Liberalism is the Enemy of Everything

Any commitment is bound to bind behavior within certain boundaries, for at bottom, and when carried into practice, every commitment is somehow moral, and so goes to inform and to constrain acts. Commitments then are per se somehow nomological, at least implicitly: a commitment cannot but impose a moral duty, and a judgement of what constitutes moral crime.

Philosophical liberalism takes the autonomy of the individual as ultimate. Any sort of commitment to anything else is bound to derogate that autonomy. So liberalism cannot but construe commitment to any other thing than individual autonomy as a moral crime.

So liberalism sets itself against all other commitments. It is the envious enemy of every other love. So is it destructive of all things, including eventually itself; for, human selves and their liberties all supervene society, which is a nexus of commitments to things that transcend the self.

44 thoughts on “Liberalism is the Enemy of Everything

  1. So is it destructive of all things, including eventually itself.

    If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? Matthew 12: 26

    This is good news, indeed, and was the plan all along, I think. I see this phenomenon taking place all around these days, in cancel culture and the exaltation of victims so characteristic of ‘liberalism’ (progressivism, really; the leaven of Christ’s kingdom working through the lump). It also brings to mind the Lord’s words about bringing a sword, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.

  2. Liberalism makes everyone into Houdini. We may bind ourselves with any number of commitments, but Liberalism hands us a universal lock-pick and makes us into universal escape artists. At-will commitments are phony commitments.

    • Viz., so called “no fault” divorce. Or, for that matter, the whole panoply of the liberal assault on the binding commitment that by ontological necessity two people cannot but make to each other, at least implicitly, when they engage in intercourse; a commitment which perforce involves – and obligates – their whole community, including those engendered by their acts. The liberation of sex is the ruin of reproductive success.

      As the promiscuous impose the costs of their indiscretions on the whole society, so with socialism more generally, not just in the purely economic sphere but in the moral as well: shifting the cost of individual acts from the agent to the society increases moral hazard while teaching moral laxity.

      Promiscuity, profligacy, prodigality: these are just different ways to say liberality.

      • If we are going to have liberalism, I prefer the old liberalism where individuals are not under obligation to society and society is not under obligation to individuals. We have liberal leftism, where individuals are free but society is under heavy obligations. Speaking of bankrupting society, what’s your opinion of MMT. Perhaps you’ve already written it here and I have forgotten. If not, I’d appreciate the opinion of a financial expert. I’m a financial dunce, but it sounds to me like kicking the can down a very dead-end road.

      • MMT is nonsense. It is the economic version of a perpetual motion machine. It confuses the printing of money with the manufacture of real economic value. So, it is founded upon a category error.

        In fact, it is even worse than the notion of a perpetual motion machine. It is more like the bill debated by the Indiana State Legislature in the 19th century that set the value of π to 3.2.

      • I don’t disagree with your characterization of MMT but I think a sufficiently deluded population can sustain MMT for a very long time before the system meets it’s fateful end. I know this is not directly related to OP, if you were to do a longer excursus on it I would be very interested. Now that there’s a bee in my bonnet I might look into it myself. It’s like a reverse emperor-without-clothes: None of us are naked as long as we all agree we aren’t naked.

      • In the USSR there was a joke: They pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work. MMT would revise it a bit: We pretend to pay us, and we don’t even pretend to work.

  3. Just nonsense.

    Liberalism doesn’t say people don’t have moral commitments, it says that they get to choose their commitments, as individuals and as a society through politics.

    Liberalism places a high value on individual autonomy but doesn’t regard it as “ultimate”, whatever that means. Eg liberalism also places a high value on egalitarianism and social justice; those are just as important as individual autonomy and often in conflict with it.

    Surely you can find ways to attack liberalism that don’t require such gross mischaracterization.

    • Classical liberalism hated the hereditary aristocracy but placed zero value on egalitarianism. “Social justice” is a an anti-liberal concept. Take a look at Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality, for a genuine liberal view of equality. The TLDR answer is that liberals detest equality. Your creed is Libertine Leftism, which demands maximal psycho-sexual freedom and minimal economic freedom. Inverted Puritanism really,

      • JM Smith:

        “Social justice” is a an anti-liberal concept.

        Contemporary leftists are authoritarians. Philosophical liberals, if they bought into “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” then they would have no quarrel with traditionalist reactionaries choosing to freely reject philosophical liberalism. They demand conformity.

        The problem is, they can only focus their ire like a coherent rage-laser if they have a common enemy which until recently was “Orange Man Bad”. Without the common enemy, they can’t focus their efforts–to say nothing that their victim-categorization has been diverging in a manner similar to mitosis. For this we can be thankful, because there is no more terrifying force than leftists in unified rage, as the 20th century can attest.

      • The equality of the French Revolution was bourgeois equality, or what we would call meritocracy, equality of opportunity, etc. It was a slogan of the truly oppressed–capable young men whose opportunities were limited because they were not members of the nobility. Now we know that liberalism cannot contain itself because it cannot explain why opportunities should not be limited by low birth but should be limited by low ability.

        I expect the will to power is part of the explanation, but hatred and the desire to destroy is also part of the explanation.

    • Surely you can find ways to attack liberalism that don’t require such gross mischaracterization.

      Liberalism is indeed a fat and sloppy target, easy to deride. It is incoherent, so its adherents spout crazy contradictory nonsense all the time. That makes pointing out its absurdities like shooting at fish in a barrel full of fish. Steve Sailer is great for that; a funny, clever guy, but liberals make his job of mocking them easy. All he has to do is quote them.

      But I was aiming at a more recondite, formal analysis of the fundamental problem of liberalism vis-à-vis all other notions. So I had to paint with a broader brush. It turns out that my characterization of philosophical liberalism was not inaccurate; for, lo, your very objection reiterates my suggestion that it takes the autonomy of the individual to be … OK, not ultimate, perhaps, but paramount:

      Liberalism doesn’t say people don’t have moral commitments, it says that they get to choose their commitments, as individuals and as a society through politics.

      Exactly! Thank you!

      Readers, here we have it from the pen of a liberal: liberalism says people get to be autonomous.

      You then proceed to cite the conflict that inheres between the paramountcy of individual autonomy and other values often (but not, NB, always) cherished by liberals: social justice and egalitarianism. Again, thanks!

      Folks, take note: a liberal himself has here pointed out for us some basic contradictions in the latter day agenda of liberals.

      • You’re welcome?

        Yes, people “get to be autonomous”. The horror. Why is that so bad? That has nothing to do with liberalism; it’s a basic fact of moral life – you’ve chosen your moral commitments as much as I have. If you don’t have a choice – are not autonomous – then you aren’t a real moral agent at all.

        That some liberal values conflict with other ones is not news. That’s how humans work.

        Please keep in mind that I’m not trying here to argue for liberalism; I’m just trying to defend it against particular slanders, such as the rather extreme idea that it is “the enemy of everything”. You haven’t addressed that at all.

      • I think I need to clarify some basic concepts.

        With everyone who believes that good and evil are objective categories, so that there is such a thing as morality, properly so called, I am a moral realist. Moral realists believe they have no power to choose the moral precepts by which they ought to order their acts, but rather only to discern, accept, and implement them. Their moral agency lies in their capacity to decide whether or not to abide by the moral law which they have so far discerned does in fact truly oblige them. Knowing, e.g., that adultery is objectively evil, they might decide nonetheless to commit it.

        Moral nominalists, by contrast, believe that people can indeed choose for themselves the precepts they prefer, and that such precepts are neither absolute, nor therefore absolutely binding – and so, not truly moral – but rather at most only matters of convention or custom either social or biological, but in any case fundamentally arbitrary. They believe they alone are, or can be, the arbiters of the moral precepts pertinent to themselves.

        Liberalism is a sort of moral nominalism.

        Realism and nominalism in moral matters are departments of general metaphysical realism and nominalism, respectively. Just as we cannot choose what is true in mathematics or metaphysics, we cannot choose what is true in morality. For, moral truth is a sort of metaphysical truth; mathematical truth is another. Thus once we have seen the truth of a proposition in morals, mathematics, or metaphysics, we have no option but to believe that truth.

        … one never possesses a metaphysical belief, but is possessed by it.

        CG Jung, Answer to Job: 117

        To know a truth is to feel inclined to act as if it were true, so that it informs and orders acts to reality. Moral nominalism is easier in practice than moral realism – in the short run, anyway. The realist is often likely to feel that he has no just option but to suffer personal costs for the sake of fidelity to the moral law. The nominalist, meanwhile, is able to change his moral code whenever it becomes inconvenient to him. He doesn’t need to feel guilty or ashamed about so doing – even though he might – because his moral code was in the first place for him in the final analysis only a matter of personal convenience, guided only by his preferences of the moment.

        I deployed “autonomy” literally: “self” + “law.” Autonomy is the condition of choosing moral “laws” for oneself, unconditioned by the moral laws praught or inculcated by others – including God. It’s the sin of Adam and Eve, and of all their descendants but two.

        Both realists and nominalists can of course suffer conflict of laws, when the moral precepts they have so far discerned – for the realist in the moral character of society, of game theory, of the cosmos or of her Creator, for the nominalist in his own preferences – are inconsistent. To err is human, as you do say.

        To the moral realist, such error, such moral confusion, is itself a moral defect, standing always in want of a correction he is obliged to seek for it. To the moral nominalist, error arising from moral inconsistency is not problematic; for, on thoroughgoing, consistent moral nominalism, there are in reality no such things as problems.

        Almost no one is a thoroughgoing moral nominalist, because moral nominalism is so incoherent that it cannot be implemented with any tolerable degree of operational success, except by the deployment of numerous unprincipled exceptions that each engenders cognitive dissonance: anxiety. Thus even liberals who avow their belief that we can choose our moral commitments ad libitum, and that all men are autonomous, generally believe also that some acts – some sorts of murder, e.g. – are absolutely wrong.

        Liberalism argues in particular that, given the moral nominalism it presupposes, and the individual autonomy that it therefore advocates as a sine qua non of “justice,” it is absolutely wrong to oppress others with the notion that there are absolute wrongs. It devours itself; it is a contradiction in terms. This is why it is its own enemy.

        Why is liberalism the enemy of every other thing? Because to give any other thing its meet is to be a bit constrained by it, at least in and by its bare facticity. For, each thing presents itself as a moral and aesthetic proposal that, if taken as truthful – as, i.e., real – cannot but be taken also as nomologically authoritative, and suasive, at least to some degree. The tiger is there: its facticity obliges us to take it as such, and then to order our acts accordingly. To reckon any other at all then, even the tiniest bit, is to be by it limited. And such constraints cannot be reconciled with the paramountcy of personal autonomy.

        Excursus: This is why liberals so often resort to skepticism about concrete reality. They must, if they are to wriggle “free” of the obligations that concrete reality imposes upon us, willy nilly. So they insist, e.g., that foeti are not persons, that women are just like men, that sex is only a convention, that math and logic disclose no real truths, and so forth.

        Social justice and egality, e.g., are *massively* illiberal, because (no matter how justice or egality be defined) they cannot be implemented other than by strict constraints on individual autonomy. Justice and egality along *any dimensions whatever* are *limits.* And liberalism is the rejection of limits on personal autonomy.

        Clear now?

      • The metaphysics of morality is not really that relevant to the political question that liberalism is an answer to. Moral realists often disagree with each other, to the point of war, because they are mere men and their knowledge of the abstract universal good (if it exists) is going to be imperfect.

        Given men’s very partial knowledge of the good, the question is, how is society to be ordered? Do you have a central authority determining the law and ruling over individuals, or do you let individuals figure it out for themselves? In reality of course we don’t have either of those extremes; morality is a social process as I said earlier. Liberalism is just the belief that that those social processes should be more bottom-up than top-down, and maximally permissive all else being equal. Murder is out, but sexual divergence and wearing cloths from mixed fabrics (prohibited in the Torah), well, let that be between an individual and god.

        Autonomy is the condition of choosing moral laws for oneself, unconditioned by the moral laws praught or inculcated by others – including God. It’s the sin of Adam and Eve, and of all their descendants but two.

        Adam and Eve’s “sin” was eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since they had no prior knowledge of good and evil, it’s hard to see how they could in fact sin, which requires moral knowledge and agency. (I hate to play the village atheist, but I don’t see how anybody can read Genesis and not be convinced that Yahweh is a gigantic asshole)

        But the point was, that is not what liberalism is. It doesn’t sacrifice all other values to autonomy.

        I’m prepared to believe you are so enmeshed in your religious worldview that you can’t see liberalism as anything but a sort of satanic inversion of your own faith – which would explain the “enemy of everything” rhetoric I guess. So for you everything has to be subjugated to some Ultimate Authority, and liberalism thus has to subjugate everything to – something else, like autonomy or the self. But the point of liberalism is that you don’t have to subjugate everything to One Ruler, neither God nor the state, and not to a single value like autonomy either.

      • A person without “knowledge of good and evil” is not incapable of understanding that it would be wrong (and imprudent) to disobey a wise and benevolent being. I’ll admit that the text is sketchy, but I believe that the word “knowledge” here has the same meaning as in the phrase “carnal knowledge.” “Knowledge of evil” therefore means first-hand experience of doing what is wrong, not the ability to discern that doing so would be wrong.

        Conservatives and liberals are about equally inclined to keep their noses out of other people’s affairs, although they do stick their noses in different places. I am more aware of liberal busybodies because I am more likely to violate liberal norms, but I can see how conservative busybodies are a nuisance to people who should be left alone. I suspect that bigotry is a personality trait and that bigots are drawn to the dominant ideology because it allows them to indulge their bigotry.

      • “Knowledge of evil” therefore means first-hand experience of doing what is wrong, not the ability to discern that doing so would be wrong.

        Exactly.

      • A.morphous, there is much in what you say. No society can afford to treat personal autonomy as paramount, so none ever have (despite what they might have said). Nor is totalitarian dictatorship a workable option, for its characteristic Terror ruins social trust, which then leads to regulatory lock down and pervasive dishonesty, which together all wreck prosperity and commensality. So, while there have been quite a few leftist, atheist regimes that tried hard to implement totalitarian governments, none of them lasted long in the grand scheme of things – although many of them did manage to destroy millions of their own citizens before they fell apart.

        Societies that last then muddle through somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. The Catholic social doctrine of subsidiarity is aimed squarely at ordering such muddling middling societies so that they can keep on muddling. In subsidiaritan regimes, decisions are pushed as far down the social hierarchy as possible, so that individual discernment of the Good and the Right is at the same time constrained and so educated where needs be, and left to its own devices otherwise. But, NB, in order to delegate authority down the hierarchy, *there must be a hierarchy.* So there must be hierarchs, or lords as they are more usually called, who exert real authority over their subsidiaries, and so are in a position to delegate it to them.

        Subsidiarity could be characterized as the top down delegation of authority, which then flows from the bottom up. It tends to optimize individual liberty. But it isn’t liberal, because it doesn’t operate on personal autonomy, but rather on authority. Indeed, it does not credit autonomy at all, but rather the Lógos. It credits theonomy.

        It is true that there have been lots of conflicts between moral realists. But compared to the conflicts between moral nominalists and everyone else, they have all been bush league stuff. The Thirty Years War was nothing compared to the Holodomor. Indeed, even the Mongol and Arab hordes were nothing compared to the Holodomor.

        But the point of liberalism is that you don’t have to subjugate everything to One Ruler, neither God nor the state, and not to a single value like autonomy either.

        The notion that you are not obliged to subjugate everything to one Rule or Principle – thus to one ruler or to one principal – *just is* the notion that it is OK to be autonomous. So, what you’ve written here is that the point of liberalism is that it is OK to be autonomous. Which makes my argument: philosophical liberalism – from which political liberalism derives by a straightforward implication – is the notion that autonomy is proper to man; i.e., that there is no proper nomological authority transcendent to the human mind.

        That is Lucifer’s argument; it is the means of his temptations to goods lesser than the best good. The rebuttal of YHWH is clear in Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3.

        Now, it is absolutely correct that man is in fact autonomous. This is to say only, and precisely, that it lies within man’s power to sin; i.e., to set himself at odds with the Order of Being – with GNON, with the Tao, with the Lógos, with YHWH.

        Notice that in your sentence I last quoted, you neatly show why liberalism is autophagous. You say, in effect:

        But the point of liberalism is that you don’t have to subjugate everything to One Ruler, neither God nor the state, and not to a single value like [liberalism] either.

        You’ve caught something important in Genesis:

        Since they had no prior knowledge of good and evil, it’s hard to see how [Adam and Eve] could in fact sin, which requires moral knowledge and agency.

        Again some clarification of terms is called for. Sin is lawlessness (I John 3:4), whether innocent or not. Adam and Eve were originally innocent of the knowledge that their disobedience was wrong, so while they did sin in taking the apple, they were not culpable for that first sin. Nevertheless the inexorable logic of the causal coherence upon which alone might worlds supervene entailed that they had to bear the dreadful sequelae of their sin: pain, death, labor, and so forth. That whole mess was implicit in eating the apple, which enabled them to understand evil for the first time. You can know only what you have experienced; which is to say, suffered.

        Before they ate the apple, Adam and Eve were like babies who did not know it was a bad idea to disobey the warnings of their parents and mess with venomous snakes. Their ignorance was not their fault, although it was a defect. When they acted upon the basis of that ignorance and so contravened the very Order of Being and messed with a snake, they had to suffer the consequences, just as a baby who messes with snakes must suffer the consequences, despite his innocence.

        The moral law of the universe and the horrible consequences of lawlessness are aspects of the cosmic order, in rather the same way that the venom of the snake and the horrible consequences of snakebite are aspects of the cosmic order. Moral facts are just as factual as any other sort, and just as intractable. You can’t argue the moral law out of its way of being any more than you can talk a cobra out of his. To set yourself at odds with the Lógos and mess with serpents is bad policy.

        I hate to play the village atheist, but I don’t see how anybody can read Genesis and not be convinced that Yahweh is a gigantic asshole.

        They read it carefully, and realize the serpent is the asshole of the tragedy.

      • Is exercising self-law (autonomy) lawlessness?

        It seems that to be truly lawless requires not just a loss of law, but a loss of self, first?

      • You’ve often praised the idea of subsidiarity; that seems one area where I think our feelings are similar. Who doesn’t love the idea of decentralization of power?

        But, NB, in order to delegate authority down the hierarchy, *there must be a hierarchy.* So there must be hierarchs, or lords as they are more usually called, who exert real authority over their subsidiaries…But it isn’t liberal, because it doesn’t operate on personal autonomy, but rather on authority.

        Oh. Well so much for that warm feeling; you mean delegation of power from a central source, not actually decentralization of power. But why would anybody settle for that when they could have the real thing?

        Re Adam and Eve and the Fall – you are aware that this is just a story, right? You don’t strike me as a literalist simpleton. I don’t suppose it matters; we are arguing about different interpretations of a myth, whatever underlying reality it might reflect.

        Consider: God creates two creatures without knowledge of good or evil. He creates a special tree that they are not supposed to eat from – what was his purpose in providing this temptation? And since Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil, they had no possible reason not to do whatever they felt like. Yet they are punished by their creator for this act which they could not possibly have avoided.

        Thus, God is an asshole who unjustly punishes the innocent. And not just this one time; he had to be later talked out of punishing more innocents by Abraham, who had higher standards of justice than Yahweh. He’s given to rage. Not an admirable character, at least by my standards.

        The serpent on the other hand was bringing mankind knowledge that they had been denied, so comes off as a kind of promethean hero – assuming you value knowledge.

      • Myths are stories, but they are not “just” stories. That’s why we call them myths. As I explained to you earlier, “knowledge of good and evil” means experience of good and evil, not knowledge that good and evil exist. Similarly, the word innocence can mean innocence that evil exists or innocence of having done evil. The fall deprived Adam and Eve of their innocence in the second sense. This is obvious from the fact that they experienced shame. They did not learn that it is possible to sin, but what it feels like to be a sinner. This is usually described as the difference between knowledge about and knowledge of. There is no reason to think that A&E did not know about evil since the concept is implicit in forbidding them to eat from the tree of knowledge.

      • a.morphous wrote:

        Consider: God creates two creatures without knowledge of good or evil. He creates a special tree that they are not supposed to eat from – what was his purpose in providing this temptation? And since Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil, they had no possible reason not to do whatever they felt like. Yet they are punished by their creator for this act which they could not possibly have avoided.

        Thus, God is an asshole who unjustly punishes the innocent. And not just this one time; he had to be later talked out of punishing more innocents by Abraham, who had higher standards of justice than Yahweh. He’s given to rage. Not an admirable character, at least by my standards.

        LOL! I can’t wait to read Kristor’s reply to all that.

        Obviously a.morphous hasn’t had the benefit of reading T. Morris’s Guide to Proper and Effective Parenting that Never Backfires. Chapter 1: Teaching Obedience and Respect for Authority to a Toddler – with a pepper shaker strategically placed in a lower cabinet the toddler has been explicitly told, on numerous occasions, (s)he is not to get into. “Did you get into that cabinet I told you not to get into? Didn’t daddy tell you it would hurt you?! Come on, let’s go wash your face and rinse your eyes out.” LOL.

      • Great analogy; everyone knows that after God punished Adam and Eve, they and their descendants had been so successfully behaviorally conditioned that they refrained evermore from disobedience and sin.

      • Salvation History has been the slow education of a loving God to his unfaithful people. God made a deal with Adam and Eve, then with Noah and his family, then with Abraham and his descendants, and then through Christ, with all people. It is precisely because of this point you raise that the second person of our Triune God humbled himself and became Man. Topical, given it is Holy Week. If you were to attend an Easter Vigil service on Saturday evening, you would hear the Easter proclamation and these words:

        O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
        which gained for us so great a Redeemer!
        Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God
        to see Christ rising from the dead!

      • Great responses to a.morphous from Terry, JM, and Scoot.

        Terry: just so. Except that God did not take special measures to put the pepper in the bottom cabinet. It is in there naturally; i.e., as an essential characteristic of cabinets per se. As you can’t obtain a cabinet without cabinetry, so you can’t build a walled garden like Paradise (which literally means “walled garden”) without enclosing it within walls. And the fact of the wall entails the possibility of passing it into whatever lies beyond. If you are in a paradise, by definition it is ontologically possible for you to get out of it. Once you have got yourself outside the Garden, you can’t get out of it again, unless you first get back in.

        Salvation history is about how Adam and his descendants get back inside the Garden. Once they manage to get back in, they’ll never want to make the mistake of getting out again. But so long as they are outside the veil, they must perforce act as people must who are outside the veil: i.e., sinfully. The logic of life outside the Garden will incline them, by their vagabond nature – which, of course, wants to survive in the world outside the Garden, and to sate with such worldly goods as may there be found the profound dearth of that true and full contentment that is to be found only within their proper Garden home – to sin; such is concupiscence. And that will prevent their getting back through the Garden wall.

        That, a.morphous, is why the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve never quite learn the lesson of the Original Sin, even though we all know the story. It is why we turn away from the New Gate in the Garden wall that God in Jesus opened for us, as if we were blind to it.

        JM: you’ve nailed it. Before they Fell, Adam and Eve knew perfectly well that they would suffer pain if they ate the forbidden fruit. But they didn’t know what pain was, or why they would want to avoid it. Nor did they know what dishonesty was, so they had no way to suspect that Lucifer might have been deceiving them.

        Scoot: Yes. God tested Abraham repeatedly, and Abraham passed every test – albeit, not always with flying colours, or easily. By each of those tests, God also taught Abraham about his own true nature, and thereby disabused Abraham and his seed forever of the false notions of most cults about the character of the King of Heaven.

        A.morphous: As 2 + 2 = 4, so the wages of sin is death.

        This is not something God might have done differently if only he had been a nicer guy. It is baked in to the nature of things as an ontological necessity. As necessary, it is immutable: creatures cannot possibly turn away from the source of their lives and still live just as fully as if they had not. Likewise, you can’t handle a venomous snake except by accepting the likelihood that you’ll be bitten, and poisoned, and die. It’s just the way things are, and nobody can do anything about it, including God. This, in just the way that nobody can make a square circle, not even God. Venomous snakes can’t be venomless, circles can’t be square, and sin can’t be harmless.

        So God was not punishing Adam and Eve capriciously, as an asshole would. On the contrary, he did as much as he could for them, in warning them about the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit.

        Nor did YHWH set up the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden capriciously. The knowledge of evil – which we learn by suffering the pain thereof – is possible to creatures necessarily. It is not possible to obtain a creature that cannot be harmed. It is likewise impossible to obtain a creature that cannot do harm. For, it is impossible to obtain a creature that is omniscient; only God can be omniscient; so creatures are by ontological necessity partiscient. The potential then of error – of defect, sin, pain, harm, death – is inherent in the necessary partiality of creaturity.

        Had you not noticed that in Genesis 18, YHWH did not change his mind? He never says in that chapter that he intends to destroy Sodom. Abraham – and most readers of the passage – infer that he intends its holocaust, but that is due to their partiscient error in thinking that God thinks the way they themselves do. The lesson of the chapter is that, unlike the human besiegers of Abraham’s day, and unlike the demons idolized by the pagans of Sodom, Babylon and Tyre, YHWH is merciful. He could destroy Sodom altogether, but – as Abraham learns – he withholds his hand for the sake of a few righteous men in the City. Thanks to his bold questions, Abraham learns that the perfect justice of YHWH is merciful, and rational. It is not God who changes in Genesis 18, but Abraham.

        Coruscant wrath is how the fire of God’s love feels to sinners. The love of God – which is his very being – is bound by an ontological necessity to destroy what wills its own destruction. It is bound to completely delete the Body of Death. Likewise is it bound to kill a man who jumps off a high cliff. When you jump off the cliff, why then you fall to your death. Where is the injustice in this?

        At least since Origen (floruit 184 – 253), Christians have been reading the early chapters of Genesis tropologically, typologically, analogically and anagogically. So, yeah, we know that the story of Adam’s Fall is a myth.

        That does not mean it is not literally true as history; it does not mean that it is not a true myth. It does not mean Christians read the early chapters of Genesis as literally false. Only a simpleton would draw such an unwarranted inference from the scientific paradigm or expert consensus of this age or that. We should all have learned to avoid such unscientific errors from the rediscovery of Troy.

        The scientific paradigm of the 19th Century ruled out the possibility that the story of the Fall in Genesis might be literally true. That was then. I am reading some stuff now that explains how the Fall might have happened as described in Genesis, and in agreement with current scientific paradigms. I’m not done – some of it is still on its way to me. When I am, I’ll try to work up a post about it.

        [By subsidiarity,] you mean delegation of power from a central source, not actual decentralization of power.

        You can’t decentralize power that is not central. Delegation of power from a central source *just is* actual decentralization of power.

        But why would anybody settle for [delegated power] when they could have the real thing?

        Why, in other words, wouldn’t everyone prefer liberal autonomy to a lawfully ordered society? The question answers itself, no? I’ll take a lawfully ordered society over a Hobbesian war of all against all any day of the week.

        Authoritative order is a necessary (but not sufficient) forecondition to and characteristic of society per se. If there is first a social order, that constrains its members, then only can the question of individual liberty vis-à-vis such constraints even arise. There can be no political questions in the absence of a polis.

        It is usual at this point in such discussions for those of a liberal bent to argue that society arises from a Hobbesian state of nature as a contract between absolutely untrammeled individuals. But that’s a silly idea. Contracts are inherently social instruments. Saying that society arose when men formed contracts with each other is saying that society arose when society arose.

        Man is a social animal. Individual humans supervene society. No society, no men. Then society is logically prior and supersidiary to individuals; it is therefore properly authoritative, and cannot but exert such authority if it is to perdure. Rule therefore is endemic to man; so then is hierarchy. Ergo, etc.

        Delegated power then is the only sort of power there is, for creatures. You did not originate any of your powers. They are all delegated to you by others. Some are delegated to you immediately, in virtue of your very being – which, NB, you had no part in arranging. Some are delegated to you mediately, by other creatures, who have passed them along to you from the powers first delegated to them.

      • The wages of life is death. The wages of sin is suffering in this finite life we area allotted, nothing more or less. Sorry I can’t buy into the Christian idea of sin, not even a little bit. Too twisted for my taste. Send me a postcard from heaven.

        Of course, whatever your ideas about sin, it is undeniable that we do go around feeling guilty most of the time – that is the phenomenon the Eden myth is trying to explain.

        When it comes to origin myths for guilt, I think I prefer the Freudian story to the Biblical one. Note that in both cases the sinners are basically innocent, but punished nonetheless (neither Oedipus in that myth, nor the developing child know that there is something wrong with their desires). They are drawn by fate to their crimes, and don’t even have a chance of resisting. And in both cases, the protagonists are cursed, after the fact, with knowledge of their guilt.

        But at least in Freud the punisher is just the hapless parents and society, not God Almighty. Parents have an excuse for being vindictive assholes; they were raised that way by others of their kind. God has no such excuse.

      • So Genesis is more twisted than Freud’s ascription of psychopathology to … *incest*? Dude, Freud is sick. As in, perverted. On Freudian psychology, the reason we are all crazy is that we – all of us, mind – have these crazy thoughts about our parents. His theory “explains” that psychopathology arises from … psychopathology. It’s a dormitive virtue “explanation.”

        Genesis per contra adduces creaturely freedom and cognitive error as the bases of our defects. It’s a much simpler theory. It does not ascribe the explanandum to the explanandum. And it is much more congruent with our experience than Freud’s obsession with incest.

      • This is the first great fact to notice about the speech of God, which is the culmination of the inquiry. It represents all human skeptics routed by a higher skepticism. It is this method, used sometimes by supreme and sometimes by mediocre minds, that has ever since been the logical weapon of the true mystic. Socrates, as I have said, used it when he showed that if you only allowed him enough sophistry he could destroy all sophists. Jesus Christ used it when he reminded the Sadducees, who could not imagine the nature of marriage in heaven, that if it came to that they had not really imagined the nature of marriage at all. In the break up of Christian theology in the eighteenth century, [Joseph] Butler used it, when he pointed out that rationalistic arguments could be used as much against vague religions as against doctrinal religion, as much against rationalist ethics as against Christian ethics. It is the root and reason of the fact that men who have religious faith have also philosophic doubt. These are the small streams of the delta; the book of Job is the first great cataract that creates the river. In dealing with the arrogant asserter of doubt, it is not the right method to tell him to stop doubting. It is rather the right method to tell him to go on doubting , to doubt a little more, to doubt every day newer and wilder things in the universe, until at last, by some strange enlightenment, he may begin to doubt himself.

        GK Chesterton, Introduction to the book of Job. Felt this was pertinent.

      • Sorry, I wasn’t very clear. I didn’t mean that the Genesis story was twisted (although I still think Yahweh doesn’t come off very well, and there are all sorts of peculiarities in the details if you read it closely). I meant that the Christian notion of sin seems twisted and designed to produce all manner of unnecessary suffering. But that is a later add-on that is not found in Judaism or in the original story.

        You don’t seem to have a very deep understanding of Freud. The source of psychopathology in Freud is not the desires but the necessity of repressing the desires. That’s why it has a resemblance, in the abstract, to the Eden story – they both are stories about how humanity developed self-consciousness, and the terrible results of that (awareness of death, awareness of sin, and the need to restrain oneself).

      • The source of psychopathology in Freud is not the desires but the necessity of repressing the desires.

        This is exactly what I was getting at. Freud thinks it is totally natural for all of us to want sex with our parents, and that repressing that totally natural desire is the cause of mental illness. Thus if we could just stop repressing the desire for sex with our parents, and also for patricide, and just get on with the patricide and the incest already, the way that we were meant to do by nature, why then we’d get rid of neuroses, and be healthy minded. We’d get rid of civilization in so doing, to be sure; and thanks to the incest and patricide also the species. But that would be a small price to pay.

        These notions are sick. And they are crazy. Freud treats incest and patricide as natural and healthy. But only insane people want to kill their fathers or screw their parents. Adducing the perfectly sane repression of that insanity as the *source* of insanity is a dormitive virtue explanation. It says, “people are crazy because they have these crazy desires that would destroy the species if they were not repressed, and that they repress in order to appear sane and live with each other sociably.” It’s nuts.

        Freud is right up there with Aleister Crowley as a source of ethical guidance. They both say, “You are sinful by nature; just go with it, and you’ll be OK.”

        You don’t seem to have a very deep understanding of the Christian notion of sin. Christianity – and Judaism – say, “You are sinful by nature; if you go with it, you’ll be in big trouble; so, better not.” That’s just, simply, true: sin is disastrous, for the sinner and for his people.

        This is easily shown. Just run a Gedanken Policy Test on each of the social commandments of the Decalogue. On game theoretical grounds, societies that try to keep those commandments crush societies that do not. Indeed, the latter *crush themselves.*

      • Dude: trust me, you don’t understand Freud in the slightest. I’m not going to try to explain it to you; I’m not that strong a believer in his ideas or methods myself, so not going to spend energy fighting on his behalf. Read a book if you care.

        But I don’t really understand your outrage, given the Christian doctrine of original sin and the belief that we are all born depraved. Freud doesn’t seem to be saying anything worse than that. He does not, as you seem to think, advocate giving in to Oedipal desires. That’s why I brought him up, it struck me that he is offering a secular version of original sin doctrine and the origins of guilt.

        You don’t seem to have a very deep understanding of the Christian notion of sin. Christianity – and Judaism – say, “You are sinful by nature; if you go with it, you’ll be in big trouble; so, better not.” That’s just, simply, true: sin is disastrous, for the sinner and for his people

        Maybe I don’t. That model of morality seems very crass to me, very ignoble. You invoke game theory, as if virtue was a matter of finding optimal strategies for maximizing some metric.Your model of sin seems like it owes more to utilitarian rational calculation rather than anything religious. Not that it’s for me to judge things like that. Certainly the God of the Bible liked to dole out punishment.

        Also, it seems like it’s your kind of attitude which gave rise to liberalism; which noticed that some things which tradition considered sins turned out not to have actual bad consequences (or were thought not to). Homosexuality for instance. A real old-school moralist believes that sin is sin regardless of the consequences.

      • I’ve read enough Freud to understand what he’s about. I’m not outraged, just noticing the absurdity, incoherence and perversity of his thought. He’s not wrong about everything – nobody becomes as influential as he was unless he gets a lot of things right. But the stuff about incest is just kooky.

        [Christianity says] we are all born depraved. Freud doesn’t seem to be saying anything worse than that.

        Really? You don’t think incest is a bit more depraved than, say, gluttony or sloth? Are you serious?

        No, wait, wrong question: are you insane?

        Oh, but never mind, silly me, the question answers itself: you are a liberal.

        Incest is so sick it didn’t even make it into the Decalogue. There’s no commandment that says we ought not to lust after our parents. That sort of lust is so sick, and so universally abhorred by *all human societies,* that it did not even occur to Moses to proscribe it. Adding a commandment against screwing your parents would have been superfluous; like adding a commandment against gouging your eyes out or eating shit.

        [Freud] does not, as you seem to think, advocate giving in to Oedipal desires.

        Of *course* he doesn’t. I am engaging in a reductio so that the absurdity of Freud’s theories will be obvious.

        Freud himself does not go there. He has not the courage of his convictions about the origins of insanity in insanity. He likes his cigars, couches, and all the other myriad and wonderful fruits of high Austrian civilization too much to actually want to advocate destroying society and the human species by returning to the Oedipal state that, as being ex hypothesi ubiquitous in our unconscious desires, cannot but be natural and so proper to man. So he dodges away from the precipice of the reductio implicit in his theory by a massive and groundless – but totally warranted – unprincipled exception, and comes down on the side of repression and neurosis. Which is *good;* which is *sane.*

        Better far than that miserable dissolute twit Rousseau! Better for Freud to have stepped back from the abyss like a gentleman as he did, rather than leap into it with Jean Jacques.

        Still: Freud’s theory in a nutshell is that we are crazy because we have crazy desires that we repress, *and that’s OK.* It’s nutty stuff, best chased with a stiff draught of absinthe.

        Consequentialism and utilitarianism are both dormitive virtue theories. They suggest that an act is good if it makes us feel good. I.e., they define goodness as goodness.

        Good acts do indeed generally – but not always – work better, and make us feel better, than bad acts. But they are not good because they work well or feel good. Rather, they work well and feel good because they are good. And their goodness is objective. The goodness of certain sorts of acts, and the implicit evil of other sorts contraventional thereto, are features of the logic of our cosmos. And they are features of the logic of our cosmos because they are a priori, mathematically demonstrable truths of metaphysics. Because morality is built into math, and metaphysics, and so into the structure of the cosmos, we can be sure that sin is sin regardless of the consequences. Viz., we can be mathematically certain that homosexuality is sinful – that, i.e., it is a grave disorder of sexual reproduction – so that it should be no surprise to us that it reliably leads to reproductive failure and reduced life expectancy.

        Liberalism was around long before game theory or utilitarianism. It goes all the way back to Genesis, and the temptation to autonomy. Which is just a way of saying that it goes all the way back. Man has always been tempted to liberal society. It has never worked; this was old news in Plato’s day. That’s how we can be sure the Lógos disapproves of it: Matthew 7:16-20.

      • Just nonsense.

        You cannot build a house from the third floor up. The mere fact that you believe you can explains why you have been screwing up the building together with the rest of your ilk. You can’t make up values through politics, values and commitment to them are two separate things, commitment to values precedes politics and values basically are metaphysics.

        Liberalism wants to be maximally permissive… of what?
        Liberalism places a high value on individual autonomy… for what?
        Why are you going around feeling guilty?

      • Exactly, thanks Round Robin. As I wrote upthread, liberality supervenes a moral constraint that, to be moral in the first place, and thus to exert authoritative sway over acts, must be founded upon some metaphysical absolute First Thing. Adam and Eve could not have flouted the Tao if there had been no Tao.

    • I think it might be helpful, if you’d give everyone your definition of “liberalism” (if it’s also a definition widely accepted by both sides, that would be even better). Might help clear things up.

  4. Liberality in its former positive sense, was directionally intended as individual freedom (and privacy and relief from!) tribe-king-church-nation state moral-will-imposition threat of violence against the individual for non-conforming participation in the group. Freedom to be left alone and freedom to associate. The open question is, will Liberalism in its current negative state metastasize into tyranny again (an unchangeable closed loop Ouroboros quine relay system snake eating its own tail in perpetuity).

    The beginning of the snake head problem input involved groups (plurality) claiming invisible personal revelation as basis for strict moral dogma, authority and justified violence against non-conforming group members and other outside group(s).

    Can we defeat the snake? Yes. If individuals look within themselves and summon the free will power to resist the impulse to destruction.

    Wishful thinking? Yes. I’m guilty.

  5. Liberalism, as any other version of relativism, is self-refuting. Do you have the freedom of reject liberalism? As any other relativism, it is only a rhetoric trick. It’s liberalism for me but not for thee.

    I (Calvin) say that I am free to interpret the Bible ( with respect to the Pope), but, if someone in Geneva wants to interpret the Bible different than me he will go to prison. You are free from following the law of God, but not the law of the government. You have free speech, but, if you have a different opinion than mine, it’s hate speech. And so on and so forth

  6. Every organism needs a strategy to survive. The Leftist’s method is to liquidate its theoretical enemies, make slaves of the rest and take their property. To push out competition, the easy targets are attacked first, just as the lion thins out the wildebeest herd. But, in time, only the most power-mad survive and they turn against one another in what I have called the Leftist’s Circular Firing Squad. The theory used is almost immaterial, but it is in the nature of a fraud that usurps Truth and turns falsehood into belief, enabling all sorts of evil perpetrated against the innocent, who are held to be the guilty. The bubble of unreality must be maintained, for its fragility is readily burst, destroying the homeostasis in consciousness.

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