Wednesday, September 28, 2011

p. 47 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What is the principle political danger to Western governments of reducing Christianity to a humanitarian moral message?


Christianity can exercise its influence on the souls of men, it can help fortify an understanding of liberty as a "liberty under God," [as opposed to liberty of the will] only if it rejects the temptation to become a wholly "democratic" religion.

This is so because a wholly democratic religion would turn Christianity into nothing more than another mirror of the popular will. In a wholly democratic religion the popular will makes up its own God on its own terms (or, as under Communism or Ayn Rand Libertarianism, the church is thrown out and man/state declares itself God). This is happening within the church in the West today, as Edward Norman discusses in Secularisation:

Thus a secularised version of the love of neighbor is released from the constraints of an articulated moral system--least of all from one claimed to be of divine origin--and elevates human need as a sovereign principle. Once Christ is represented as primarily concerned with justice and welfare, rather than with sin and corruption, the equation of his religion with the leading tenets of modern Humanism is easily effected. Humanism, however, in whatever guise it presents itself, is about the sovereignty of humanity and its imagined needs, and not about the demands of God at all. It is not only inherently an enemy of authentic Christianity, but also its probably successor.

...Once humanity and its needs have been elevated to sovereign determination of public and private action, anything that can be represented as an affront or an impediment to the painless existence of men and women is made to seem morally unacceptable--an outrage. Morality then appears as self-evident: it is the palliation of whatever humans themselves regard as the cause of their suffering or deprivation.

It is worthwhile to note that when morality appears self-evident, we probably already have a problem.

The same risk--that the church and the state/popular will become one--holds true under despotic governments as it does under democracies. Whether it be the Holy Roman Empire, 1930's Germany, France after the Revolution, any Communist state, any Islamic state, Czarist Russia, Henry VIII, or an Ayn Rand Libertarian state--in every case religion and the state are one and the same, and if it's a Christian state it is a church that has been usurped by the state.

Among history's philosophies and religions that guide governance only Christianity provides the freedom of conscience necessary for the separation of church and state. Either Christians follow Christ which has nothing to do with the state (Mark 12:13-17), or "the church" and the state become one in the same just as it would under Communism or in an Ayn Rand Libertarian state. The church is often usurped by the state for political purposes as it was under the Holy Roman Empire, the Spanish Inquisition, Henry VIII, Czarist Russia, etc. but in every instance is a rejection of Mark 12:13-17.

p. 42 & p. 44 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Tocqueville identified something in Christianity that made it a political necessity, but that political necessity was previously an object of ridicule in France. What was that necessity?


As Manent argues, conservative-minded liberals such as Constant and Tocqueville found for religion 'its specifically modern political and moral credibility.' They praised it 'for the very reason it was formerly and even recently criticized: it is something above the human will.'

Which is why Solzhenitsyn was making a philosophical claim and not one merely rooted in faith, when he said that totalitarianism arose in no small part because "men had forgotten God." (p. 44)

And it's what Whitaker Chambers was talking about when he said that the crisis of communism exists to the extent that it has failed to free the people it rules from a belief in God. The crisis of the West exists, Chambers said, to the extent that it is indifferent to God.

p. 36 & 39 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What is the danger of the separation of church and state in thought?


"As Manent writes...'If the separation of church and state is precious as a rule of our actions, it become ruinous if we make it the rule of our thought.' To make it the rule of our thought is to deny the directedness of the human mind toward truth, toward 'the sovereignty of the object.' It is to permanently sever liberty from a searching engagement with the ends or purposes of human freedom. Lilla's 'art of intellectual separation,' in a desperate effort to maintain civil peace, risks giving rise to a new dogmatism that denies the natural movement of the human soul toward truth. It also assumes that the theological-political problem is frozen in time and ignores the new threats to human freedom that have arisen out of the modern 'solution' to this problem. Those threats include the specters of soft and hard despotism, as well as indifference to truth. These can be summed up in the striking phrase of the Hungarian political philosopher Aurel Kolnai: the 'self-enslavement of man,' which is a byproduct of the most radical and consistent interpretations of human self-sovereignty."

Connect with p. 39:

The law cannot be fully "neutral" about the good life--about the ends and purposes of human life--without eventually subverting the idea of human nobility and the moral foundations of liberty itself.

p. 21 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Why is theory inadequate?

"In contrast to the tyranny of such an abstract democratic 'idea,' Tocqueville teaches us to practice the art of liberty within democracy and to defend the broader inheritance of Western civilization. The democratic order is not self-sufficient and depends upon a precious civilizational inheritance that it has trouble renewing and that it sometimes actively undermines. With no hope of simply resolving the 'problem' of democracy, we must draw upon its practice to correct its theory. But we must do so in the awareness that there is a tension in the very idea of 'popular sovereignty' between the abstract idea, always tending toward more radical interpretation and applications, and concrete exercise of democratic self-government. Instructed by Tocqueville, we are in a better position to defend democracy against those who love it immoderately."

My notes: Democracy tends toward the "more radical interpretation" in the West--that is, of total individual autonomy--but it can also tend toward a more Islamic state elsewhere in the world, which is also its enemy.

Connect Tocqueville and Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind. Robinson argues about the failure of scientism, which she identifies as a theory that fails to account for the human mind that created the theory.

p. 18-19 & 102 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Why is the belief in man's self-sovereignty the first necessary step toward socialism?

Answer: It tell us we have the authority to relieve ourselves of the pain of living.

In Tocqueville's "Speech on the Right to Work" (9/12/1848), Tocqueville attacked socialism for making of man "an agent, an instrument, a number." He denounced it for "energetic appeal to man's material passions," its "unending and continuous" assault on the "principles of individual property," and for its confiscation of human freedom. In words that became the the inspiration for the title of Friedrich Hayek's famous book, Tocqueville wrote that "if...I had to look for a definitive general conception to express what socialism as a whole appears to me to be, I would say that it is a new form of servitude." Tocqueville identified democracy with "equality in liberty" and socialism with "equality in penury and servitude."

p. 102 What is the great modern outrage of the world that Tocqueville predicted?

Answer: "The democratic principle of human and civic equality has been radicalized, as Tocqueville predicted, into a passion for equality the perceives 'every discriminatory, every difference as inegalitarian, every inequality as inequitable.'" So to connect with p. 19, the "pain of living," which is the greatest outrage of modern "values" has identified distinction itself as chief among the pains of living.

Also connect with Edward Norman's Secularisation. Same thing happened within the modern church.

p. 18 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What did Tocqueville say that the despotic "schoolmaster state" wanted to spare us?

Answer: T. said the schoolmaster state would enervate the human soul and destroy the capacity for individual initiative and moral judgement.

"Carried to its logical conclusion, a tutelary state would deprive democratic man of his very humanity, sparing him 'the trouble of thinking and the pain of living.'"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

p. 15-16 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Why does Mahoney say that Tocqueville "belongs to an altogether different moral and political universe" than Locke and Hobbes?

(For Hobbes and Locke, human freedom and equality comes from a speculative, pre-political state of nature.)

The third chapter of Tocqueville's The Old Regime and the Revolution is titled "How the French Wanted Reforms before They Wanted Freedoms." In that chapter T. warns that "whoever seeks for anything from freedom but itself is made for slavery." Compare to 2 Peter 2:19.

This is the crux of preaching freedom "because it brings you wealth," or "because it reduces government oppression," or "because _____." Tocqueville's point is that freedom is a goal, and not a means to some other end. To treat freedom as a means to these ends is materialism, not liberty. Liberty = virtue.

See Luther's On Christian Freedom. Luther said that freedom from the Law is not autonomy from the law, but rather freedom from the temptation of sin made clear in the Law, in overwhelming preference for Christ. This is how Luther understood freedom = virtue. This is also much closer to Tocqueville who saw the importance of the church in American freedom that restrained it from a purely self-radicalizing freedom that only sought materialistic ends and the complete autonomy of the individual.

p. 14 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Tocqueville's critique of his asst, Gobineau (and a fine critique of Nietsche's position), who believed in pure scientism:

No, I will not believe that this human species, which is at the head of visible creation, should become the debased flock that you tell us it is and that there is nothing more to do than to deliver it without future and without recourse to a small number of shepherds who, after all, are not better animals than we are and are often worse. You will permit me to have less confidence in you than in the bounty and justice of God.

Another way of putting this conservative foundation is this: God created man, God made man the head of all his creation, man is loved by God personally, and THEREFORE man can never be self-sovereign. Tocqueville attacks Gobineau for removing God from the picture thus allowing him to set himself up as the self-sovereign ruler of man.

Contrast this with clip below where Donahue complains that capitalism doesn't reward virtue, meaning that material rewards should follow from virtue. This is the opposite message of Christ, who foresaw not mundane rewards but earthly suffering for the virtuous. For Christ, following Him equated to virtue. There's little chance this is what Donahue meant by virtue, as evidenced by his belief that virtue should be rewarded with material gain. Tocqueville wasn't particularly Christian, but recognized the danger of material gain becoming the goal of democracy.

Friedman is brilliant in his answer to Donahue, and yet Friedman isn't as close to Tocqueville as he sounds. Donahue complains that capitalism doesn't reward virtue. Friedman rightly points out that no system or person does reward virtue, and no one should be trusted with doing so. But Tocqueville doesn't attack Gobineau just because he wants to be the entrusted ruler, but because Gobineau ignores the hierarchy of man's relationship with God. Friedman, God bless him, disregarded that hierarchy as well.

p. 13 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Ha! What did Tocqueville mean by "I have not yet become enough of a German"? Note this was the 1850's. The path to National Socialism was laid well before Versailles.

p. 5 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What makes us free and what else is necessary to make us sovereign? Or perhaps a better 2nd question: What is different about the sovereignty of man in the Soviet Union vs. the United States? In what nation was man's status elevated higher?

partial answer: We are free because we obey our own laws.

p. xi-xiii The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What are the three terms, and how do they related to Jaroslav Pelikan and Mr. Emerson in Room with a View? (hint: Bach's Mass in B Minor)

p. x The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

What is the "culture of repudiation" and how does it undermine American liberty? Connect with C.S. Lewis on choice, Rieff on choice, and explain the inadequacy of Hayek here, as quoted in Thomas Sowell's Conflict of Visions.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

p. 292 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

Jaffa argues that Taney and Southerners reached their conclusions by applying a new morality. What was their morality and how did it work?

p. 294 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

How is the hierarchy of man's relationships to God and to other men fundamental to the idea that the "powers of government are derived from the consent of the governed"?

p. 285 - 292 A New Birth of Freedom, Jaffa

How does Taney trap himself in his own arguments?