Sunday, August 8, 2010

p. 95 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

How did 19th c. technology corrupt/change the American notion of rights? Now, go back to p. 94 and consider Marx whose philosophy was based entirely upon technology. [Be sure to click on link below under "reciprocal relationship"]

Relevant passages:

Atheistic nihilism transforms the "bourgeois" and highly moral individualism of the American Revolution into something entirely different. That older individualism was based on the idea of unalienable rights endowed by man's Creator. Such rights were not unconditional. They were to be exercised only in accordance with the laws of nature and of nature's God, which were moral laws. Rights and duties were in a reciprocal relationship. But the nature revealed by modern science-the unconditional basis of the belief in Progress-was that of mindless matter, a source of power to be commanded, not a source of morality to be obeyed. From here on, "rights" would be understood as the unconditional empowerment of the individual to do as he pleased. Self-realization became the code word for the new morality. The human self, however, was no longer understood to be made in the image of God, since God was dead. Self-realization was in fact only the correlate of the new atheism. As there could no longer be any distinction between man and God, which distinction is as fundamental to the Declaration of Independence as to the Bible, there could be no distinction between base and noble desires. All desires were understood to be created equal, since all desires were seen as originating in that highest of all authorities, the self-creating self.

Harry Jaffa. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Kindle Locations 1589-1597). Kindle Edition.

As these doctrines were filtered through the intellectual establishment of modem liberal regimes, of which Chief Justice Rehnquist is a typical representative, the emancipation from morality was itself seen as moral progress, and the opponents of that emancipation were seen as the reactionary enemies of both freedom and morality.

Harry Jaffa. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Kindle Locations 1598-1600). Kindle Edition.

[Also consider the following from page 50:]

This moreover is the same compact that Madison, throughout his life, declared to be "the vital principle of free government." From this account we see that a free election, properly so called, can only decide questions for a people united by the terms of such a compact. No election, however free, can rightfully decide questions "beyond the legitimate reach of sovereignty, wherever vested or however viewed." Nor can even unanimous consent rightfully authorize what is inconsistent with the "great principles of right and wrong." But suppose differences of opinion arise as to whether policies or institutions are, or are not, beyond "the legitimate reach of sovereignty,"

Harry Jaffa. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War (Kindle Locations 885-889). Kindle Edition.

[PERSONAL NOTE: the necessary question is what constitutes that limit? The Declaration of Indepenence drew that line with those things that belong to God. Here it is worth referring to R.L. Bruckberger's Image of America:

pp. 103-104

"To abolish divine right in politics--and this is where Congress got it right and Jefferson got it wrong--it is not enough merely to give the people full sovereignty. It must also be recognized that men's inalienable rights, upon which their sovereignty is based, is derived from God, Creator, Providence, and Judge. It is true that the people have rights, and that those rights are imprescriptible and inalienable; but not every right is theirs. THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO DEIFY THEMSELVES. Since their rights derive from God, they can exercise them only according to God's will. In their very sovereignty the people are subject to God. Without religion even democracy is exposed to all the perils of tyranny. The American Declaration carefully avoided making a philosophical absolute of the people; it did not give the people precedence over God in the chain of succession; it maintained the traditional chain of succession and traced back men's imprescriptible rights to God, the source of all justice and all rights.
...In this chain of political sovereignty the people are always subject and at the same time always free and sovereign. They are subject to their own laws and to God's justice. They are free because they obey only their own laws. They are sovereign because their sovereignty is part of the sovereignty of God.

--Image of America pp. 103-104]

C.S. Lewis explains here why subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy.

Also consider page 39 here.

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