I appreciate your words of support-- they mean a lot to me, especially since this is a lonely place to be. Unfortunately, Ybarra's systematic deconstruction by apologists like Ubi Petrus was the most influential part of my rational side's conversion towards Orthodoxy. I just don't know of any Catholic scholars who have put enough time and thought into their differences with the East-- and that applies both to Orthodox and Uniates. People like Ybarra and Likoudis are both underprepared and unfairly isolated in their area of work. It seems to me like the Achilles heel of Catholic apologia, and I can't in good conscience ignore it.

      I'm deeply attracted to and confident in the Latin tradition of philosophy-- it's going to be personally and professionally difficult for me to "turn my back on it," so to speak (even though there is *tremendous* underexplored room for common ground alongside the Cappadocians, Palamas, Lossky). However, I'm not psychologically bound to my faith tradition to the same degree that I sense in many others, including Christians of every flavor.

      I need to find more reading, or I need some of these modern day RC geniuses (of which there are, luckily, many) to take a serious stab at this. Feser has very few blind spots, but Eastern thought is chief among them. Otherwise, at this rate, I'm going to have to publicly come out of the closet soon, and eventually join a new family.

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    3. @Anon
      (I had a bigger post but i lost it, maybe it sucked too much :), who knows)

      It seems to me, and i say that admiting that i dont' know much, that RC and EO are not as separate as you make it sound. More traditional-minded people on both sides make the Schim look like a war, but this seems just how this kinda of people see anything, so who cares. I agree with the normal catholic view nowdays: RC and EO have mostly complementary, not antagonic, views. Their approachs are both interesting and i don't see any as necessarily better, just diferent.

      This in theology, their ecclesiology is sure diferent because of one thing: the pope. Now, what makes me think that Rome got that one right is that the pope is just the sucessor of St. Peter, and i don't see where the "first amoung equals" is on the Gospels. Serious, to me it seems that Our Lord never saw Peter as just one apostle, to me it is clear that he had a higher mission between them all.

      So that is where i think it ends: Scripture. I'am no protestant, but in this case i think that Rome view wins out. Historical arguments have their importance, but we can't look at things like protestants and secularists do: "Well, this view was not the settled view in apostolic times, therefore it is a fake and gay latter development". The Church was not born mature, and i suppose that orthodox would not negate this, but like Our Saviour human nature she is growing since back them. Looking at the Gospels while looking at the two sides, i think that the papacy does comes from above.

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    4. And also a bit of advice: relax, man. You sounds anxious to me, and that is not good. I know that emotions can't be turned-off and i don't know anything about you, but don't focus on this that much. No matter what side is right you still have to remember that the faith does not depend on Feser or Ybarra, but on Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and His Church, this is where you have to put your trust, for only Him will never fail.

      Everybody has this moments of uncertainty, even saints, just remember that He is with you and will guide you to Himself. Maybe you can't refute some claims, that is okay for you are human, but don't let this destroy you. Pray, study, listen to the smart catholics, love and trust in Our Lord.

      I hope and also will pray that your heart be filled with the peace than Our Lord gave to us. Take care of yourself and don't give up!

      Also, from what i understand:

      If you become orthodox and EO is right, them you did good.

      If you become orthodox and RC is right them you probably followed a kinda valid path, even if not the ideal

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    5. *but like Our Saviour human nature she had to grow and(unlike Him) still do

      That part sounded weird...

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    6. Hi there, I'm sorry your post was lost, and I appreciate you reformulating such a kind response for me. I had the same view as you did before I took a serious look at Eastern thought, and since then, my reading has taken up two or three hours of every day. I love the idea of fitting theologoumena into the Church and I'm no anti-ecumenist but EO critiques are stronger and more riveting than I ever thought they would be. I'm going to give myself until the end of the year to make a decision. Thanks for all of your care.

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    7. Maybe there is actually strong diferences between the two churches and i don't know, but i don't see it at all, you don't have to be 100% thomist to be a catholic, just ignore trads and you are good to go, really. The Catholic Church did accept some Eastern churches since the Schism and they still have a lot of freedom to mantain their traditional way. I know that orthodox usually see Eastern Catholicism as a bunch of latinized fools, but i don't see much actual argument to that conclusion.

      I don't know about your sources, but everytime i see someone defending imcompatibility they aways make a false dichotomy between more "trad" versions of Thomism and Palamism, and this does not work. Not only the RC view is in no way "thomism or nothing" but some actually defend that the Hesychasm Controversy was mostly a misunderstanding caused by the diferent language used by the two sides. I'am very interested in Palamism myself, since i tend to agree with some criticism of Aquinas Absolute Divine Simplicity.

      That leaves us with the papacy, and i doubt that the orthodox can do much better that protestants in that subject, people like Scott Hahn did produce very interesting defenses of the catholic ecclesiology that uses a lot of Scripture, so you could check that out if interested.

      And don't hurry, man. You don't have a timer to do this, try to listen to the two sides at their strongest and, most important, try to listen to Him in prayer and in the rest of life, for He is the Way, the Truth and Life, after all.

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    8. @Conflicted anonymous

      As a Catholic convert living in a Orthodox-majority country, I can certainly relate when it comes to scandal produced by some of the recent occupants of the Apostolic See. However, scandal simply cannot be taken to be evidence; in fact, one should be careful so as not to allow it to interfere with rational considerations, if a truly rational conclusion is the desideratum. And for a Christian this goes doubly so because, as we know from the Gospel, at least before the very end the scandal would be grave enough so as to threaten even the elect and make Our Lord ask rhetorical questions concerning the future of the Faith.

      As an antidote one should perhaps keep in mind scandals of a less immediately visible nature, like the current and abiding schism between Constantinople and Moscow over Ukraine. This does not impact the way cultus looks and works, granted, however, at this point it involves already involves at least two opposing ecclesiologies that are at least as irreconcilable with each other as they are with the Catholic one, and I think it is readily obvious that such scandal is much worse than poor artistic taste/trendiness.

      The other reason I bring this up has a lot to do with the point made by Talmid above: appreciation of and adherence to Eastern thought as such do not commit one to EO. Ultimately, the choice before you concerns the rationally recognisable authority to submit to. It also happens to be the authority that approves councils and elevates the Saints to the altar and their writings into the doctrinal canon.
      Let’s be realistic (and Patristic): no matter how much you read every day (and I do not mean to discourage that), there will never come a day when you are knowledgeable enough so as to not need the visible Church for your doctrine, and not because of any defect on the part of your learning, but rather due to the nature of Christianity as a revealed religion.
      As no contestant is free of scandal, the visibility in question is rational and supersensible, and concerns the grounds for an intelligible, binding claim to your submission on pain of damnation. The rationality of such a claim is surely a necessary condition for being the Church, if not a sufficient one. And I submit that if scandal warrants specific investigation, the scandal above has much more to it.

      P.S.

      If you have any specific questions, I’d be happy to contact you. I’m not an academic, but as someone who had to grapple with this very issue I may be of at least some help (academics seem to be reluctant to write conversion manuals anyway). I’m also Russian and somewhat familiar with the literature in the language.

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  18. Hello Anonymous, are you an American? This isn't a theological or philosophical consideration, but when I had the same question as yours years ago, an Episcopalian (!) bishop told me that Eastern Orthodoxy tends to be very ethno-centered and "patriarchal" (he meant as in dominated by old men, not as in the ancient patriarchates). Later on I had to chuckle when a friend became Orthodox through a Russian emigre parish and told me that afterwards, one of the older women was remarking on how "Pat became Russian." In Modern Greek, the verb for "become a Catholic" is φραγκίζω, literally, "I become a Frank."

    There is the Orthodox Church of America, though. I think there are some Syrian churches in the USA that have a good number of non-Syrians in them.

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    1. Hi there, thanks for your reply. I am living and working in America, yes, but that could change. In any case, from my sample of a few dozen Orthodox churches, I've found them nothing but warm and accepting. I don't know if your message is that of encouragement to become EO or caution against it, but I appreciate your kindness all the same!

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  19. Very interesting post.

    Was the Byzantine Empire ever regarded as a candidate for this ideal, universal Christian empire? (Before the split, anyway). In some ways, it would seem to have been a more suitable candidate, since it could boast a continuity with the Roman Empire than the Holy Roman Empire lacked.

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  20. It's true that the Byzantine Empire seemed to have legitimacy in that there was material continuity with the Roman Empire. However, an uncatholic subjection of the Church to the state predated its schism and caused it to lose its universalist credentials. When religion becomes an adjunct to civil society, and is vaguely defined, civil society itself loses its religiosity. Moreover, if that civil society is universal in aspiration, any such claim is hobbled because the Church in its domain becomes progressively more provincial and local in character precisely because of its dependence on the state as in the Byzantine Empire. Attempts at sacralization of the state have always led to schismatic tendency, and "empire" as mere aggrandizement of a state (Reformation England and Ancien Regime France).

    Emperor Justinian's Edict of 535 set the tone for what was to follow. Although he allows a distinction between sacred the and the secular, their nature as two distinct societies and jurisdictions is vague. On one hand there is the "Imperial authority" and on the other, an amorphous "priesthood", whose moral wellbeing he states it is the imperial responsibility to watch over. Compare this with Pope Gelasius I in 494, who specified two powers in this world, "the sacred authority of the Popes and the royal power", and that in religious things, the emperor must submit to the authority of the Pope.

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  21. It appears to me that the above argument for a supra-governmental authority (above that of states) rests on a premise that may be true in some cases but not all.

    In all cases in which you have a community and thus a need for a communal director (i.e. a governing, organizing mind/person), the very premise of the "community" is that there is something that is a "common good", something that the many desire and intend. This is assumed by all Aristotelian - Thomist approaches, but it applies generally.

    The definition of "the common good" for a STATE usually bears a lot of overlap between the different states, but is also (typically) not going to be defined ENTIRELY in the same way by different cultures and different societies, there will be differences. Now, in general, an overarching supra-government can work within the overlap areas to direct the nations in common to what they all agree is at least WITHIN the common good.

    Mostly. But there are some foundational sine-qua-non elements of how the common good for a state is defined / determined that cannot be relegated to merely "well, that's the part that we don't agree on so the supra-government just won't go into that matter". The first such issue is whether the state's common good itself is ultimate, or whether there is something else beyond the state to which men may (or must) direct themselves. If the political, temporal order (taking into account the community of nations and the supra-government) is "all there is" and constitutes the highest end of man, that sets the stage for one kind of governing. But if there is an end for man that transcends the supra-polity of nations, and transcends the temporal order, to which man must direct himself as to his final end, then that sets the stage for quite a different kind of governing in the temporal order. It would imply that the supra-governmental authority (e.g. the emperor) must LIMIT himself and his governing according to a higher-order good, and he must accept constraints on how far to regulate men. (This principle also applies at the state level, too.) If the temporal "the common good" is "the good" for man only in a qualified sense, not an absolute sense, then the temporal government must allow men to organize themselves toward their final end distinctly from "the government", and must make room for that. "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, but give to God what is God's."

    And the crux of the matter is this: if one society on Earth is constituted mostly of those who deny such an end outside that of the temporal order (and have formulated their state government accordingly), and another society on Earth is constituted mostly of those who accept such an end as transcends the temporal order, then there cannot be a peaceful supra-government ruling both such societies. Their understanding of “the good” which stands as the principle which regulates that supra-government cannot be held IN COMMON, and thus any such attempt at a supra-government will necessarily seem to one of the societies to oppose their good, and can “rule” only in the way a conquering emperium does, by the iron fist.

    Currently the world has three main contenders for the nature of man and what constitutes his “the good” in finality. One is driven by secular humanism and insists that the good is ultimately temporal (even if they define it as a temporal utopia). One is driven by Islam and insists that man is a slave and “the good” is mainly that of the senses. The third is Christian and claims that man will be friends with God in heaven. These are fundamentally opposed views of “the good” for man. Hence any supra-government that rules over all of them must either give up on any common understanding of the common good, and/or rule by an iron fist over some of us. The former undermines the very meaning of a true government, and the latter represents oppression.

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    1. Perhaps another contender should be added as a main contender:

      The Buddhist-Hindu system - the good is beyond this temporal and conditioned material world and beyond what is of the senses. The good, under this system, is to be liberated from the conditioned to reach the Unconditioned.

      :)

      Cheers!
      johannes y k hui


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    2. Johannes, I don't know enough about the inter-relationship between Buddhism and Hinduism; I have always they were fundamentally at odds because Buddhism doesn't have personal gods, and Hindu does. But maybe in Hindu there is no god who is ultimate and grounds "the good" as such?

      In any case, I suspect that Christians and Buddhists could get along under a single supra-government for nearly all purposes, since their view of "the good" bears significant points of similarity. Don't know how far to take that.

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    3. I think that the empire presuposes a christian world, similar to how the HRE existed in the christian europe from back them. A society with a dferent view of the last things would likely not see the empire as having real authority.

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  22. Tony, your post raises a couple of important points. Firstly, the idea of universal leadership usually considered countries which were already Christian and therefore corresponded more to what a proper civil order should be. The common good may not always be agreed upon but is surely a mostly objective consideration. So your final comment about non-Catholics being oppressed is not necessarily such a cut and dried matter, in itself.


    Your other point about whether the state's common good itself is ultimate and the need for limitation based on a higher order, is warranted, because Dante's model is severely flawed. He was fond of analogies and they all point to the oneness of God, that man is in his image, that the relation of humanity to the emperor should be analogous to its relation to God, etc. But the analogies are distorted because they only concern a philosopher's God. Society should be analogous to the Trinitarian God of revelation.

    A properly functioning Christian society should not only reflect the principle of unity. Through its social orders, which are analogous to the variety that is the Trinity, it becomes a society of men made in the image of God (as Donoso Cortes liked to point out). At least that is the way Christian society viewed itself until the absolutism of the ancien regime.

    There is nothing in Dante's ideology preventing the state making an end of itself (apart from pious hopes that the ruler, being the "best", will do what's right). Other comments on this page mention the same thing: what would stop this supranational figure from becoming a tyrant? The answer to absolute sovereignty from the top is "social sovereignty" rising from the natural orders of society, (as opposed to artificial ones like parties and the market) highly structured at all levels (and not mere families - Bodin liked families, but there was nothing between them and state sovereignty in his absolutist theory which is now our society).

    Catholic political universality would merely reproduce subsidiarity at an international level. In this way, both the HRE and the worldwide Monarchy of the Baroque period had this characteristic of generally respecting local diversity, customs and political institutions. In Dante's theory there is no mechanism for this, and he looked forward towards the French ancien regime revolution.

    Dante never mentions the French monarchist anti-papal pamphleteers of the early 14th century from whom he derived most of his arguments. However they were not interested in a universal monarchy, only something which would eventually emerge as the absolutist state of the ancien regime in the 17th century. Dante's theory is interesting in that it already contains the ideological flaws that lay behind that state.

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    1. Another way in which Dante tended to prefigure the ideologues of the ancien regime and divinise the state was the the way in which his proposed monarch mimicked Papal jurisdiction. The Pope's authority is received immediately from God and is necessarily universal, but no temporal ruler can assume such a thing.

      This is because the civil order is just that: civil, not sacred. Its arrangements are the will of society itself. The divinisation of society and the state that came with the Renaissance found later expression, with ideologues like Richier and others, who created the foundations of the ancien regime. Their state was directly modeled on the Papacy. Such divinisation of the civil order eventually reached its logical conclusion in 1789.

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    2. The common good may not always be agreed upon but is surely a mostly objective consideration. So your final comment about non-Catholics being oppressed is not necessarily such a cut and dried matter, in itself.

      Well, I was actually thinking about the Christians being oppressed by secular humanists, as occurs now.

      I intentionally left as a separate question whether one state ought to be ruled by another power, because it is, for example, degenerate and its notion of "the good" is so degenerate that it cannot properly even rule itself. Aside from such considerations, if two societies have opposing views of what constitutes "the good", then one view ruling the other society will necessarily be FELT as oppression, and the governing will then not be at peace. Even if the ruling order is the one with the right view of the good, and rules well for that good, it will not be a peaceful governing. So, de facto there will be a defective system even if de jure the supra-government is ordered to the right ends.

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  23. Yes it's true of course, and when Catholic powers existed and were in a position to take over other countries there was debate as to its legitimacy.

    The culture of human sacrifice easily provided justification for the conquistadores in Mesoamerica. However, several proposals put to Phillip II and Phillip III for the conquest of China caused debate and were rejected. This was done on principle, not because there was anything to be lost by the attempts, as they were to be private expeditions mounted from America with Filipino, and potentially Japanese support.

    However, the protection of missionaries often justified the use of troops. Hatred and persecution of the Faith were also considered motives for intervention - Atahualpa's gesture of contempt for the Faith in Cajamarca cost him his freedom and ended the Inca empire.

    Any religious war involving invasion of the West would justifiably be followed by occupation of the offending country and a reordering of its society. It was done to Japan in 1945. Western liberals mostly believe it is legitimate to occupy a country to bring it their false ideology. They only question the feasibility of doing so. But you're right and in the absence of a major justification the common good with regards to supranational political organisation has to be understood and agreed upon by the countries which make it up.

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  24. This is a very fascinating OP. Indeed I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. It certainly provides an interesting contrast to Edward Gibbon's, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" more broadly.

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  25. Professor Feser, do you think this Holy Emperor should be a separate, lay, and subordinate position to the Papacy? Or should the Emperor simply be the Pope? I think the Fourth Lateran Council and the Papal Bull Unam Sanctam declared infallibly that the Pope had Supreme Temporal Authority. What are your thoughts on this?

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