Monthly Archives: November 2011

Contraceptive Mentality and Abortions

Often missed is the link between the contraceptive mentality and the culture of death.  It is only a materialist and physicalist view of humanity that can think along the lines of “contraception equals less unwanted pregnancies equals less abortions.”  It works for math, but it does not work at the “human” level.

When Pope Paul VI penned Humanae Vitae, speaking, among other things, of how the use of contraceptives was the path to an increase in abortions, many mocked the idea.  Aren’t abortions a method of ridding one of an unwanted child?  Certainly, then, is not an ounce of prevention worth a pound of cure? If you prevent the seeds from being planted, are not there fewer weeds to pull?

It is sad, of course, that this line of thinking parallels the argument that contraception prevents abortions. We see the prevention of kids almost as we see the prevention of weeds.  They are something to spoil the pretty little garden we’d like to create for ourselves.  I dare to say that the Garden of Eden was more beautiful than anything we can create, and in God’s wisdom, His command was not “contracept” but “be fruitful and multiply.”

Of course, we are dealing here with the second level of abstraction.  We are looking at math and measure, which is certainly appropriate with things of a purely material nature. However, when we get into the world of the human person, we err if we think we can, through modern reductionist tendencies, par the contraception/abortion mentality down to the purely materialistic.

We have therefore tried to put together an equation and neglected one of the factors. In this case, we forgot human nature, and we should not be surprised that the use of contraceptives has had rather a direct rather than inverse relationship with that of abortions.

It is written on the human heart to value life over matter; that the human is worth more than the inanimate object. But we watch an advertisement such as this Bayer Bayez commercial and see that, due to the contraceptive mentality, we clearly see a choice between the two as equal. Do I want a baby or a trip to Paris? (we could expand our topic by mentioning that most of the women in this commercial didn’t have on a wedding band, but we will leave that for another post)

In the Summa Theologica, I II Question 94 on the Natural Law, Article 6, St. Thomas tells us that

“There belong to the natural law… secondary precepts, [that] can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful.”

Well, when the contraceptive mentality takes over an entire society and a generation is raised thinking it is normal, then “vicious customs and corrupt habits” cause the secondary precepts of the natural law to be blotted out of our hearts.  And when this happens, we decide that we can “define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood vs Casey).

The meaning becomes having what things we want.  Things, as in diplomas, cars, human babies, trips to Paris; all particular, individual and equal choices, the decision left to the whim of the chooser. In fact, the choices that were once necessarily connected are disassociated.  We no longer see marriage and pregnancy as likely cause and effect.  In fact, we no longer see marriage and sex as necessary one to the other.  We don’t even see “becoming pregnant” and “having a baby” as one thing that precedes the other.  We can disconnect what God has joined. The law of Christ by His own words is “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.(Mark 10:9). And we, by the natural light of reason, can come to this conclusion on our own.  Nevertheless, we have let technology, materialist reductionism, and vice decide that we can separate Marriage and Sexual Union, Sexual Union and Procreation, and therefore, we merely extend this to Procreation and the birth of a child.

The drastic increase in abortions in the very countries where there is a drastic increase in contraception has proven the mockers wrong. Pope Paul VI, therefore, was either a more intelligent anthropologist than his mockers, or he was a prophet. Let us not separate these two: I would venture to say he was both.

The Lord’s Prayer, Revised Mass Translation, and Natural Law

Lord’s Prayer and Natural Law

 

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.”

Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Law a certain ordinance of reason for the common good, made by him who has the care of the community, and promulgated. Natural Law is humans’ participation, through reason, in the Eternal Law, which is simply the truth of God as God knows it Himself (which more simply is God knowing God).

We know that grace perfects, not destroys, nature.  And so we pray for God’s will to be done “on earth as it is in Heaven.”  We ask that this happens through His grace, and what we ask for is a conformity of our will with His.  This certainly includes the Divine Law, being those things we cannot know through reason alone.

There is no doubt that this also concerns things of a non-moral nature as well, but it is the supernatural, not the natural, that is primary.  Indeed, if the supernatural law was adhered to by our first parents, the natural world would have always treated us just fine.

No doubt, if we put a primary emphasis on physical comfort in this world as first priority when praying for God’s will to be done, we have reversed what matters most.  Not coincidentally, this is a problem in the Church since Vatican II.  The first document of the Council said that:

It is of the essence of the Church that she be both human and divine, visible and yet invisibly equipped, eager to act and yet intent on contemplation, present in this world and yet not at home in it; and she is all these things in such wise that in her the human is directed and subordinated to the divine, the visible likewise to the invisible, action to contemplation, and this present world to that city yet to come, which we seek. (SC, 2)

Somehow, nevertheless, whether in the Mass or in social justice, we have reversed the order.  We have made the human primary over the divine, action over contemplation, the visible more important than the invisible, and the present world having primacy of importance over “that city which we seek.”

Thankfully, next Sunday we will hear a translation of the Novus Ordo that is faithful to the view of the supernatural as primary. Shortly after praying, then, the Nicene Creed (in which we will no longer hear watered-down language like “seen and unseen” but accurate words that admit of a true transcendent reality like “visible and invisible”) we will pray the Our Father.  When doing so, let’s mean every word, and let’s ask for the grace to share the truth of how God wants us to act.

When the Mass is over, and we are “sent,” we need to evangelize the world.  As early as Eusebius, the Church historian, it was suggested, essentially, that Greek philosophy had been supplied providentially as a preparation for the Gospel. An understanding of the natural law will be a great bridge towards preparing others for the fullness of truth that resides in our, or rather Christ’s, Holy Catholic Church.

Understanding, yes, but also prayer. Primarily, prayer.

Nausea

Here is a a very meaningful article by Archbishop Chaput that is pertinent to our times, and a quote from it:

“Most of us here tonight believe that we have basic rights that come with the special dignity of being human. These rights are inherent to human nature. They’re part of who we are. Nobody can take them away. But if there is no Creator, and nothing fundamental and unchangeable about human nature, and if ‘nature’s God’ is kicked out of the conversation, then our rights become the product of social convention. And social conventions can change. So can the definition of who is and who isn’t ‘human.'”

“If God does not exist, everything is permissible ” says Ivan in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s book The Brothers Karamazov. Jean Paul Sartre has said that his Existentialist philosophy is to be found in Ivan. Of course, Dostoevsky was defending the existence of God, while Sartre was reasoning out the true implications of a consistent atheism.

If there is no God, then who defines things objectively?  Who gives them their nature?  Humans, now become the highest being (although the question of human “nature” poses its own problems here) and everything else is just what use we make of it.

The NIV New Testament translates 1 Corinthians 10:23 as “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.

This certainly is not the same as “If God does not exist, everything is permissible,” but many have taken the freedom of 1Cor 10:23 and attempted to expand human freedom to that of Sartre.  In seeking this “freedom,” we think we will be happier, but I think we will eventually find what Sartre did; that all existence will be pure nausea.

Scholasticism? – What is this blog trying to do?

Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know Himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. (Fides et Ratio)

Let me first say that much of this post is simply cut and pasted material from other sources, with little of my personal input.  I need not take credit for it, nor alter it to any extent, for it is truth, not originality, that I aim for, both in this post and in my blog as a whole.  What is presented below is simply a brief background and outline of what shapes my attempt to continue the tradition of the Scholastics in reconciling faith and reason and achieving a coherent view of the world through contemplation, as well as seeing how we can apply this in our lives.  After all, one of the Dominicans’ greatest mottoes, taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, is “to contemplate and to share the fruits of your contemplation.”

Scholasticism is a method of critical thought which dominated teaching by the academics (scholastics, or schoolmen) of medieval universities in Europe from about 1100–1500, and a program of employing that method in articulating and defending orthodoxy in an increasingly pluralistic context. It originated as an outgrowth of Christian monastic schools. (from Wikipedia)

Much of what is written hereafter, edited and interspersed with my own commentary, is from the Catholic Encyclopedia)

Not so much a philosophy or a theology as a method of learning, scholasticism places a strong emphasis on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference, and to resolve contradictions. Scholastic thought is also known for rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions. In the classroom and in writing, it often takes the form of explicit disputation: a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents’ responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponent’s arguments rebutted. Because of its emphasis on rigorous dialectical method, scholasticism was eventually applied to many other fields of study.

As a program, scholasticism began as an attempt at harmonization on the part of medieval Christians thinkers: to harmonize the various authorities of their own tradition, and to reconcile Christian theology with classical and late antiquity philosophy, especially that of Aristotle but also of Neoplatonism.

No method in philosophy has been more unjustly condemned than that of the Scholastics. No philosophy has been more grossly misrepresented. And this is true not only of the details, but also of the most essential elements of Scholasticism. Two charges, especially, are made against the Schoolmen: First, that they confounded philosophy with theology; and second, that they made reason subservient to authority. As a matter of fact, the very essence of Scholasticism is, first, its clear delimitation of the respective domains of philosophy and theology, and, second, its advocacy of the use of reason.

Christian thinkers, from the beginning, were confronted with the question: How are we to reconcile reason with revelation, science with faith, philosophy with theology? The first apologists possessed no philosophy of their own. They had to deal with a pagan world proud of its literature and its philosophy, ready at any moment to flaunt its inheritance of wisdom in the face of ignorant Christians. The apologists met the situation by a theory that was as audacious as it must have been disconcerting to the pagans. They advanced the explanation that all the wisdom of Plato and the other Greeks was due to the inspiration of the Logos; that it was God’s truth, and, therefore, could not be in contradiction with the supernatural revelation contained in the Gospels. It was a hypothesis calculated not only to silence a pagan opponent, but also to work constructively.

The belief that the two orders of truth, the natural and the supernatural, must harmonize, is the inspiration of intellectual activity in the Patristic era. But that era did little to define the limits of the two realms of truth. St. Augustine believes that faith aids reason and that reason aids faith; he is, however, inclined to emphasize the first principle and not the second. He does not develop a definite methodology in dealing with them. The Scholastics, almost from the first, attempted to do so.

Scholasticism sprang from the study of dialectic in the schools. The most decisive battle of Scholasticism was that which it waged in the twelfth century against the mystics who condemned the use of dialectic. The distinguishing mark of Scholasticism in the age of its highest development is its use of the dialectical method. It is, therefore, a matter, once more, for surprise, to find Scholasticism accused of undue subservience to authority and of the neglect of reason.

In fact, it was a common saying among the Scholastics that “the argument from authority is the weakest of all arguments.”

This blog is, hopefully, a continuation of that search to seek the truth and then live it.  It is inspired by the Gospel, the news of Truth Himself, the great Scholastics, and of course, the encyclical of Pope John Paul the Great, Fides et Ratio, the opening sentence of which I began this post.


The “stigma” against pedophiles

“Matt Barber, associate dean of the Liberty University School of Law, and I attended the “B4U-ACT” pedophile conference Aug. 17. To eliminate the “stigma” against pedophiles, this growing sexual anarchist lobby wants the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to redefine pedophilia as a normal sexual orientation of ‘Minor-Attracted Persons.’” (Judith Reisman from World Daily Net)

Yes, this is true, for those who think “how could this be?”

But why not.  After all, we have gotten rid of the “stigma” against unmarried sex.  We have gotten rid of the “stigma” against same sex unions.  Soon we can get rid of the “stigma” of child-adult relations, and while we are at it, the “stigma” against rape (it seems pretty normal for aggressive men, doesn’t it?) and the “stigma” against bestiality.

Anyone who for a second thinks I am going too far in making these “outlandish” statements should merely reflect that a few years ago, anyone saying that we should get rid of the supposed “stigmas” we have already gotten rid of was just as outlandish. You see, white is white, and black is black, but the magical grey is a wide array.

Yet we all believe in the principle precept of natural law, which is that “good is to be done and evil avoided.”  What many do is to try to define everything as good and therefore permissible.  “Sure, I believe that we shouldn’t do evil: fortunately, there are very few things that are actually wrong.”

Not so.

Revelation teaches that the power to decide what is good and what is evil does not belong to man, but to God alone. The man is certainly free, inasmuch as he can understand and accept God’s commands. And he possesses an extremely far-reaching freedom, since he can eat “of every tree of the garden”. But his freedom is not unlimited: it must halt before the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” -from Veritatis Splendor, by Pope John Paul the Great

In the Summa Theologica, I II Question 94 on the Natural Law, Article 6, St. Thomas tells us that

“There belong to the natural law, first, certain most general precepts, that are known to all; and secondly, certain secondary and more detailed precepts, which are, as it were, conclusions following closely from first principles. As to those general principles, the natural law, in the abstract, can nowise be blotted out from men’s hearts. But it is blotted out in the case of a particular action, in so far as reason is hindered from applying the general principle to a particular point of practice, on account of concupiscence or some other passion, as stated above (Question 77, Article 2). But as to the other, i.e. the secondary precepts, the natural law can be blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions, just as in speculative matters errors occur in respect of necessary conclusions; or by vicious customs and corrupt habits, as among some men, theft, and even unnatural vices, as the Apostle states (Romans 1), were not esteemed sinful.”

The key words here, for our purposes, are “on account of concupiscence or some other passion” and “by vicious customs and corrupt habits.” Little has changed in 2000 years for those that have not accepted the truth, or rather, the Truth.

In William Wallace, O.P.’s Elements of Philosophy, under the subject of ethics, he reminds us that “A primary precept of the natural law is: a being must act in accordance with its nature; a reasonable being must act reasonably.”

But our passions must be conformed to our reason, and not vice versa.  We live in a world that thinks it seeks freedom, all the while falling into licentiousness instead. True freedom is in virtue, the power to do good. Man has a right to do what it is right (objectively) for him to do.  He does not have the right to make up what is right. Our country (I speak to Americans at least) has tried to say otherwise.

Why should we expect any different in a country where the Supreme Court upholds the legality (and, in doing so, the” morality”) of abortion by making statements such as “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood vs Casey)

The true Supreme Court, however, is Jesus Christ, who will judge all according to His, not man’s, standard.

The mysterious “they”

“Sometimes individuals like to distance themselves from responsiblity by blaming society”

This is the classic “they” problem.  I often ask my soldiers a question, to which the response is along the lines of “they said we could do this.”  Upon inquiring as to who “they” is, lost looks is usually the response.  There is something almost innate in us that transfers responsibility and recognizes some mystical “they,” whether it is the mysterious “they” that gave my soldiers permission to do something, or the “they” that is society, some extra entity beyond the sum of its parts and indeed outside it, that is somehow to blame.

Yes, society is greater than its parts, from one perspective, and yet is exactly equal to what it is made up of in another.  Perhaps “they” exists, but we need to make sure we know what we mean when we place the responsibility with them.

A couple of tools that would help one examine the deeper meaning of this are the following sets of distinctions:

What is a collective good versus a common good?

What is distributive, legal, and commutative justice?

Contemplating these aspects of justice and society will help to clarify what are the roles of society as a separate entity and as a collection of the people of which it is made up. I have written of each in other posts, but I think it is necessary to post a longer essay dealing with them specifically.  It will be forthcoming.

The State: Our New God

Is man a social being by nature? Aristotle vs. Thomas Hobbes

Is man a social and political animal? Hobbes’ Man is in a natural state of War. Aristotle’s Man realizes that he cannot procure all his own needs for himself, nor with just his family, and that  it is natural to man, by his very nature, to live in community.

The Aristotelian view:

“The goal appears to be the same for a community of human beings as for an individual, and the best political system must conform to the same standard that the best man conforms to…it is fitting for the city to be brave, temperate, and resistant.” Politics, Bk. VII)

“…personality tends by nature to communion…the person requires membership in a society in virtue of both its dignity and its needs…The social unit is the person.” (Maritain, Person and the Common Good, pg. 47)

The Hobbesian View:

“…by covenant of every man with every man, in such manner as if every man should say to every man: I authorise and give up my right of governing myself to this man, or to this assembly of men, on this condition; that thou give up, thy right to him, and authorise all his actions in like manner. This done, the multitude so united in one person is called a Commonwealth; in Latin, Civitas. This is the generation of that great Leviathan, or rather, to speak more reverently, of that mortal god to which we owe, under the immortal God, our peace and defense. (Leviathan, Ch. 17)

And he that carryeth this person is called sovereign, and said to have sovereign power; and every one besides, his subject.” (Leviathan, Ch. 17)

The point of contention:

Sovereignty means two things.  First, a right to supreme independence and supreme power which is a natural and inalienable right. Second, a right to an independence and a power which in their proper sphere are supreme absolutely and transcendently, not comparatively or as a topmost part of the whole.” (Maritain, Man and the State, Ch. 2)

Man and Society:

To understand man’s place in society we must understand both man and society. First our understanding of man will tell us whether or not man is in society as an outsider or someone who belongs. In other words is man’s place in society natural or artificial? We cannot separate our anthropology from our political philosophy. Those that do will have nothing but incoherent system.

We find that both Aristotle and Thomas Hobbes understand this relationship between man and society. For Aristotle he has already told us his theory of man, especially in de Anima and in the Nichomachean Ethics, before going on to this politics. Likewise, in Thomas Hobbes Leviathan, the first part consisting of 16 chapters gives us his theory of man. Only then does he go on to Part II, Of Commonwealth.

Both Hobbes and Aristotle seek to understand what it is that man is and what he does.  For Aristotle, man has a specific difference of being a rational animal, and therefore, he seeks to know the highest things.  “All men by nature desire to know,” he tells us, and to achieve his end, man must be virtuous.

For Hobbes, man seeks to live, and everything else is based on living and not dying.

Law and Right Reason:

Among internal principles, virtue is primary in directing man to the good of human happiness.  The law is the primary source externally.

The common good is the purpose of all law, but the common good is distinct from the collective good. The distinctive common good to which human law is ordered is the civil, or political, good of peace and order. It would seem that Thomas Hobbes understands this at a superficial reading, but I believe that in truth, he does not.  His theories are a starting point on the road to utilitarianism, which certainly begins a mass confusion of the common good and the collective good. I say, then, that Hobbes’ political philosophy contains the beginnings of this distortion, for the oak is contained in the acorn.

So what is law?  Law is a certain ordination of reason for the common good, promulgated by one who has care of the community.  We have briefly discussed the issue of common good, or at least we have made mention of it as being deserved of reflection.  We might at this time discuss law as “a certain ordination of reason.”

The subject of natural law must be brought up at this point. Although we cannot pretend that Aristotle spoke of natural law in the way that later thinkers such Aquinas would, he was certainly laying down no opposition to it.  In Hobbes, however, we see a very different view.

Let us take a modern example of its distortion and see if it can shed some light on the issue at hand. Every individual, we are told, enjoys a fundamental right to define “one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, 1992). In order to uphold abortion as legal, the court had to go so far as to define subjectivity as the objective truth (at least as far as society is concerned). This type of legal positivism can only take place when man becomes God, eliminating the real God and His objective reality from be the source from whence we get right and wrong.

Hobbes states in his Leviathan that

To this war of every man against every man, this also is consequent; that nothing can be unjust. The notions of right and wrong, justice and injustice, have there no place. Where there is no common power, there is no law; where no law, no injustice. Force and fraud are in war the two cardinal virtues…It is consequent also to the same condition that there be no propriety, no dominion, no mine and thine distinct; but only that to be every man’s that he can get, and for so long as he can keep it.

And a little later

For where no covenant hath preceded, there hath no right been transferred, and every man has right to everything and consequently, no action can be unjust…

Therefore before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant, and to make good that propriety which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of the universal right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of a Commonwealth.

We should reflect on how much this line of thinking has become the basis of our contemporary society.  A thing is just or unjust because the State makes it so.  According to Hobbes, there was no such thing as actual justice or injustice until a commonwealth is set up.  Right and wrong are completely due to the law of the State, and before it there is no objective right or wrong. Thus, today you will hear that “action A is moral, clearly, because it is legal.”

Shouldn’t it rather be legal only if it is good morally?  We have it backwards, it seems.But this is precisely where we end up when we live in a society based off of Machiavellian power ethics and Hobbes’ sovereign state instead of the virtue ethics of happiness as understood by Aristotle in a worldly sense and extended to eternity by the Christian faith, stated so clearly by St. Thomas Aquinas.

For us, however, it is no longer God, but we who define our “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of life.”

So again, if law is truly a certain ordination of reason for the common good, promulgated by one who has care of the community, then we have several distortions that have crept in already.  The ordination of reason seems to have been altered, for the one who has care of the community has been replaced.  If God is He who primarily has care of the community (all that He created), then reason likewise must extend back to His law first, and our participation in understanding that law is the natural law.

This is not to say that, for Aristotle, God was a creator who had care of His community, for this was certainly not Aristotle’s view.  However, Aristotle’s view leaves open this possibility as concerns objective truth, rather than a looking to the state for a legal positivism.  For Aristotle, the state and political philosophy were the highest human art and good, but this is qualified by the fact that Aristotle, without revealed truth, could not see how man could attain what he seemed to be made for, which Christians would rightly name the beatific vision.

When rights are on a temporal level, the common good takes precedence over the individual good, since the part, as part, exists for the whole (this is one of Maritain’s points in Person and the Common Good). For Aristotle, then, this whole took precedence, and his political philosophy had to be defined by it, for he knew of no eternal life of each individual. It is common knowledge that his understanding of individual immortality has been a point of extreme controversy throughout the ages.

The underlying point is simply this; for Aristotle, right and wrong are not what they are because humans make it so, but rather, right and wrong are there to be sought out and conformed to by human persons.  This stands in obvious contrast to such Hobbesian statements as “where no covenant hath preceded, there hath no right been transferred, and every man has right to everything and consequently, no action can be unjust.”

We must now demonstrate how all of this is related to our initial inquiry: is man a political animal as Aristotle says, or rather is he the Hobbesian animal that is only joined in community by a practical necessity?

Civil law directly concerns the external acts of human beings, presupposing the interior principles and acts. (“The goal appears to be the same for a community of human beings as for an individual, and the best political system must conform to the same standard that the best man conforms to…it is fitting for the city to be brave, temperate, and resistant.” Politics, Bk. VII)

As with Hobbes, Aristotle’s political thought is tied to his thought on what a human person is. Indeed, the goal for what a good community is is related, not just to the survival of the persons in it, but towards their virtue.  This we certainly do not see in Hobbes. For Hobbes, humans want to live.  For Aristotle, they want to live well, be virtuous, and be happy.  In fact, they will not be happy unless they are virtuous.

No doubt Aristotle disagreed with many of his teacher Plato’s points in The Republic, but it is clear that they both taught that virtue, specifically justice, is a good in and for itself. Socrates detractors in the beginning of The Republic argue that justice is such things as the strongest getting their way or someone helping a friend, but Socrates argues that justice is a good above these distortions.  In fact, the republic can be said to be both about society and about the individual.  Justice within society and justice within the man are seen as close parallels.  This, then, is the obvious and classical teaching. The view of Hobbes, and of many since him, obviously stands in strong contrast to this.

In William Wallace, O.P.’s Elements of Philosophy, under the subject of ethics, he reminds us that “A primary precept of the natural law is: a being must act in accordance with its nature; a reasonable being must act reasonably. Included in this is that one must properly as human pursue truth, exercise freedom, and cultivate virtue.” This is precisely a putting forth of the classical and Aristotelian teaching on man and politics.  It cannot be said that Hobbes would agree with the second statement.

For Hobbes, it is certainly not man’s nature to pursue truth, to exercise freedom, or to cultivate virtue. Instead, man’s nature is merely to be at war, to seek his own preservation.  It is rather societies sole job to prevent human nature.  A source of power protects one evil man from another evil man, so that both have a reason to treat each other well and not feel as threatened by everyone else. Again we quote Leviathan:

Therefore before the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power to compel men equally to the performance of their covenants, by the terror of some punishment greater than the benefit they expect by the breach of their covenant, and to make good that propriety which by mutual contract men acquire in recompense of the universal right they abandon: and such power there is none before the erection of a Commonwealth.

Justice and Rights:

William Wallaces Elements of Philosophy is a useful tool to compare classical thought to Hobbes (or any other thinker).  In closing and as a review and summary, we will examine a few contrasts in Hobbes to Wallace’s book, and we may rightly say that Wallace can be generally said to state the Aristotelian and Thomist (these are not always the same) principles.

The role of justice is to facilitate the unbiased search for objective right and so to determine the will to acknowledge and fulfill that right.

Hobbes simply says that, before the commonwealth makes right and wrong , there is no such thing.  Before this, “ the names of just and unjust can have place, there must be some coercive power.”

Positive law is generally required to assure justice in society, but positive (human) law can certainly entail injustice.

For Hobbes, it is human law that determines what is just or not in the first place.  Before human law, remember, there is nothing that is unjust.  If after human law, there is injustice, it is clear that this human law cannot entail, for Hobbes, injustice, for it is that which defines justice.

Men have a right to do what it is right for them to do.

The biggest difference in today’s society and that of old is in the understanding of “rights.”  Rights always had a tie to obligation primarily. This meant that rights were first those of others, not of ourselves, because it was about justice. Justice is the steady and lasting willingness to give to others what they are entitled to (their right: jus [or ius] suum).

But in a society that has grown up under Hobbesian survivalist thinking, rights are what are owed me.  Rights tend to become what I am entitled to before I have everyone get out of my way so I can get on with my own purposes.  It is only this swing in that that can lead us away from a defense of the right to life and towards a “right” to abortion on demand.  And indeed, it is certainly only this distortion in thinking that can lead many to see a right to life and a right to abortion as compatible views.

I said a moment ago that the “biggest difference in today’s society and that of old is in the understanding of rights.”  Joseph Pieper, in his The Four Cardinal Virtues, under the discussion of Justice, shows us where our “rights” as humans do come from and indeed must come from: our Creator. Our rights are a gift, and not a necessity of our being. In truth, then, the biggest difference is in our understanding of the human person, in both origin and in goal.

Aristotle’s god was not creator who loved the world, but Aristotle was no atheist, and knew that there was objective truth that we must conform to.  Hobbes, though he quoted Scripture often and even spent half the ink in Leviathan talking of the Christian society, was most likely an atheist (something unpopular then, rather than the expected stance of intellectuals today), and it shows in his view of man and of the state.

In reality, I would say no one is a true atheist.  They either believe in God, or they believe that man is God.  Somebody makes the rules, and many are not humble enough to admit it may be someone besides themselves. I guess that’s why we are told that we enjoy a fundamental right to define  our “own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life,” and all the while the state, our god, takes more and more control over us and asserts itself as the real definer of what we are, and what we will do.

Technology and the demise of the thinking person

I think we have decided that we know “so much” when we rather know “about so many things.” In fact, it’s not even that we know about so many things as individuals, but as a whole.  By this, I mean that, with all the inventions and technology out there, we have decided that we, as a human race, are at the top of the world.

We have achieved the true purpose of knowledge, which is of course power, Francis Bacon, is it not? It seems, then, that we don’t think deeply on things, and we often are fine that “someone knows” what I need to know, so why think deeply.  I’ll be shallow, and I’ll “Wikipedia” something if I need to know.  Or I’ll take my broken stuff to a specialist who can fix it.

I wonder if there is a link these days between not being able to do at least our own minor car repairs and carpentry and our complete lack of desire to think for ourselves.

In his book, The Science Before Science, Anthony Rizzi reminds us just how much we think we know, and how little we actually know. We won’t accept much on faith any more, at least if we realize we are accepting it on faith.  But in truth, we accept so much (including so much non-sense) on faith, and claim it as knowledge.

If something is said to be a recent scientific hypothesis (global warming, perhaps) it is suddenly a FACT we have certain knowledge of, regardless of how little training we have and research hours we have logged in biology, chemistry and physics. Yet if every ancient record shows that a man named Jesus was crucified by the Romans about 2000 years ago, and that afterwards many witnesses died to proclaim His teachings, many will deny that this man ever even walked the earth, nevertheless rose from the dead.  And why is this?  The word faith has been associated with Him.  We are not even speaking of His resurrection, but simply His existence.

How about belief in God, simply a god, an uncaused cause?  Nope, but “God is dead,” replaced with our new state of enlightenment.  We now “know” there is no first uncaused cause, but we at the same time “know” that there is a current crisis of global warming, and it’s all because of pollution, and after all, everything has a cause.

Except “Everything.” There is no cause for that.  I, rather, will be that rebel that says it is more rational to claim to know that “Everything” has a cause before I claim to “know” the specific causes of each of those things based on blind faith.