Sep 18, 2015

Liberalism: A Self-Evaluation

via Gornahoor

The Liberal is a fanatic for independence; he extols it to the point of absurdity, in every domain. ~ Father Roussel
This post was motivated by some recent events. Yesterday, on the way to a BBQ, I listened to a prominent self-declared “conservative” ranting about freedom. Now in intellectual terms, he is a “sophist”, that is, one who earns money (and in his case a great deal of it) from expressing opinions. He concluded, with no irony, that he was defending the Enlightenment ideal of freedom.

At the BBQ, liberalism was also the norm, with an occasional anti-religious barb; I just focused on the Tequila.

I’ve also been watching the Hand of God on Amazon. There is a religious element, but of low intellectuality. The liberals, which includes most of the characters, are involved with rape, suicide, murder, venality, extortion, adultery, prostitution, drugs; I guess that is all they can do with their freedom.

So it behooves us to understand the intellectual roots of liberalism, not simply its popular manifestations. For this, I have adapted the discussion on liberalism by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre from They Have Uncrowned Him. The topic headings are his. I’ve interspersed his comments with mine, sometimes adapting them into a wider context.

NOTE: I would like to turn this into a gradable quiz so that people can see exactly how liberal they are; I’m sure they would like to score high. I understand such quizzes are quite popular on the Internet. So I am open to specific questions with point values for various answers. Also, a WordPress quiz plugin would be useful. 

Liberalism may manifest in one or more of the following nine liberations.

The True and the Good vs Being

This refers to the various philosophies of becoming rather than the metaphysics of being. Reason does not submit itself to its object. This liberation has two aspects: subjectivism and evolutionism.

Subjectivism

Truth is the conformity of the intellect with the thing. Thus, a truth-seeker needs to renounce any factitious constructions of his own mind.

Subjectivism, on the other hand, claims that reason constructs the truth. Things are no longer what they are, but what I think. Historically, the main figures in the development of subjectivism were:
  • Luther (individual inspiration of Scripture)
  • Descartes (the cogito knows only itself)
  • Kant (things are unknowable in themselves)
  • Rousseau (truth is public opinion or general will)
This ends up in this:
The thought of the individual is going to be dissolved into the public opinion, that is to say, in what everyone or the majority thinks; and this opinion will be created by the techniques of group dynamics organized by the media, which are in the hands of the financiers, politicians, etc.
Subjectivism, by exalting freedom of thought, results then in the crushing of thought.

Evolutionism

By rejecting the real, the Liberal rejects the immutable essences of things as well as stable human nature. Man, then, is in perpetual progressive evolution and the man of yesterday is not like the man of today. Evolutionism appears in several realms:
  • Biological (Darwin, Lamarck)
  • Intellectual (the myth of the indefinite progress of human reason)
  • Moral (emancipation from alleged taboos)
  • Political-religious (emancipation from the spiritual authority)

 

The Will vs Intellect

In the healthy minded, the will follows the intellect. Hence, this liberation is liberation from the intellect, so that the will is entirely arbitrary. An example is the character Mathieu in The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre. Mathieu stabs himself in the hand at a nightclub so that it is pinned to the table.

You don’t own me!

The Conscience vs the Law

Law is seen as limiting freedom and imposing constraints, which run counter to human dignity and freedom of conscience. This liberation is based on misunderstanding the difference between liberty and license.

Feeling vs Reason

This is the philosophy of romanticism which extols feelings above reason. The Romantic prefers slogans to thought: he condemns violence, superstitions, fanaticism, etc. These are intended to stimulate the imagination rather than the intellect
The Romantic claims to have a “good heart” and to be motivated by “love”. He makes himself the apostle of peace, liberty, tolerance, and pluralism.

The Body vs Soul

This liberation involves the independence of the body from the soul, or, the animal nature in regard to reason. The result is the radical overthrowing of human values.
This liberation exalts and sacralizes sexuality.

The Present vs the Past

In this view, the present must be liberated from the weight of the past. The past is a time of injustice, oppression, ignorance, superstition, and so on. The present time, therefore, discards all attachment to the past.

Curiosity and novelty are the keys to this liberation. I refer you to all those Internet ads that lure to you view sites like “12 child stars who became transvestites as adults”, and so on.

The Individual vs Society and Hierarchy

This is the reign of individualism; the basic unit of Liberalism is the individual. The individual is an “absolute subject of rights”, without countervailing duties binding him to his Creator, superiors, or fellow creatures. Ultimately, however, it leaves the individual alone, isolated, and without defense against the crowd which swallows him up. On the contrary,
the social doctrine affirms that society is not a shapeless mass of individuals, but an arranged organism of coordinated and hierarchically arranged social groups: the family, enterprises, professional corporations, and the state.
In this context, “corporation” refers to the older notion of association, including guilds. Business interests were cooperative to prevent fair prices. Trade secrets were protected. For example, were an apprentice at a Venetian glass blower factory to reveal a secret process, he would have been hunted down and killed. Now corporations are in the hands of a specific class who owe nothing to society or their workers. They freely move from country to country, exporting manufacturing processes with them. Nor are they beholden to a spiritual authority which would reign in unchecked cupidity.

Reason and Science vs Faith

This independence is called rationalism, which denies that some truths go beyond the capacity of reason. Dogmas, miracles, metaphysics, etc., are all denied in the name of science. Ultimately, the exaggerated claims of Reason are never verified, and rationalism becomes incoherent.

A prominent rationalist of last century, Brand Blanshard, after 1100 pages on the Nature of Thought concedes defeat. His concluding sentence reads:
The writer would like to think that the insistent and reiterated emphasis, maintained throughout this work, on the membership of minds in one intelligible order may serve, however minutely, to confirm the belief in a common reason, and the hope and faith that in the end it will prevail.
It would have been better for him if he had directed his hope and faith to the Logos, the supernatural reason, instead of his “common reason”. Blanshard mistakenly believes that Thought constitutes the philosophia perennis and that thinking reveals the world. However, true philosophy is reached only then Thought and Being coincide. Thought, by itself, deals with essences and cannot explain the mystery of Existence.

Man, Family, Professions, and State vs Spiritual Authority

This is the summa of the liberations. The individual, the family, business enterprises, and even the state, reject any deference to a transcendent spiritual authority. There are too many contemporary examples to bother with here. Unfortunately, the spiritual authority has not always acted consistently throughout history. This serves as the justification for this liberation, which takes three forms: naturalism, laicism or secularism, and latitudinarianism or indifferentism.

Naturalism

Naturalism asserts that man is limited to the sphere of nature and has no destiny to a supernatural state. Of course, the state of nature and rationalism are not bad in themselves, provided they admit the existence of a supernatural order. Nevertheless, natural virtues and goodness alone cannot lead to the eternal happiness of heaven.

Laicism

Laicism is naturalism extended to the political sphere. It contends that society can subsist without taking the spiritual authority or God into account. It believes in the separation of the Church and State; the church, then, is only another association under the laws of the state.

Indifferentism

Indifferentism asserts that the profession of one religion or another is a matter of indifference. Politically, the state then does not favor one religion over another.

Revolution

Liberalism, therefore, is the “soul of all revolution”. Bishop Gaume has Revolution speak:
I am the hatred of all order which man has not established and in which he is not king and God all together. I am the proclamation of the rights of man without care for the rights of God. I am the foundation of the religious and social state upon the will of man instead of the will of God. I am God dethroned and man in His place.

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