Tuesday, December 12, 2023

On Vallier, Vermeule, and straw men (Updated)

Over at his Substack, Kevin Vallier responds to my recent review at The Josias of his book All the Kingdoms of the World.  Vallier claims that I “mislead the reader” vis-à-vis his characterization of the views of Adrian Vermeule.  In particular, says Vallier, “Feser… makes several claims that make it sound as if I think Vermeule endorses violence and authoritarianism.  Feser does note at one point that I say Vermeule does not want coercion.  But that leaves the impression that I only say this in passing.”  He then cites five remarks from his book that he says show that he clearly acknowledges that Vermeule does not endorse violence.

So, have I given a misleading impression of Vallier’s treatment of Vermeule?  Not in the least.  Note, first, that I explicitly said in my review that Vallier acknowledges that Vermeule does not advocate violence.  I wrote:

Vallier tells us [that]… whether they like it or not, in order to bring their desired regime about, integralists “must use violence in ways that the Catholic Church rejects” (p. 137)…

Vallier admits that in fact “Vermeule wants to avoid coercion” andsays little about how hard integralists should fight for the ideal” (pp. 134-35).

Most of what Vallier describes is not anything Vermeule himself actually says, but only what Vallier claims would have to be done in order to realize Vermeule’s vision.

End quote.  The problem, as I show, is that Vallier also says things that give the impression that Vermeule advocates a radically revolutionary political program that manifestly could not be realized without violence.  And material of this latter sort greatly outweighs the qualifying statements Vallier makes here and there, and which he cites in his response to me.

Hence, as I noted in my review, we have page after harrowing page in Vallier’s book describing how the political program he attributes to Vermeule “probably requires abolishing democracy” (p. 136) and would entail “mass surveillance… [to] suppress dissent” (p. 150), “Chinese-level tactics” (p. 148), “modern heresy trials” (p. 149), “pressure to segregate religiously diverse populations” (p. 154), “ultra-loyal troops [to] subdue career military officials. (Hitler’s SS springs to mind)” and “youth programs to increase loyalty to their leader. (Hitler Youth springs to mind)” (p. 146), “human rights violations” and “secret police” (pp. 151-52), and “leadership purges, replete with execution, torture, and show trials. A one-party state” (p. 147).  Vallier warns that to uphold the regime Vermeule would set up, “Protestants could face heresy charges” (p. 153); that “according to integralism, Black Protestant churches have no right to exist” and “the state must decide whether to declare Black Protestant churches criminal organizations” (ibid.); and that “we should not assume that an integralist regime will treat Jews well” (ibid.). 

And so on.  Vallier concludes that “Vermeule’s integration from within requires massive violence” (p. 239).  Indeed, the political program he attributes to Vermeule is so extreme and unhinged that it is hard to see how anyone could fail to perceive that it would require massive violence.  And again, though Vallier makes a few disclaimers here and there, they are nowhere near as numerous or prominent as the detailed descriptions he gives of the coercive regime he says Vermeule’s views would entail.  When an author briefly notes here and there that Vermeule doesn’t advocate violence, but also goes on at great length about how Vermeule’s extreme political program would manifestly require massive violence, it is hardly unfair to judge that he has given his readers a misleading impression of Vermeule’s views.

Then there is the fact that Vallier’s qualifying statements are hardly full-throated.  For example, as Vallier notes in his reply to me, he concedes that “Vermeule would not suppress liberalism with violence” (p. 134).  But here is the longer passage in Vallier’s book from which that line is taken:

Vermeule wants to protect the Church from malignant states.  His method: train strong Christian leaders who will take power and defend the church.  When I have spoken with Vermeule’s defenders, often young people, they characterize his strategy as concerned chiefly with defense rather than offense.  I do not think Vermeule’s theory of liberalism allows for any such distinction.  Vermeule would not suppress liberalism with violence.  Liberalism will destroy itself.  But liberals and the liberal state can still do significant damage in the meanwhile.  Further, once liberalism dies, it could revive.

As Vermeule so evocatively claims, we must “sear the liberal faith with hot irons.”  It must not rise again.  Only a strong state combined with a strong church can complete this urgent task.  Vermeulean protectors must become conquerors.  They must then rule with an iron rod.  And so, however much Vermeule wants to avoid coercion, he is stuck with it.  Integralists must exercise hard power. (p. 134)

End quote.  The impression given here is that while Vermeule does not endorse violence and even eschews it, he does endorse a radical political program that would clearly require violence.  But as I showed in my review, the problem is not just that Vermeule does not endorse violence itself.  The problem is that Vermeule does not in the first place actually endorse the extreme political program Vallier attributes to him.

Hence, in “Integration from Within” (from which the “hot irons” remark is quoted), Vermeule is not talking about Catholic integralism, but “nonliberal” politics more generally.  Indeed, he explicitly says that “there can be no return to the integrated regime of the thirteenth century, whatever its attractions.”  Nor does he advocate any positive concrete political program of any other kind for replacing liberalism, and indeed explicitly says that the “postliberal future [is] of uncertain shape.”  Vermeule says that “for the foreseeable future, the problem will be to mitigate the spasmodic, but compulsive and repetitive, aggression of the decaying liberal state” rather than promote an alternative.  Indeed, he says that nonliberals who follow his advice will:

mainly attempt to ensure the survival of their faith communities in an interim age of exile and dispossession.  They do not evangelize or preach with a view to bringing about the birth of an entirely new regime, from within the old.  They mitigate the long defeat for those who become targets of the regime in liberalism’s twilight era, and this will surely have to be the main aim for some time to come.

End quote.  Similarly, in “A Christian Strategy,” far from endorsing the “party capture” approach that Vallier attributes to him, Vermeule says that “the Church… must stand detached from all subsidiary political commitments, willing to enter into flexible alliances of convenience with any of the parties.”  Rather than calling for going on offense with a revolutionary political program, he says that “the main proximate short-run goal must be largely one of survival.”  Rather than pushing some doctrinaire integralist vision, he emphasizes flexibility: “Christians will always have many different options for political engagement.  In some or other circumstances, one or another of them will prove best in the light of prudential judgment; none has any logical or theological priority.”

In short, Vallier is saying, “I didn’t accuse Vermeule of advocating B!  I accused him of advocating A, which will inevitably lead to B!”  And the problem is that Vermeule not only does not advocate B, he doesn’t advocate A either.

Or consider Vallier’s remark that “Vermeule has publicly declaimed all such [violent] tactics.”  Here is the passage in Valler’s book in which that remark appears:

Vermeule has publicly declaimed all such tactics.  Indeed, even in “Integration from Within” he indicates hesitancy about coercion, though what he says is curious: “It would be wrong to conclude that integration from within is a matter of coercion, as opposed to persuasion and conversion, for the distinction is so fragile as to be nearly useless.”  On the one hand, integration from within is not “a matter of coercion.”  But the distinction between coercion and noncoercion is “nearly useless” – which leaves one to wonder which tactics Vermeule has in mind. (p. 147)

End quote.  One problem here is that Vallier is misusing the word “declaim,” which literally means “to speak in an eloquent or impassioned way.”  So, the literal meaning of what Vallier says in the first line here is “Vermeule has publicly spoken in an eloquent way of all such [violent] tactics”!  Obviously, that is not what Vallier means, which is why I didn’t bother quoting this particular line. 

The more important point here, though, is this.  On the one hand, Vallier here acknowledges that Vermeule shows “hesitancy about coercion.”  But on the other hand, Vallier says that it is “curious” that Vermeule says that the distinction between coercion and persuasion is “nearly useless,” so that one “wonder[s] which tactics Vermeule has in mind.”  Since the larger context is a discussion of the violent means Vermeule’s program would allegedly require, some readers might get the impression that Vermeule might not be entirely committed to eschewing violence after all.

But here is the longer passage from Vermeule’s article “Integration from Within” where he makes the remark in question:

It would be wrong to conclude that integration from within is a matter of coercion, as opposed to persuasion and conversion, for the distinction is so fragile as to be nearly useless.  As J. F. Stephen noted, there is a type of intellectual and rhetorical “warfare” in which “the weaker opinion – the less robust and deeply seated feeling – is rooted out to the last fiber, the place where it grew being seared as with a hot iron.”  In a more recent register, we have learned from behavioral economics that agents with administrative control over default rules may nudge whole populations in desirable directions, in an exercise of “soft paternalism.”  It is a useless exercise to debate whether or not this shaping from above is best understood as coercive, or rather as an appeal to the “true” underlying preferences of the governed.

End quote.  Seen in this context, there is nothing at all “curious” about Vermeule’s remark, or remotely suggestive of violence.  On the contrary, as I noted in my review of Vallier’s book, it is clear from this passage that when Vermeule speaks of cases where the distinction between coercion and persuasion is unclear, what he actually had in mind were soft incentives of the kind liberals like Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein describe in their book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness.

Here is another example where Vallier’s reading of Vermeule is careless to such an extent that he ends up attributing to Vermeule the opposite of what he actually said.  As I noted my review, Vallier compares Vermeule’s program to that of a Marxist revolutionary party.  Hence, in his book, Vallier writes: “Vermeule analogizes his view [of liberalism] with Karl Marx’s claims about capitalism: ‘Liberalism is inherently unstable and is structurally disposed to generate the very forces that destroy it’” (p. 127).  The remark from Vermeule is quoted from “A Christian Strategy.”  But here is the larger passage in that article in which it appears:

There are two ways of understanding [the liberal] dynamic.  One is that in the long run, liberalism undermines itself by transforming tolerance into increasingly radical intolerance of the “intolerant” – meaning those who hold illiberal views.  On this view, militant progressivism is distinct from liberalism, indeed a betrayal of it.  Such an account would make liberalism analogous to Marx’s claim about capitalism: Liberalism is inherently unstable and is structurally disposed to generate the very forces that destroy it.

A different view, and my own, is that liberal intolerance represents not the self-undermining of liberalism, but a fulfillment of its essential nature.  When a chrysalis shelters an insect that later bursts forth from it and leaves it shattered, the chrysalis has in fact fulfilled its true and predetermined end.  Liberalism of the purportedly tolerant sort is to militant progressivism as the chrysalis is to the hideous insect.

End quote.  As the reader can clearly see, in the line Vallier quotes, Vermeule is not stating his own view, but on the contrary, a view he explicitly says is “different [from his] own.”

More could be said, but that suffices to make the point.  Vallier is for the most part admirably fair-minded, and I don’t think for a moment that he intentionally misrepresents Vermeule.  But that he does in fact give a misleading characterization of Vermeule’s views, however inadvertently, there can be no doubt.  (Vallier addresses some other issues too, and says that he will address yet others in a future post.  I may return to those in a future reply.)

UPDATE 12/15: Vallier responds over at Substack.  Here’s the reply I posted at Twitter:

Sorry, but the case remains unmade. When @Vermeullarmine offers us specific models for a Christian politics to look to, he gives biblical examples like Joseph in Egypt, Esther and Mordecai, and St. Paul. Are these models of the integralist “state capture” envisaged by @kvallier? No, they involve using state power defensively, to protect a faithful minority (in the first two cases) and seeding the ground for a centuries-long change in the culture (in the case of Paul). Any “state capture” that such models could lead to are so very far down the line (perhaps centuries) that the relevant concrete cultural circumstances are impossible to predict, giving Vallier’s imagined Catholic integralist state capture scenarios no purchase. And as I keep saying, Vermeule himself does not, in any event, actually propose any such scenario. In order to attribute it to him, Vallier’s latest response has to rely in part on what other people have said, and on extrapolation from a tweet from Vermeule (despite conceding, at p. 123 of his book, that tweets and other off-the-cuff social media ephemera are not a good basis on which reconstruct someone’s considered views).


  1. Hey,

    I'm going to drop this link here, and if you can scrape together 5 minutes - and I am uncertain that you can - give it a quick look.

    But speak of the Devil and he appears. Geez.

    Was reviewing Schechter, and there at the top of the page was a link to: "Will the Common Good Guys Come to the Shootout in SEC v. Jarkesy? And Why It Matters"

    " ... Professor Coffee identifies the two sides and the stakes:

    'This is a fight between proponents of the Administrative State and the Federalist Society mob, which has been seeking this shootout for some time. If the Federalist Society gang wins, the Administrative State will have taken a crippling (but not quite fatal) wound. Thus, this column asks (with its usual objectivity): Can the SEC, Wyatt Earp, and the other Good Guys win this shootout?[4]'

    My main comment was that I agreed with Coffee’s analysis and his bottom line that the Supreme Court should uphold the power of the SEC to seek the equitable remedy of disgorgement in ALJ proceedings without allowing a right to a jury trial. The nondelegation and ALJ removal arguments should be rejected too. At the same time, I suggested that the characterization of the fight between the Good Guys and Bad Guys should be expanded to include some other combatants.

    Gee, I wonder who they could be. No need to wonder he is avid to tell us....

    " The new Bad Guys coming to town are disguised as Good Guys ...

    In a recent book review in Foreign Affairs, Professor Charles King of Georgetown University diagnoses the rise of new versions of illiberal philosophies that purport to explain and provide direction for populist movements arising in the last few decades in the United States and around the world.[6] A trio of recent books, according to King, illustrate these views. The books are Patrick J. Deneen’s Regime Change: Toward a Postliberal Future (2023), Yoram Hazony’s Conservatism: A Rediscovery (2022), and Adrian Vermeule’s Common Good Constitutionalism: Recovering the Classical Legal Tradition (2022)

    Take, for example, the theory of common-good constitutionalism propounded by Adrian Vermeule of Harvard Law School.[14] Professor Vermeule argues for a recovery of classical legal theory that incorporates values of Roman and Christian canon law as foundational to any true conception of law. He argues against both originalism and progressivism as missing the central justification of the law. Following ancient Roman jurists, he says law should stand for “peace, justice, and abundance ..."

    [Now, here comes the really precious part, if you think blindness to a redounding irony is "precious"]

    The trouble is that Vermeule leaves out two essential Enlightenment ideas – or at least radically conditions them. One is the idea of rights, and the second is democracy."

    "Leaves out" as in, "I agreed with Coffee’s analysis and his bottom line that the Supreme Court should uphold the power of the SEC to seek the equitable remedy of disgorgement in ALJ proceedings without allowing a right to a jury trial."

    Yeah, a jury trial is so inexpedient, so inefficient in implementing the collective good. We can always pretend a substantive distinction if legal niceties require between disgorgement of profits at the decree of an Administrative Law Judge, and common law damages. Just like we can readily, or conveniently at least, distinguish between an original fine, subsequently redefined as a tax in order to make it "legal", with regard to the ACA mandate to purchase and penalty.

    Oh, and "Federalist Society mob". That's kinda nice too.

  2. I don't think that Vermulle advocates for violence. I also think there's a good case to make for Integralism being an ideal atleast in principal or in other words I agree with Prof's definition of soft Integralism.

    But I don't see how we can even begin to implement it without causing significant political backlash. Especially in this day and age.

    Even if we approach it through incremental steps, as noted in the section where Prof Feser discusses Vermulle's concept of "Integralism From Within" in the review i.e.

    “We have learned from behavioral economics that agents with administrative control over default rules may nudge whole populations in desirable directions, in an exercise of ‘soft paternalism."

    I don't see how on Earth can we promote or nudge populations towards the sacramental life and supernatural ends of the Church through any economical means. Is it even wise to associate the supernatural ends with behavioral economics ? Apart from that, as any student of behavioral economics knows, most of these tactics involve hiding or disguising the main objectives of the economic plan. It amounts to nothing more then trying to sneak Catholicism through the backdoor or in other words the deep state.

    It also fails to account for the fact that, people have become more skepticism of government more then ever before. They would sniff out that something isn't right and instantly put a stop to it .

    It doesn't even address in this phase of implementation how we deal with sects like Protestants except by advocating that we convert and bring them over to our side which is just delusional, especially if one thinks that
    you can convert enough to effect a political revolution. And if conversion doesn't suffice, then the plan falls flat from the start.

    Moreover it would also open up Catholics to accusations of ulterior motives for converting people rather then just the truth of Catholicism itself. Non believers will assume that we want to assume government power as the reason for us attempting to convert them , And could we even blame them for that ?

    We evangelise because we care for the salvation of souls and bringing them the sacraments of the church. One couldn't even care less about the potential converts electoral habits,whether they even vote or not, whether they vote for the republican or solidarity party. Obviously we would have to inform them about catholic moral principles for voting. But that wouldn't really have anything to do with Integralism. There's no obligation go encourage Integralism, even if it's possible. There are a lot of prudential considerations to take into account with regards to maintaining an integralist state itself which make it just as likely as a liberal state to collapse.

    Apart from that , the sheer disagreement between Catholics themselves on this issues is often ignored. Integralists seem to assume when the time comes in the distant long term after the collapse of the liberal state, most Catholics will stand united in solidarity ready to implement Integralism. How can one not see this as simply far fetched is beyond me.

    There are also a lot of concerns about the Church even associating itself with that much power. To quote Fr Joseph Ratzinger

    "The use of the state by the Church for its own purposes, climaxing in the Middle Ages and in absolutist Spain in the early modern era, has, since Constantine, been one of the most serious liabilities of the Church, and any historically minded person is inescapably aware of this.”

    1. Norm,
      "I also think there's a good case to make for Integralism being an ideal atleast in principal"
      No, there is no such case.

      Catholic "integralism" is just a whitewashed word for Catholic fascism.

      It is a putrid principle that a particular religion would be preferred by the state, and that laws would be passed to benefit and suit the practitioners of that particular religion, while practitioners of other religions or no religion would be treated in a lesser manner or even punished under the law.

      There is no good case to be made for enacting or even aspiring to such a grotesque principle.

    2. Stardusty Psyche

      Hi, Well I think that point can be clarified a bit more and it involves thinking a little bit abstractly about it especially about the concept of objective Truth and it's implications.

      I will admit though that it's still a controversial matter even as a matter of doctrinal consistency among Catholics. It may be helpful to note that in this case we don't mean ideal as "something to be aspired to" in an unqualified way. It is subject to certain conditions. And I think those conditions in this case are practically impossible to meet.

      The basic Idea though is that if you believe that some principle or doctrine or statement is objectively True and someone else disagrees with you about it. It logically entails that you will also beleive that they have erred or gone wrong in some respect. Maybe it may be in some prior assumptions or maybe they are just stubborn etc. As far as you are concerned they are mistaken.

      The question now is what to do about it. Parents have the authority in principle to correct or punish their children if they think they are gravely mistaken in some point. Human beings naturally organise themselves into local communities, states, countries. Authority exists at all these levels. And this would also entail the right to correct or punish.

      So I think that the state as an entity having authority over its people, has the power to correct or punish individuals who dissent against what it officially takes to be true even if it prudentially chooses not to excersise it.

      An atheist can consistently maintain that the state should officially renounce God insofar as he believes that the atheistic world view is true. This would also entail the right to suppress dissent against that atheistic view whether they choose to apply it or not. That power just follows from being a state.

      I don't think an atheist would be inconsistent if he came to this conclusion. It would just logically follow from the world view.

      Obviously one could disagree with atheism itself. But here we are dealing with authority and how it applies at different levels.

      Now with the Church, the thing is that we also beleive it's a super natural institution with authority over supernatural elements like sacraments. It's easy to see how that authority can apply to individuals. But how it may apply to a nation state is again a matter of controversy.

      To me it's possible in principle to imagine a scenario where the church exercise power over the state and no one actually dissents.

      Is it probable, not a chance in hell and trying to implement it self is frought with difficulties but we sre just talking about principle here

    3. Catholic fascism is a contradiction. Fascism is literally idolatry of the state. The two are mutually exclusive.

    4. I will also say though, that I find it really baffling that Prof. Feser would choose to align himself with someone like Adrian Vermeule.

      It does not change the respect which I have and will always have for Prof Feser especially for his clarity and insight.

      But on this issue, more clarity is something that is sorely needed.

      Apart from his very questionable views (and that's putting it gently), Vermeule is not in any way a good faith interlocutor in the first place.

      He has frequently deferred to childish and juvenile means of engaging with his detractors. He seems to be of the opinion that he can't be challenged on his views whatsoever.

      This is evidenced by the fact that he has blocked respected and traditional catholic intellectuals like Dr Jennifer Frey and Prof Ulrich L Lehner on twitter just for disagreeing with him on this issue. He has done this to many other orthodox catholic intellectuals as well.

      Prof Feser himself has rightly critiqued this kind of cowardly behaviour and attitudes characterised by an unwillingness to engage with good faith criticism when it comes to pseudo intellectuals like Mike Lewis. It seems to me that Prof Feser should apply the same standard to Vermeule.

      Instead, even while defending Vermeule's academic views, Prof refers to him as "soft spoken" trying to paint him as some kind of misunderstood character.

      Rarely have I seen Prof go to such lengths to defend individuals of such questionable character. He usually calls people out.

      Either Vermeule has truly stumbled upon some long lost insight or he has just managed to fool people.

      Time will Tell. My money is on the latter.

  3. This is also evident when integralists try to move from abstract principles to actual plans for implementation, they always end up with statements like "Obviously this is not possible in the short term" but they never really give any clear interpretations of "the long term".

    To quote, Professor Feser

    "Then again, the world has changed so very radically even in just the last fifty years or so that it would be foolish for anyone to predict with confidence what it might look like fifty or a hundred years from now. "

    From what I understand, their only retort is that some inevitable collapse of the liberal state will occur followed by usurping of power by the Integralists which again is characterised very vaguely. With all due respect , this vague characterisation is rather deliberate I think. They realise that any concrete future state of affairs they propose with respect to how Integralists take power after this collapse is frought with lots of prudential and practical difficulties that will be rightly and severely criticised.

    With all due respect to Integralists, whatever the state of affairs may be in 50-100 years , it's definitely not going to be Integralism. I think the sooner people understand that, the sooner they will be able to work together towards achieving certain political goals revolving around defending the family, subsidiarity, local .

    You often see many Integralists, refusing to participate in the political process these days by withholding their vote, not because of any reservations about the candidates themselves but because they are done with the system itself. And they are free to do so. But they just undermine any effort to resist the Woke Left on social issues.

    I do agree with Vermulle that as Catholics we have to form alliances even when they don't suit us. This principle is something that always animated political discourse. But I suspect that , Vermulle mentions this because he favours aligning with the left and workers on many economic issues . This is evident in Sohrab Ahmari's work as well. That's something I think a lot of us can get on board with even if we disagree with it, as a means of bringing about or "nudging" Integralism.

    And finally to my Integralist friends, as the kids these days say:

    The Delulu is Not the Solulu :)

    1. Another point about how integralists don't have any "plan" is that the result of integralism would resemble hard integralism much more than middle integralism. The Aristotelian medium sounds nice in theory but if the secular ruler wants to curry favor with the Church (for real faith or political capital), they're going to push away from the medium. Likewise, the Church (speaking in terms of people, not policy) is going to accept that movement because it will only them. I don't necessarily see a totalitarian state but it sounds a lot less nice than the one presented in the blogosphere.

  4. I think that if integralists want people to feel comfortable that they don't intend to persecute Protestants, Jews, etc., it would be helpful if they issued any kind of full-throated condemnation of when past integralists did exactly that.

    1. I agree with you, Anonymous. As a Protestant, I am horrified at how Protestants treated Catholics and Jews at certain periods in certain places. Can we get a reciprocation from Ed on that point? If Ben's reading of Dignitatis Humanae in the previous post is correct, that would alleviate some of my concerns but I am far from certain that integralists agree with him.

    2. "Can we get a reciprocation from Ed on that point?"

      Of course. That goes without saying.

    3. Great; I assumed that would be the case, Ed. I think that Tony's point regarding subsidiarity in the previous blog is also important. The Papal Encyclical Rerum Novarum (Concerning New Things) based on Luigi Taparelli's earlier work articulate what "social justice" used to mean, in which subsidiarity and solidarity are both important. I taught a semester long course on social justice at APU (which included topics like abortion, infanticide, eugenics, euthanasia normally ignored by the critical social justice theorists) and we spent a couple of weeks going through Rerum Novarum. I have also heard Ed lecture on this topic. As Tony points out, a church that upholds subsidiarity in the way that Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno etc. do has principles (not just prudential considerations) which would argue against operating in the way that both Catholics and Protestants did in the 16th and 17th centuries.

    4. BTW, Tim, in response to your question in the other post's comment thread (which I didn't read until today), the answer is that no one should ever have been forced to convert. And I don't know of any integralist who denies that.

    5. Thank you, Tim, and thank you, Ed. (BTW: I usually post as SMack. I'm having a login issue, not trying to be anonymous.)

      If I may follow up, though -- what of seemingly infallible pronouncements from the Church (e.g., Exsurge Domine; and I think, though I may be wrong, that that was later reiterated at a council) that heretics should be burned?

      Even if moderates such as Ed may denounce such (and I do appreciate that, Ed!), it seems that the dynamics within a vibrant integralism might well lead people to again thinking that that was a good idea.

      These are at least concerns; but I don't want to move the goal posts from my first request that the actions be denounced, which Ed has done.

    6. And to expand on Ed's remark here: The Church throughout the centuries explicitly said that people should never be converted by force. That there may have been (some) times and places where the authorities ignored this long-standing teaching, and that Church officials condoned it, would be shameful, but there never was a doctrinal thesis by the Church in favor of conversion by force.

    7. I realize that now, Ed, and Ben had a couple of superb quotes to that effect. The reactions to the horrors perpetrated by Hamas on October 7th (and I was in Israel when it happened) have revealed fault lines. The Society of Biblical Literature failed on this test because of its commitment to critical social justice rather than traditional social justice or simply objective morality (and I can give you details in private). Loads of us have attended our last SBL meeting. Harvard, UPenn, and MIT failed. What Claudine Gay and her colleagues said are standard implications of poststructuralism and the various critical theories. I think our energies should be devoted to the great crisis and opportunity of our times. What you said in your book on critical race theory is so relevant to what has been happening in the last couple of months. I know you are busy but I am surprised that there has not been a single blog on this inflection point in world politics and ideology. I am not surprised (because I knew how deep the rot had gone in our universities) but I am horrified to hear "From the River to the Sea" or other expressions of wiping Israel/Jews off the map being regarded as acceptable speech but anything which smacks of cisheterosexism is not.

  5. In "The Kingdom, the Power and the Glory," it seems that Evangelical Protestants are fully ready to use the powers of the government to advance their goal of a Christian nation.

    1. I have not been impressed with Tim Alberta's work (at National Review or after), and I suspect that "The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory" reflects more of his animus at what Hillary called "the deplorables" than sound religious analysis. Alberta thinks that if evangelicals are not doing "critical social justice" they have abandoned Christianity. I just attended the national meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society and in not a single session did I hear anything about advancing the goal of a Christian nation. Many do want to see natural law inform America's institutions but very few are theonomists. Evangelicals on the whole are happy to make common cause with Catholics and Jews to stop poststructuralism, critical theory, and non-traditional ethics. Tim Alberta's real target goes way beyond evangelicals; he just thinks that they are easy pickings.

    2. Hi Tim
      Interesting remarks.
      I find your comments about advancing a Christian nation intriguing.
      I do agree that Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Jews can and should find common ground against many of the Modernist tendencies like CRT, Abortion, the redefining of marriage, radical gender ideology etc.
      From what I can gather you seem to be an evangelical.
      Out of curiosity, would you be comfortable with an integralist state ? In this state, Obviously the traditional moral norms will be enforced but, there will also be a special emphasis, atleast on paper, towards the super natural goals of the Church and it's sacramental life which revolves around the Eucharist as the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church.
      I am a Catholic, so I take all of the above to be true.
      This would also entail that all other views that fall short of this, including the views of Protestants can only be tolerated not encouraged or promoted, atleast not by the state.
      Catholic Doctrine also entails that evangelisation strictly speaking, in principle,consists of bringing the Gospel to the masses and baptizing them into the Catholic Church, as opposed to some notion of "Mere Christianity". We do recognise valid Baptisms of other denominations but that doesn't change what the goal is in principle.

      As a Protestant would you be comfortable with it ? I suppose this can be answered by Protestants in general as well.

    3. Anonymous, what laws are Evangelicals pushing that would exclude Catholics or Jews? There were state laws in the past that did so (early on, many states favored particular denominations whether Puritan, Quaker, Catholic, Anglican, etc.) but I see no desire to return to that or to demand that one be a Christian for U.S. citizenship.

    4. Hi Norm. Yes, I am an Evangelical. My wife is Catholic. Two of my doctoral advisors are Jewish (my Ph.D is in Hebrew Bible), and I have learned a great deal from Judaism. [When Jews perform the ceremony of the Afikomen at the Passover Seder, though they do not know it, they testify to Christ's death, burial, and resurrection. This is one example.]
      No, I would not be happy with an integralist society; nor do I think that a Protestant analogue would be ideal either. I agree with many of your comments on the previous blog post on this topic, Norm. I think that they are very insightful. What I would favor (but is unlikely to happen) is a nation that had norms of natural law (which include natural theology; knowledge of God is presupposed in the Noachic lawcode incumbent on all people) and that the metaphysical principles which underlie natural law and virtue ethics were taught as a norm in the education systems. This would need considerable fleshing out. I do think that a quite soft integralist state might be easier for a Protestant family to raise children they way they wish than in our present society and the converse would hold for a Catholic family in a Protestant analogue to an integralist state (with Jews facing less anti-semitism in either than in what they now face in most of Europe and, increasingly, the USA, as recent events have shown).

    5. Hi Tim

      Thanks for your sincere comments.

      Yes, I do think it may perhaps be easier to raise families in an integralist state as opposed to now given how the radical left has usurped all political structures and mechanisms for their own vile intentions.

      Although, it's also true that the expectation of easily raising ones family is the least that one can expect from even more authoritative governments.

      Take for example a gulf nation like the UAE, you can raise your family free of all gender ideology , radical conceptions of marriage etc, you can send them to your school of choice. They have schools which are affiliated with the British boards of examination, Indian boards etc. You are free to practice your faith in private settings, at home, in church buildings etc.

      Civil liberties are also pretty much the same now for man and women in terms of dress code etc. Standard of living is also very high.

      But the thing is that once you assured of such basic norms, one obviously wants something more, namely the freedom to preach, share their faith publically, debate, challenge without the fear of being on the wrong side of the law.

      All these aspects are lacking in a state like the UAE. The judiciary is also formed according to Muslim custom. They enforce certain norms for Muslims and restrict evangelisation rights for Non muslims. In that sense they can even be called "Muslim Integralists".

      I guess that the first point I am trying to make is that once you are comfortable at the basic level of family, you will naturally want more freedom to share those values.

      And secondly, in today's America, for all it's flaws, you have the right to evangelise, to spread the Gospel. But there's a certain sense of comfort knowing that the people who attack that right are actually acting against the law.

      In a catholic Integralist state, even a relatively lenient Integralist state, you can at most, only be tolerated for evangelizing, there will be no right which you can stand on ,only the mercy of the lawmaker because conversely the state will actually have the right to suppress heresy and the question will be to what extent would they choose to enforce that right.

      And that my friend, can feel like a subtle difference , given that practically speaking Christians feel tolerated in today's society as well.

      There's a real difference between feeling tolerated and being tolerated. It's what makes USA the envy of many immigrants. And perhaps one might have to think twice before doing away with that :)

      If you want a more detailed exposition of the Church and the perils of associating it with state power. There's no one better then Fr Joseph Ratzinger who I quote above. People don't realise that apart from being a dogmatic theologian, he was also a biblical theologian and a keen church historian.

      With all due respect to writers like Vermulle , in so far as they want to actually implement Integralism or set the foundation for implementing it in the long term (50-100 years from now etc), they are very ignorant of how easily the Church can succumb to excersising state power, despite the historical evidence. I am not challenging any points they make on doctrinal continuity etc.

    6. Tim,
      You want to stop critical theory generally?

      "stop ..., critical theory,"

      "Critical theory, by contrast, reflects on the context of its own origins and aims to be a transformative force within that context. It explicitly embraces an interdisciplinary methodology that aims to bridge the gap between empirical research and the kind of philosophical thinking needed to grasp the overall historical situation and mediate between specialized empirical disciplines. Critical theory aims not merely to describe social reality, but to generate insights into the forces of domination operating within society in a way that can inform practical action and stimulate change."

      What part of that seems somehow bad to you?

      Critical theories, generally, don't accept analysis at face value in a vacuum, wherein the analysis is presumed to be neutral and unbiased.

      For example, in science. One might presume that science is carried out objectively, without bias, and factual in a neutral sort of way.

      Actually, science is done by human beings, and all human beings are intrinsically biased. A critical methodology, then, seeks to question even the most basic assumptions to identify biases and therefore inaccuracies that might not otherwise be understood.

      You want to stop that?

    7. Yes, read the book Intellectual Impostures by Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont for some good examples of the nonsense produced by critical theory in the hard sciences and it does not stop there.

    8. @ Norm

      They enforce certain norms for Muslims and restrict evangelisation rights for Non muslims. In that sense they can even be called "Muslim Integralists".

      I guess that the first point I am trying to make is that once you are comfortable at the basic level of family, you will naturally want more freedom to share those values.

      And secondly, in today's America, for all it's flaws, you have the right to evangelise, to spread the Gospel. But there's a certain sense of comfort knowing that the people who attack that right are actually acting against the law.

      Norm, it is my sense of Dignitatis Humanae that (a) because men are rational beings who come to know through processes of learning; and
      (b) we are not able to learn well independently, rather we tend to learn well in communication with others who can correct our flaws or impart new data,
      Therefore, not only is the search for truth a basic human right, so is communication in that search, both as questioning and as proposing answers, even posing potentially wrong answers.

      However, it is also part of the teaching of that document that the communication we do in pursuit of truth holds also responsibilities and obligations on us, especially that we do not, in our public efforts, act in ways that undermine the proper pursuit of truth. A simple example of what is foreclosed by this duty would be convincing someone of a true conclusion by using false premises. But there are many other elements of this obligation.

      The sticking point, I think, comes from duties such as the obligation to GIVE UP on your past opinions when the evidence is adequate to showing to you that they were wrong, and not keep pressing your old position out of stubbornness, pride, etc. It is actually an offense against the duties to rightly pursue truth to persist in an argument that (were you not being stubborn) you would realize has already been defeated. Other duties include finer details like not bringing forth "evidence" as if it were solid, when it is nothing more than rumor or hopeful wish. These are "sticking points" because it cannot but be a matter of prudence about such abuses of the right to pursue truth, as to when some other party (like an authority) has a right or duty to step in and say "stop, that's actually an abuse against the duties to truth and the due pursuit of truth." And, as is generally true with matters of prudence like that, it is either difficult or impossible to set out formal rules and principles that will uniformly tell the authorities when to act and when to let things alone because leaving them alone will more favor the good.

    9. Tim,
      "Yes, read the book"
      Diversion to a strawman.

      I asked you if you wanted to stop the specific processes defined as critical theory in the source I cited, and the sorts of goals of critical theory I described.

      "Go read a book" is a typical commenter diversionary tactic for one who cannot or does not wish to address the points actually made.

      I did not ask you to provide a vague reference to some strawman that is supposedly buried somewhere out there in some book.

      I asked you a specific question to which you answered yes, which makes you a highly unreasonable person, because seeking out biases to eliminate them is a reasonable aspect of critical analysis.

    10. Stardusty,
      Let me give you examples of what people have argued for on the basis of the various strands of critical theory. E=m c squared is a sexed equation because it privileges the speed of light over other speeds; the prohibition against stealing is invalid because it protects the property of the rich; racism is about white superiority …. period (has she been to India or certain other nations I could mention; and is she aware of anti-Semiticism and other forms of racism in America); the overwhelming empirical evidence that British students of African descent do better on exams than white British students must be wrong because it against the narrative of critical theory; biological sex is a social construct and sex is assigned, not determined, at birth; men who self-identify as women can compete against women at rugby (even if this causes injuries to women); we should allow criminals to loot less than 1,000 worth of good at stores; scholarship about Nebuchadnezzar conquering Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C.E. (or any other widely accepted fact in biblical scholarship or probably historical scholarship in general) is an example of malestream scholarship which we are free to ignore (“mansplaining” is another common term to dismiss inconvenient facts in numerous disciplines); mathematics is racist; the reason that there has not been more progress in fluid body mechanics compared to rigid body mechanics is that the first is considered feminine (not because the Navier-Stokes equations are difficult to solve). What is particularly important is that critical theory advocates hardly ever publicly attack the perpetrators of this fashionable nonsense as abusing critical theory. Critical theory is prescriptive at its core; it wants to change any norms and facts that are contrary to their revolutionary goals.

    11. or set the foundation for implementing it in the long term (50-100 years from now etc),

      Any half-way prudent integralist would need to have a scope of 200+ years, 50 being much too short, and 100 being pie-in-the-sky implausible for turning any existing pluralist society of today into an integralist one (whether Catholic, Protestant, or other).

      they are very ignorant of how easily the Church can succumb to excersising state power, despite the historical evidence.

      Nothing in integralism requires that the Church exercise state power. Only that the government exercise ITS OWN power in ways that promote the (favored) religion's views of the final goods of human life.

    12. Tony

      Perhaps the Church may not directly exercise state power. But even while using its own power the Government would have to defer to the Church when it comes to issues pertaining to the final goods of human life.

      Attainment of those final goods are inextricably linked to the sacramental life of the Church, over which the Church has complete authority.

      The point is that the Church will have extraordinary influence over the state which is prone to corruption.

      The Church's role may be akin to what is played by billionaire donors and the like in today's society. You could say that these donors exhibit authority (whether rightly or wrongly) over what current society takes to be the most important goods, (i e wealth, jobs, natural resources, energy etc.)

      And it's easy to see how corrupting such influence is.

      Not to mention the fact thatthe Church necessarily hierarchical in nature so it's already prone to corrupting influences just because of the massive concentration of power that gradually gets concentrated in fewer and fewer individuals as you move up the hierarchy until one reaches the Pope who has the most power.

      This is just the way in which Christ instituted the Church when he made Peter his rock.

      But it's a fair assumption to make that if not for thesupernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, the Church wouldn't have survived.

      Nonetheless, it's that corruption still expresses it self through the human element pf the Church from time to time and I think it's perhaps better to restrain that tendency by keeping the Church from having extraordinary influence over the state.

      Atleast that's my own humble opinion.

      Thanks for your observations.

  6. Tim Finlay
    You mischaracterize the book. The only "deplorables" are those on the Christian Right.

    "Franklin Graham, the late Billy Graham’s son, threatened Americans with God’s wrath if they had the temerity to criticize Trump. “The Bible says it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment,” he said, on Facebook.

    Another famous scion, the now disgraced Jerry Falwell Jr, admonished his flock to stop electing “nice guys”. Instead, he tweeted, “the US needs street fighters like Donald Trump at every level of government”. Resentment and grievance supplanted the message of scripture and “What would Jesus do?”

    1. There is nothing in those quotes about using the government to advance the goal of a Christian nation which is what your initial post was about.


    2. Tim Finlay , on
      December 14, 2023 at 8:59 PM,
      There is nothing in those quotes about using the government to advance the goal of a Christian nation which is what your initial post was about.


      I think that Anonymous at 1:58 p.m. was joking.

      Franklin Graham threatened God's wrath? And it supposedly upset someone? Hilarious. Got to be a joke that is just too meta to be grasped immediately.

      No psychologically healthy normally developed human is that delicate and sensitive and still running loose on the streets. If they were, you would see tatted up freaks and narcissists screaming about feelings, hurts, inclusion and affirmation almost everywhere you looked. They would be shouting that words hurt and that they needed to be protected from scary opinions.

      Society - or at least many of its institutions - would be on the verge of collapse if that were the case. Why, you would have to imagine that 20, maybe 30% of - possibly largely young - people were clinically diagnosable with psychological and emotional disturbances; and that maybe 20% were on mood altering drugs.

      If that were the case, the wrath of God - or nature- would already be upon them.

      No, I am sure Anonymous is joking.

    3. "There is nothing in those quotes about using the government to advance the goal of a Christian nation which is what your initial post was about."
      Read the book and you will see my post was correct. You don't have to buy it. Just go to a bookstore and skim through it. Or read the review if skimming a book is too difficult for you. Or read this link:
      The Christian Right has always courted the
      Republican Party to advance its agenda, starting with Reagan. Are you not aware of that?

      That was not one of your better posts, not in content, not even in style.

    4. The Christian right wing (there is a Christian left wing also and they are far more influential in the Academy than the Christian right) wanted Reagan to appoint Supreme Court nominees to overturn Roe v Wade. They did not want or expect him to make Jews or Buddhists the equivalent of dhimmi status.

    5. Anonymous
      December 15, 2023 at 1:54 PM

      That was not one of your better posts, not in content, not even in style."

      Thank you Anonymous. I'll take this as an opportunity for reflection, and give your contribution both this, and whatever additional attention, it deserves.

      But as far as style goes, that's just not a matter that merits consideration anyway.

      This is a combox; I'm giving my opinion; and you, are not paying anyone to read it. At least not me.

      That said, apart from a few Anonymous - or anonymoi - who make a point of voicing their style related displeasure with my comments here, and who then announce they will nevermore read them, nobody else fixes on it.

      I think you would agree that it would be unnatural and off-putting if they did; sort of like one guy obsessing about another particular guy's good looks, the part of his hair, or his waistline: kind of intrusive, and pretty damned creepy if you think about it.

      Presumably, demonstrably in fact, most men here have healthier interests, and other rhetorical fish to fry.

      And happily, apart from these comboxes and the two, or three, or maybe just one "anonymous", and the one named commenter who have brought up the matter before, no one else, as I mentioned before, broaches or frets it. My so-called style, that is.

      But speaking as we now are of style, and of payments, and of wrapping up the topic, one might ask with regard to your own mannerisms: Just how much you are paying StardustyPsyche to do your writing for you?

      Because as far as personality, voice, and technique goes ...

      Maybe ... you should adopt a name; if for no other reason than so you can be told apart.

    6. Tom
      The US is more secular and less Christian now than it was under Reagan, which is why the Christian Right has become more aggressive. Jerry Falwell, Jr is spouting the kind of nonsense is father never would.

      DNW, StarDusty, payment? I think you are not well. I have posted as Anonymous for many years. And although some of your lengthy posts are entirely justified and interesting to read, this one could have summed up in just one paragraph. Maybe the holiday season has you off your game.

    7. DNW 1.54PM

      Oh dear, here we go again., accusing/suggesting that someone is SP, with no evidence whatsoever. Still, if they signed off 'Fred', that would satisfy you apparantly.

      Your entire post could have been condensed down to just two paragraphs max.Even you must have sufficient self awareness to appreciate that you are a verbose windbag in need of an editor. And the reason you have not received more comments about this, your sociopathy and general style, is very plausibly that most people give your frequently bizare posts a miss.

    8. Anonymous,
      I am glad that you concede that Jerry Falwell and company were not trying to implement a Protestant version of integralism in the USA.
      I can tell you that the vast majority of the evangelical movement were not trying to implement one in either 2016 or in 2020 either. You have yet to produce a quote that shows that even Jerry Falwell Jr. was trying to do that.

    9. Tom
      You did not read the articles I cited or you refuse to believe them. I concede nothing about Falwell and company. Jerry Sr was not bright enough to know what integralism meant, but his Moral Majority was an attempt to try to elect leaders to make America a Christian nation. Jerry Jr tried to be like his dad, but a sex scandal led to his downfall. Since Ed has moved on to a new topic, I will leave you with this article

    10. Anonymous 1
      "StarDusty, payment? I think you are not well. I have posted as Anonymous for many years."

      Anonymous 2

      "Oh dear, here we go again., accusing/suggesting that someone is SP, with no evidence whatsoever ..."

      "Your entire post could have been condensed down to just two paragraphs."

      A fitting response to you simpering clowns could be condensed to just two words.

      But this is a philosophy blog where ideas are ostensibly discussed.

      So, first step is to confine ourselves to noting that you still have made no identifiable contribution to the topic at hand, or the U.S.S.C. cases I mooted in conjunction with progressive statist policies, or so far as is obvious, anything else of real substance at all.

      And how would anyone know if you had? Why so fearful of adopting a comment box identifier? Afraid even of the consequences of having your own comments consistently assigned to you? Where did you wimps grow up? The U.K.?

      Instead of real contributions it is more of your recurrent obsession with the so-called style of another commenter.

      And then, how would anyone identify or tell you apart if on some occasion you did manage to rise above an expression of interpersonally directed pique?

      The natural question then, is what the hell are you even doing here?

      Don't like the observation that in considering the very issue of "style" which you brought up, that one of you is a virtual rhetorical clone of the troll? Ok then. Just label it convergent devolution if you prefer.

      However, on the other hand, you in particular, "Oh Dear Me I Must Say", yeah, you do in fact stand out from the anonymous crowd a bit, as you peevishly flounce your way throughout the combox threads.

      And that is all that anyone need see in order to peg you.

    11. DNW 5.17PM

      Another soporific novella for everyone to ignore. Yawn.


    12. "Another soporific novella for everyone to ignore. Yawn.


      If you could summon the will power to do so yourself, Fred, you might be less fatigued.

    13. @Tim Finlay

      If Jesus really was left-wing, then it is impossible for Christians to be left-wing.

      Why? Because for a left-winger to be Christian, he must first worship Jesus as God. But if Jesus has the same political values as him, then he is worshipping himself, which would make him a Narcissist, which itself is a right-wing personality type.

      Of course, right-wing Christians have no problem worshipping Jesus because Jesus is already different from them.

      Therefore all Christians by definition must be right-wing.

    14. Anonymous who calls me "Tom,"
      I read the article you mentioned. It confirms several of my points. Evangelicals are not trying to get government to favor evangelicals over Catholics; they are not trying to reestablish the anti-Catholic laws of the past. Evangelicals are working together with Catholics on issues that they consider natural law such as abortion and same-sex relations. The prohibition against abortion is found in the hippocratic oath and the prohibition against same sex relations if found in Plato's "The Laws"; they both predate Christianity. The article confirms the existence of a Christian left (although it does not use that term) that has different values to the alliance of Evangelicals and traditional Catholics (and that does not include Pope Francis). You are making the same mistake that many on the Christian left make: confusing arguments for provisions of natural law (which includes recognition of the Creator) with establishing an Evangelical or even Christian state. My guess is that Tim Alberta makes the same mistake.

  7. You would do better to let others respond to your criticisms and just let their responses stand. No one needs this many rounds. Vallier wrote a book. You criticized it. Vallier responded. The end. Readers can judge well enough from a single exchange. Few cases require more attention than that.

  8. To take the discussion back to the book and the review: does Vermeule do anything to actually argue that the violence he says is "necessary" for integralism really is necessary, or does he simply assert it? Or, more probably, just give numerous just-so stories of how an integralist "would" end up pushing violence, as if there were no other possible pathways for an integralist to consider?

    Even if he sincerely believes that Vallier's integralism would end up as a violence-toting despotic regime, if he doesn't give a half-way decent argument that Vallier's theories must necessarily lead to such results, then he flagrantly mischaracterizes Vallier's views. It is a perfectly legit critique to say

    "Bob doesn't believe that Y follows from X, so when he proposes X, he isn't aware that he is indirectly pushing for Y. But X does necessarily lead to Y, and here's why...A, B, and C. Therefore, his views in favor of X de facto are also in favor of Y, though he is unaware of the intimate connection, and indeed he believes otherwise."

    But it is an utterly UNFAIR critique to say "It is my opinion that X will probably lead to Y, so when Bob proposes X, his thesis 'really' amounts to a thesis in favor of Y, though I cannot be bothered to discuss how it is that Y follows from X so surely, nor can I be bothered to point out whether in Bob's own view X does not lead to Y."

  9. And on a note taking into account historical realities (both past and future), it cannot be denied that in the US, pluralism was greatly fostered by the sheer broad fact that in Europe in the early Endarkenment period (called by some by its opposite), persecution by some of others who believed differently led those others to flee to the hinterland so that they could be free to live without such coercion, free because there was virtually nobody there in the hinterland to oppose them (at least, not effectively). The Pilgrims may have technically preceded the "Enlightenment", but many later groups were part of the pilgrim's progress westward.

    I doubt that modernity has successfully dealt the death blow to the psychology that made this possible. I suspect that in a few decades, or maybe a century or so, there will mass movements outside of planet Earth, with lots of those who feel coerced under "liberal" regimes here on Earth. If a true Faster Than Light (FTL) drive comes around, with (relatively cheap) passage to the stars in less time than several decades, I am sure that the dispersal of peoples who believe differently will be massive. While Vermeule decries the "segregation" of different believers, the fact of the matter is that self segregation is a fact of life if the opportunity presents itself, and conditions where there are no such opportunities are merely conditionals to normal human behavior, not some bedrock, foundational principle of human rightness.

    1. Interplanetary Travel.
      Especially in the wake of Congress anc the Pentagon hiding facts about UFO sightings :)

  10. I am perfectly fine with integralism being tried in some integralist colony somewhere.

    Why not?

    In fact it seems to be a natural human impulse to want to try it.

    Cromwell's England, and maybe continuing in some respects until Catholic enfranchisement or relief in 1839, for example. Or Puritan Massachusetts Bay Colony until the American Revolution and even later.

    And I would guess that Francoism might have had some elements of integralism in a very loose sense in it. And during that time a great many people liked visiting, though not all would have wanted to live there.

    I guess it kind of depends on whether you are attuned to the past Spain of quiet Sunday mornings and religious processions, or nude beaches full of ugly flesh bags wanking each other in public. Spain, has had both.

  11. Point of clarification: is Vallier's argument that integrism logically requires/necessitates violence, or that integralism merely provides insufficient guardrails against violence in service of integralist policy preferences?

    Because those are not actually the same argument, the latter is much more defensible than the former, and what many non-integralist commenters here seem to be arguing. If that's what Vallier is arguing, then it's not sufficient to respond by arguing against the former.

  12. What does natural law theory has to say about taxation?

    1. The usual natural law position is that
      (a) men are social by nature;
      (b) to be in society requires rules and authorities to set rules, so government is natural;
      (c) in order to operate, a government must have resources; so commandeering resources by taxes is natural.

      There are no definitive methods of taxation that are clearly the right methods. However, there are theories (usually not by natural law proponents) who argue that governments, if they must exist, should operate on voluntary donations. (Typically this is trotted out by anarchists or extreme libertarians.)

    2. @Tony

      In particular, I am talking about income tax. What is the natural law position on income tax? Sales and property tax do not generate the same type of controversy among natural law teachers.

    3. I am not aware that among natural law proponents, income taxes are particularly disputed. I am aware that libertarians dispute them, and some few others.

      I am also not aware of a good natural law argument against income taxes (or the closely associated value added tax). Nor the less closely associated taxes of tariffs / import excises. I am aware of a (natural law) argument against property taxes, but I think it has only modest weight, and I think it can be countered.

      The underlying reality is that a government can only tax wealth, it cannot tax un-wealth. It can tax wealth either in the getting of it, in the having of it, or in the act of getting rid of it, of which income, property, and sales taxes are prime examples. It is not manifest that taxing any one of these violates natural law.

  13. DNW
    There is a choice between Franco's 1930s military dictatorship of Spain and the nude beaches and decadence of present day Spain. It's Gov. Ron Desantis' "Free State of Florida," where Haulover Beach, considered one of the world's best nude beaches, is located. It's near Miami Beach, which is more decadent now than ever.

    1. Anonymous
      December 17, 2023 at 2:56 PM
      There is a choice between Franco's 1930s military dictatorship of Spain and the nude beaches and decadence of present day Spain. It's Gov. Ron Desantis' "Free State of Florida," where Haulover Beach, considered one of the world's best nude beaches, is located. It's near Miami Beach, which is more decadent now than ever.

      Franco's dictatorship began over all of Spain in 1939 after 3 years of civil war.

      The period during which vacationers sampling a Falangist Spain might have visited would have been post 1947 prior to 1975 for the most part.

      You can look up Francoism on Wikipedia if you like.

      Personally I don't think that an integralist type of program has a snowball's chance in hell of succeeding in a pluralistic multicultural sociopolitical environment. Probably no libertarian republic can survive given such premises either.

      But, given a clean slate start, with a like-minded population, in a new place, I'd give a voluntary integralist one about the same lifespan as Massachussetts Bay Colony and the Puritans of the Great Migration acheived before finally degenerating into Unitarianism and Transcendentalist BS.

      Maybe as much as a century and a half. Then people would grow tired of it and immigrants or "refugees" and internally generated mutants would become a constant disruption and "change agents".

      And that is not to even mention the undermining effect which opportunist niche seekers would have on the integrity of the system long before that.

      There is always a weak male willing to say and do anything to avoid honest work and find a place in a bureaucracy.

      Look at the prelature of the Catholic Church, which has become a literal roost for sexual degenerates despite doctrine, tradition, and the life efforts of untold thousands of good men.

      But once the sh1t worms its way in, they use the rules of the system, and the respect the naive and idealistic possess, against them in order to keep power.

      It seems you either expel and then let the morally perverse and self effed up die in a ditch of their own digging, or you become their slave eventually. Or their keepers, which is almost as suffocating.

      Doesn't seem to be much else in the way of selection ... when dealing with the "morally frail" and obnoxious.

  14. WCB

    It has long been an article of faith among evangelicals and fundamentalists that by abandoning solo scriptura, the RCC long ago ceased to be a true Christian religion. So any real integralism in America will eventually meet stiff resistence.


  15. This would also entail that all other views that fall short of this, including the views of Protestants can only be tolerated not encouraged or promoted, atleast not by the state.

    Norm, the philosophical and natural law underpinnings of integralism do not depend specifically on Catholic doctrines to operate (well) upon society. Take a society that is pre-Christ, more pagan that anything else, but there is some pluralism in social mores, a bit of live-and-let-live, but it sways back and forth with the king. Suppose a new king comes in, and he is monotheist. Suppose that he is a monotheist who philosophically came to grasp the (many) arguments for the existence of a single transcendent God, and he realizes this has implications for human life. And suppose he hears about the monotheistic religion of Judaism, and seeking to understand it, he comes to believe the Jews are indeed blessed by the one true God, and converts.

    It is not only possible, but right and proper for him, as king, to gradually, slowly, move the government and his society toward monotheism, and Judaism in particular, using both laws and other humane methods to try to convert other people. He can cause the Scriptures to be translated and disseminated widely. He can bring in famous Jews and introduce them into the best society, and noticeably give them praise for their wise laws and customs. He can start introducing some of their customs as voluntary things (like their washing rules, or avoiding pork). He can found an academy to promote the philosophical works of Aristotle and other famous monotheistic philosophers.

    Suppose that he makes a lot of headway in terms of converting some to monotheism, and makes it generally accepted. And his son, the next king, continues in the same vein. And natural law philosophy comes to dominate academia in general. At some point, at least arguably, his son can legitimately start making laws proscribing certain religious practices of other religions that are clearly contrary to the natural law, when those practices are well on their way out as no longer being much accepted (socially) anymore.

    The thrust of Dignitatis Humanae includes the fact that governments not only may, but MUST make judgments about morals, and rely on natural law, and sometimes these judgments will run straight into someone's religious practices or feelings, suttee, for example: when this happens, the government is not forbidden to act to stop some religious practice that is damaging public welfare, merely because "it's a religious practice". Speaking generally, Jews, Catholics and Protestants have natural law in common, and governments can and should broadly uphold the natural law, and all three would commonly get along quite well under the kind of soft integralist kings described above.

    My point is that natural law, in addition to prescribing certain positive goals, also prescribes prudence in seeking those goals, and prudence in statecraft prescribes that laws and customs should be changed slowly and with caution, using also other means besides punishment to push mores toward the ideal. Integralism doesn't demand flouting those prescriptions.

    1. The debate on integralism concerns the real world, one that has received revelation and is called to acknowledge the Church. Imaginary worlds of natural religion worshiping the true God without revelation are unknown. If we escape from realism and go back to the world BC, and your monarch decides to follow the example of the Hebrews, the first thing he will give up is any religion that does not accept the revelation of OT prophets.

      As for integralism joining religions that cannot agree on what God has revealed, or recognise his Church. That is even more fanciful.A contradiction in terms.

    2. Tony

      I apologise that I did not read this earlier.

      What you say definitely sounds plausible even if barely, but it is not "Catholic Soft Integralism", it is some form of Integralism perhaps, "Judaeo-Christian" Integralism. That's the first Point.

      The manner in which you frame example seems to take a very broad view of Integralism. One might say, why not propose some kind of "natural-law" Integralism. After all, it's not necessary that only monotheists can understand and follow the norms of the natural law. Even pagans and polytheists can lead morally upright lives from a natural law perspective.

      In fact, if you have been following global news of late, the Indian Supreme Court refused to recognise Gay Marriage in India. The conservative government in India argued against it. The Solicitor general of India, Mr Tushar Mehta, while defending marriage as a sacred bond in hindu tradition also drew upon arguments put forth by Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Clarence Thomas in their Obergerfell dissent. This is quite significant since India is the largest Asian Democracy. At the same time Most Hindus are polytheists. (Although I guess that could be clarified further in so far as many Hindus beleive in a single uncaused cause as the source of existence and other deities to be incarnations of this ultimate reality )

      The point though is that a wide variety of religious beliefs may be compatible with a natural law understanding of the state and it's functions. Hindus like jews a non converting faith wherein they don't try to convince others of their religious beliefs. So they would not be a threat in that respect

      Since you have already included protestants and jews in your Integralist vision why not expand it further. The coalition which you suggest also though tends to admit of significant differences. Lots of orthodox jews take a very hostile view of Christ. The difference between Catholics and Protestants is also not insignificant with regards to the conception of God. There's a good chance that both the groups gradually grow very suspicious of each other's conception of God w.r.t to divine simplicity etc and start accusing each other's view of being dangerous pitfalls . Catholics may accuse Protestant's conception of being idolatrous in so far as it is very anthropomorphic and Protestants may accuse the catholic view of divine simplicity as susceptible to Pantheism which already occurs quite frequently these days.

      It's just that for the moment these differences seem irrelevant because pf a potent common enemy. But there's a good chance they become very relevant if that were to change.

      Not to mention that such coalitions tend to have such differing priorities.

      Just yesterday the most famous Orthodox Jew in America, Ben Shapiro, boosted a post of a Rabbi gushing with praise for RFK Jr, as an American Hero. The reason was that RFK jr staunchly defended Israel against a Commentator.

      This happened, even though in the same interview, RFK jr said he would be open to legalising abortion at the central level, effectively taking us back to the pre dobbs era. RFK's reasoning was that "It should be left to the moms".

      So again it's very hard to see how such narrow coalitions would prosper given their own differences of priority.

      I would be open to a more broader religious coalition with an overall emphasis on Natural Law ethics without trying to police the religious beliefs.

    3. The discussion on integralism hasn't got much to do with non-Catholic societies applying natural law or not. It's about civil society recognising another society, the Church, as God's religion. Nor is religious establishment integralism per se. The establishment of religion in eighteenth-century England, or pagan Rome, for example, was based on there being no fundamental distinction between civil and religious society. They were one thing - not two allied things.

    4. The debate on integralism concerns the real world, one that has received revelation and is called to acknowledge the Church. Imaginary worlds of natural religion

      @ Anonymous

      I focused on the real world of the divine religion revealed in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and the prophets. The one wherein God founded an integralist government (actually, 2 different ones, under Judges and then Kings). I proposed a non-descendant of Abraham accepting the one true religion that God revealed, (something that did in fact happen), long before Christ founded the Church. The religion of Abraham was the same true religion as the religion of Peter and Paul.

      Imaginary worlds of natural religion worshiping the true God

      I didn't suggest a natural religion, I proposed the king joining the one true religion. But he was drawn to it by factors that included natural philosophy - and I have known Catholic converts who were drawn to it because of natural philosophy (in part, as one of the arrows in God's quiver).

      the first thing he will give up is any religion that does not accept the revelation of OT prophets.

      And that's exactly what I was indicating. You insist on manufacturing straw men to knock down.

    5. One might say, why not propose some kind of "natural-law" Integralism.

      Norm, I was trying to show that you could have an integralism in favor of the true religion before the Church was even formed. Indeed, maybe I should have just pointed to Israel during the governments of the Judges and then Kings, founded by God.

      A government based on natural law won't, by that mere fact, be an integralist one, but a Catholic government that is an integralist one better be one guided by natural law, for otherwise it will be a bad government.

      I guess the fundamental point is that while a civil government is not organized so that its primary function is to direct us to our supernatural end, every civil government has to govern people who will have some understanding (good or poor) of their final end, and that civil government can be either
      (1) be utterly ignorant of what its own people view as their final end; or
      (2) recognize what its people view as their final end, and not care;
      (3) recognize what its people view as their final end, and take that into account in how it governs.

      Only one of those is likely to be at all decent as a government, the third. A government that respects natural law, in a society where people generally know that their final end is to know and love God in heaven, ALSO knows that the common good under the care of the civil government is not only not contrary to pursuing that as the final end, that common good is closely integrated with its people's of pursuit of their supernatural end, and good civil government (e.g. toward the moral virtues) is right and proper ordering toward the supernatural end - and not by any accident. So the proper civil order direction by the civil government, though not religious in nature, is compatible with the true religion of its people, and lends itself to cooperation to the true religion in matters of civil organization. It will do so not because it is directing men toward their supernatural end, as such, but in order to not interfere with the Church's institutions and directions for them toward their final end, and to rightly pursue the temporal good which itself aligns closely with a society properly pursuing their eternal end.

    6. The other point I was making also comes from the natural law, which St. Thomas teaches, but he borrows it from St. Isidore, after he shows that all human law is founded on the natural law:

      "Law shall be virtuous, just, possible to nature, according to the custom of the country, suitable to place and time, necessary, useful; clearly expressed, lest by its obscurity it lead to misunderstanding; framed for no private benefit, but for the common good."

      From the "possible to nature" and "according to the custom of the country" St. Thomas draws certain constraints on law. For example, law must not enjoin all acts of perfect virtue (even the natural virtues), because fallen men are not capable of that. For another, normally laws should not contradict long-standing custom, for custom is itself like law, and a people cannot easily reverse itself in its mores. For such reasons, one cannot propose a (good) Catholic governor of a pluralistic society (like we have in the US) that he would start overriding long-standing laws and customs permitting Protestant and Jewish practices merely because they are not in accordance with the truths of the Catholic Church. Yes, it would be better if the Protestants gave up those defective practices. But in terms of the long term good, it is still better that he employ means other than penal laws to bring that about, precisely because of what St. Thomas teaches.

      But what is possible to such a ruler is not identical to what is reasonably available to a ruler of a country that is and has been Catholic for hundreds of years. Because (as St. Thomas says) all human law is founded on the natural law, when a Catholic country recognizes the Church in law, it does so according to natural law AS WELL AS its rulers acting on their recognition of the divine claims of the Church. One element of that conjoined action is the state's right act to worship God collectively as well as as individuals, for it belongs to each being to honor God properly according to the mode of its nature, and the state is a created being - and this duty is known from natural theology as well as from divine revelation, as St. Paul indicates.

      As a result of these points, a Protestant or Catholic would be far more comfortable in the pre-Christian Jewish integralist but historically pluralistic society I proposed than in oppressive Rome or Athens, and a Protestant or Jew would be far less comfortable in a (sound) moderate integralist Catholic society that has been Catholic for 500 years than in France of today, but this simply does not say anything for against integralism as such. It shouldn't be taken to be saying anything against integralism as such, not any integralism that honors natural law at least.

    7. Hi Tony

      You make some interesting points.

      I think though that when it comes to Protestants though, it's not that they have "cultural practices" which are against Church teaching as such.

      To me it's the fact that their essential doctrinal commitments are against the Church. They are by very definition "Protestants".

      It seems to me that a Catholic Integralist society would have to de-emphasise those aspects of our faith that are bitterly disagreed upon. Or even if they don't intentionally do that, it may happen by default, just because we will be looking to appease the protestants. Either that or brutal suppression.

      Also the way in which we conceptualise the final end is fundamentally different from Protestants. I would even venture to say that when Catholics and Protestants use the term "heaven", they are actually equivocating.

      We see it in terms of the Beatific Vision. So if you are going to mention a common supernatural end with respect to the state, it will have to be first defined and then agreed upon. Is that even possible ?

      Also there is the question of why do Protestants and Jews have to be the ones who are accomodated and have to see things in terms of "how comfortable" they are, while Catholics are the ones who take control ? Can't Protestants aim for power? Can't they say perhaps we have more influence in USA as it currently is, why let go of that ?

  16. It"s a bit late to make this recommendation, and probably unnecessary since I am sure everyone else did it automatically.

    But reading through all of the embedded links is highly advisable, especially for the one or two others who might previously have had no clear idea of exactly what those who are actively currently using the term "integralism" meant by it in substantive terms; nor of the immediate environment which integralists see everyone as facing: i.e., the active degeneration and inescapably degenerative human effects of hedonic utilitarian liberalism itself.

    Take the 4th link ...

    Though all here are familiar with the transmutation of liberalism from a classical doctrine primarily concerned with the preservation of "negative" liberty, into a restless redistributive monster perpetually at war with the status quo and the past, it is still worth reading in its entirety.

    What use for example, would the Benedict Option present within an in-principle unbounded system of progressivist molestation having a baked-in desire to ferret out all non-compliance emerging from its very DNA?

    That, is the context in which some of the present integralist theorizing and gaming strategy arises.

    Now, Roman Catholic Integralists might think it is their duty at least abstractly or if the opportunity arises, to concern themselves with the fate of Hell bound progressive molesters. The Progressive Molesters themselves, may like the fictional "Seinfeld" TV series character "Elaine', disbelieve in Hell, yet nonetheless inconsistently imagine that those assuming there is one, should care if they wind up there.

    But the problem with the molesters of the progressivist CHEKA, is more immediate than that.

    " Late-stage liberalism, which calls itself “progressive,” embodies a distinctive secularized soteriology and eschatology. Progressive liberalism has its own cruel sacraments—especially the shaming and, where possible, legal punishment of the intolerant or illiberal—and its own liturgy, the Festival of Reason, the ever-repeated overcoming of the darkness of reaction. Because the celebration of the festival essentially requires, as part of its liturgical script, a reactionary enemy to be overcome, liberalism ceaselessly and restlessly searches out new villains to play their assigned part. Thus the boundaries of progressive demands for conformity are structurally unstable, fluid, and ever shifting, not merely contingently so—there can be no lasting peace. Yesterday the frontier was divorce, contraception, and abortion; then it became same-sex marriage; today it is transgenderism; tomorrow it may be polygamy, consensual adult .... "

    And because the major premise of modern liberalism is that "liberty" must be redefined to include the collective provision of opportunities for the subjective self-realization of the emergent satisfactions desired by its clients, then, in the words of Obama your, Mere tolerance ... is not enough.

    You must embrace, you must affirm ...

    Thus they don't give the man who largely just wishes to be left alone much selection when it comes to dealing with the perverts demanding not just his indifferent tolerance, but his sacrificial underwriting of their performance, his participation as part of the audience, and finally even his applause no matter how insincere.

    Because, tolerance is not enough, and because commitment to a shared fate, and because feelinz (theirs, not yours). Or some sh#t like that.

    Progressives ought to be grateful that it is meek integralists with a preservation impulse they are potentially dealing with ideologically, and not some proposed anarcho-libertarian movement proclaiming that the normal people should just stand back and watch the progressives accidentally burn it all the hell down including the progressives themselves. And then, start over in the ashes.

    Integralists, appear to be much more Christian than that.

  17. Under Ed's account of Vermeule's thought, he turns out to not to be much of an integralist, after all, but a kind of faint-hearted integralist, one seems to hold a view not too dissimilar than the original American understanding of the relationship between religion and government that was dominant in our culture up until the middle of the 20th century.

    Under Vermeule's neo-liberal integralism (my label), the Church will never, ever, ever, ever in-principle have the option to ask the state to imprison heretics, kidnap baptized Jewish children, and politically disenfranchise non-Catholics, all of which happened when integralism was in vogue. But, we are assured, that there is nothing in the logic of this neo-liberal integralism that would re-open the door to such practices.

    On the other hand, liberalism, according to Ed, has a kind of logic, one that commits its advocates to this endgame: "Liberal intolerance represents not the self-undermining of liberalism, but a fulfillment of its essential nature." But if your conventional liberal were to say in reply, "I don't believe and have never defended such a thing,," I suspect that it wouldn't matter to Ed, since liberalism has its own "essential nature."

    Why can't Vallier do the same thing and appeal to what he thinks is integralism's "essential nature" and tease out the implications of it given Vermeule's project, regards of what Vermeule may or may not claim to support or defend?

    1. I think he can claim that, and most likely he was doing just that in an implicit way. The trouble is that you can't do that honestly and fairly without demonstrating that these flow through from the "essential nature" of integralism, you can't just assert it.

      You also must try to state in clear terms that "essential nature" that you are basing your argument on, and in doing so you run the risk of stating it in a way that nobody else actually agrees is the essential nature of integralism. Certainly there are plenty of competing (and opposing) theses as to the essential nature of liberalism.

      Just for fun, I would note that the 19th century (lone) example of the Church kidnapping a Jewish baptized child was singular, happened under Pius IX, and probably would not have been condoned under any later pope who explicitly commends subsidiarity as a critical social principle. (I.E. I think Pius made a real mistake, there, on Catholic terms.)