Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Jacques Maritain and the Natural Law

JACQUES MARITAIN IS, IN ANYONE'S BOOK, one of the more important 20th century advocates of Thomism and the natural law. This French philosopher and political thinker was born in 1882 in Paris, France. He studied at the Lycée Henri IV (1898-99) and then at the Sorbonne, where he worked towards a licenciate in philosophy and the natural sciences. He was steered from his initial interest in the thought of Spinoza by his friend, the French essayist and poet, Charles Péguy, to attend the lectures of Henri Bergson. In 1901, Maritain met a fellow student at the Sorbonne, Raïssa Oumansoff, who was the daughter or Russian Jewish immigrants, and later was to marry her. Together they contemplated the meaninglessness of life, and vowed to commit suicide within a year if they were unable to discover a path out of life's vanity. Through Bergsonian philosophy, and then later through the influence of the Catholic author Léon Bloy, the Maritains found that life had meaning and ultimately sought baptism in the Roman Catholic Church in 1906. Eventually, Maritain was to exchange Bergson and his bergsonisme for St. Thomas Aquinas and his thomisme, a very fine trade. He became, along with his fellow Frenchman Etienne Gilson, one of the foremost advocates of neo-Thomism in the 20th century. In 1912, Maritain became professor of philosophy at Lycée Stanislaus, but also lectured at the Institut Catholique de Paris, where he later became an assistant professor in 1914. In 1921 he was appointed full Professor, and later became chair of the department of Logic and Cosmology, a position he held until 1939 when World War II broke out while he was giving series of lectures at the Institute of Medieval Studies in Toronto. He decided not to return to France, and instead moved to the United States where taught at Princeton (1941-42), and then Columbia (1941-44). Returning to Princeton as Professor Emeritus in 1948, Maritain lectured at a number of American universities including Notre Dame and the University of Chicago. In 1960, the Maritains returned to France. After his wife Raïssa's death that year, he lived with the Little Brothers of Jesus and published his popular A Peasant of the Garonne (Le paysan de la Garonne), a work critical of some of the post-Vatican II reforms. In 1970, he joined the order, and died in Toulouse in 1973.

An Elderly Jacques Maritain

His output was prolific and broad, publishing works on religion and culture, philosophy, including epistemology, the philosophy of nature, the philosophy of religion, logic, art and aesthetics, political philosophy, moral philosophy and the philosophy of law, and the philosophy of history. The French edition of his works (which include the works of his wife) is composed of 16 volumes (Oeuvres complètes de Jacques et Raïssa Maritain). His works are being published in English under the editorship at one time of Ralph McInerny (R.I.P.), and is anticipated to be 20 volumes in expanse (The Collected Works of Jacques Maritain).

A number of his works are particularly relevant to the issue of natural law, and eventually, we hope to review them all in this blog. Most notably, one can cite the following: The Natural Law (La loi naturelle), Man and the State (L'Homme et L’État), The Rights of Man and the Natural Law (Les droits de l'homme et la loi naturelle), Christianity and Democracy (Christianisme et Démocratie), Lectures on Natural Law (La loi naturelle ou loi non écrite).

In the next series of blog entries, we shall review the book entitled Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice,* which is a compilation of Maritain's writings from his The Range of Reason, his lectures La loi naturelle out loi non écrite, and The Rights of Man and the Natural Law. It presents an overview of important concepts in the Maritainian presentation of Thomistic natural law.

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*Jacques Maritain, Natural Law: Reflections on Theory and Practice (William Sweet, ed.) (South Bend: St. Augustine's Press, 2001)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Classical Coda

1789 WAS NOT A GOOD YEAR for the wine of revolution in Burke's view. This is compellingly evidenced in his monograph on the French Revolution which is highly critical of the French Revolution partisans. Burke had the insight to see the French Revolution for what it was, a philosophical, even religious revolution, one which had atheism at its heart. This philosophy fed the masses through intricate arteries of propaganda using labels that are, in themselves, noble-sounding, but which, in actuality, are masks for something altogether demonic: Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. It could equally be the motto of a monastic order, as it could be the motto of wild-eyed Jacobins, but this trilogy of words would certainly mean different things to the man who operated under the evangelical counsels, compared to the man who spurned not only the evangelical counsels, but the Ten Commandments as well.

Prudence is perhaps the key trait of Burke, the principal animator of this practical man addressing practical things. Indeed, Burke calls prudence the "god of this lower world." And yet, Strauss detects an unclassical strain in Burke. There is a Burkean cleavage between reason and sentiment, "a certain emancipation of sentiment and instinct from reason, or a certain depreciation of reason," in Burke. Strauss, 312. It is this which Strauss says "accounts for the nonclassical overtones in Burke's remarks on the difference between theory and practice" which is at the heart of his criticism of the French Revolution and its partisans.

Prudence, there can be no doubt, is a virtue, a habit of great value. And yet, one wonders, how many martyrs doth prudence make? How many prophets does prudence nourish?

While Burke's practical prudence would dampen ideology's recoil, doesn't it also dampen faith's spring? Would Burke confuse "speculatism," that is, theory as ideology which is oblivious to, or a falsification of, reality, an idealism ummoored in reality with something else, with supernatural faith? If not, what does he have to distinguish them? In Burke's Whiggish view of the world, heavy with the feet of clay of inherited constitutions, could the spirited faith of martyrs pitted impractically, imprudently against the judgment of the senatus populusque Romanus have been execrable "speculatism"? Had Burke's girth gotten so swollen with victuals and drink that he no longer hungered after eternal verities? Prophets, it may be observed, like martyrs, tend to be highly imprudent, at least when worldly prudence is the canon by which their words and deeds are adjudged. Most kings find prophets unsettling, irritants, idealists unchained to practical realities that come with rule because they are citizens of a world that they cannot see. How shall prudence judge between ideologue, the foolish martyr and prophet, on the one hand, and the authentic martyr and prophet on the other? Burke relies on his historical English patrimony, and advocates a "historical jurisprudence." Strauss, 316. But doesn't this land us back to the "historical school" of Weber and others that Strauss criticized in the first part of his History and Natural Right? Ultimately, we want to avoid the blindness of practical men, such as Pontius Pilate, and want to side with He who had far less worldly attachments such as Christ. Wasn't the prudent Pontius Pilate both deaf and blind to the Christ that was before him? Quid est veritas? What is truth? What good is political prudence, the "god of this lower world," if it blinds one, like it did Pilate, to the God of the world? Is this where Burke would take us? Strauss intimates that it would be so. "Prudence and 'this lower world' cannot be seen properly without some knowledge of 'the higher world'--without genuine theoria." Strauss, 321. (Strauss should have said fides et ratio, but his atheism prevented him.)

Both Burke, in his way, and Rousseau, in his way, tried to tame Providence. Burke saw the English constitution--the rights of Englishmen--as providentially given. Rousseau saw his time as providentially enlightened. So one saw history as providing the "ought." The other saw history as providing the "is." Both, therefore, settled upon an "idea of History" which was nothing less than "a modification of the traditional belief in Providence." Strauss, 316-17. "That modification," Strauss notes, "is usually described as 'secularization.'" Strauss, 317. He explains:

"Secularization" is the "temporalization" of the spiritual or of the eternal. It is the attempt to integrate the eternal into a temporal context. It therefore presupposes that the eternal is no longer understood as eternal. "Secularization," in other words, presupposes a radical change of thought, a transition of thought from one plane to an entirely different plane. . . . . The "secularization" of the understanding of Providence culminates in the view that the ways of God are scrutable to sufficiently enlightened men.

Strauss, 317. This, Strauss argues, is found in both Rousseau and Burke.

There is a watershed of difference between the belief that the ways of God are scrutable to man, or inscrutable. The tradition never had the temerity to suppose, in an institutional way, that it knew the designs of God in history.
The theological tradition recognized the mysterious character of Providence by the fact that God uses or permits evil for his good ends. It asserted, therefore, that man cannot take his bearings by God's providence but only by God's law, which simply forbids man to do evil.
Strauss, 317. In his daily work, in giving himself his daily bread, natural law, therefore, was what man had to follow. Providence would take care of itself. Providence was God's business. Avoiding sin and promoting virtue was man's business. The hubris involved in supposing one could divine God's Providence led to a deprecation of law:

In proportion as the providential order came to be regarded as intelligible to man, and therefore evil came to be regarded as evidently necessary or useful, the prohibition against doing evil lost its evidence. Hence various ways of action which were previously condemned as evil could no w be regarded as good. The goals of human action were lowered. But is precisely a lowering of these goals which modern political philosophy consciously intended from its very beginning.

Strauss, 317. Strauss finds the commonality between Burke and Rousseau elsewhere also. His insight is that, at the heart of both Rousseau and Burke, one finds an overemphasis on individualism. It is the quarrel that both Rousseau and Burke have with the ancients:
The quarrel between the ancients and the moderns concerns eventually, and perhaps even from the beginning, the status of 'individuality.' Burke himself was still too deeply imbued with the spirit of 'sound antiquity' to allow the concern with individuality to overpower the concern with virtue.
Strauss, 323.

But his successors would not have the benefit of that spiritual capital. Rousseau still had his Plutarch. Burke still had the traditions of the ancients. Neither appear to have had a vibrant faith. As man by then had given the faith all up. Modern man has none of these anchors. He flails in the wind, and his politics has no lasting meaning, either in reason, or in faith. His reason and faith is given not to God, but to some substitute. That is to say, modern man has given himself up to idols.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Even Edmund Burke's Infected

EDMUND BURKE IS LEO STRAUSS'S CLOSER. It is with this English Whig, this great figure of Kirkian Conservatives, that Leo Strauss rounds up his work entitled History and Natural Right. Unlike the dissolute Rousseau, who appears to have given himself to the modern Hobbesian and Lockean assumptions and extended them to their radical, revolutionary anti-social, anti-moral, and anti-rational conclusions, the politician Edmund Burke (1729-1797) attempted, perhaps more by force of habit than by absolute principle, a return to the classic notion of natural law. "Burke sided with Cicero and with with Suarez against Hobbes and against Rousseau." Strauss, 295. Burke had the good sense to view "the Parisian philosophers," and their "new morality," with skepticism, and to side instead with "the authors of sound antiquity." Strauss, 295 (quoting Burke). He scoffed at those who, like Rousseau and Hobbes before him, "pretend[ed] to have made discoveries in the terra australis of morality."* Strauss, 295 (quoting Burke).

Burke does, from time to time, adopt the prevailing language of these theorists that he excoriates, but only with a practical, ad hominem purpose. As Strauss observes, Burke "may be said to integrate these notions into a classical or Thomistic framework." Strauss, 296. Burke also speaks within the British constitutional mantle, as he "conceived of the British constitution in a spirit akin to that in which Cicero had conceived of the Roman polity." He was not reactionary--he was, after all a Whig, and a Whig's Whig at that, and may be said to be a classical liberal (he it was that said, to Marx's consternation, "The laws of commerce [meaning the laws of commerce per Adam Smith and other mercantilists] are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.")--but he was deeply conservative, indisputably reaching back behind the moral upstarts Hume, Rousseau, Locke, and Hobbes.

Edmund Burke

Though Burke did not write any single synthetic, theoretical work on moral philosophy or politics, his entire corpus--of political speeches, tracts, letters, monographs--all evince a practical yet principled man, deeply steeped in classical notions of natural moral law. It was this lodestar which made him so independent in thought and in mind to those of his contemporaries, and allowed him to favor the rights of American colonists and the Irish Catholics, and to oppose Warren Hastings and the French Revolution, against the views of many of his countrymen.

Against Hobbes and Rousseau, Burke clearly saw that man naturally tended toward civil cooperation, some sort of civil society. In the language of the times, he therefore distinguished between the Hobbesian and Rousseauian state of "rude nature," and wrote about a "true state of nature," which included the Aristotelian notion of man as a political animal. Strauss, 296. Against these two also, we find Burke advocating the concept that the "social contract" must include a "partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection." Strauss, 296 (quoting Burke). The social contract was, for Burke, "a contract in almost the same sense in which the whole providential order, 'the great primeval contract of eternal society," can be said to be a contract.'" Strauss, 296-97 (quoting Burke). Thus society and government have a role towards promoting the rule of virtue, of human perfection. These are not the words of a radical, or a libertine, of a Jacobin. Nor are they, however, the words of authoritarianism, a supporter of tyrannical government. There is therefore both a "Burke of Liberty" and a "Burke of Authority" as Winston Churchill denominated it, but yet it was "the same man pursuing the same ends, seeking the same ideals of society and Government, and defending them from assaults, now from one extreme, now from the other." (Winston Churchill, "Consistency in Politics" in Thoughts and Adventures (London: 1934), 40.) Burke was a man who sought to navigate, like a political Odysseus, through the Charybdis of Liberty and the Scylla of Authority.

Burke thought substance more important than process, and therefore did not view democracy as the cure-all, and this for the simple reason that democracy did not assure good government. And what man had a right to, was not necessarily participation in political process (a procedural right),** but the right to good government (which was a substantive right). As Strauss summarizes it:

For the judgment of the man, or the "the will of the man, and their interest, must very often differ." Political power or participation in political power does not belong to the rights of man, because men have a right to good government, and there is no necessary connection between good government and government by the many . . . .

Strauss, 297-98.

Ultimately, Burke appears to have rejected, but only partially, a Cartesian dualism in man, both in morals and in politics. Burke takes man as we find him, a complex, intricate, indivisible man, a composite of body and soul, a composite of individual in society. Burke therefore was deeply distrustful of any kind of political thinking that was pure theory, or pure "speculatism." He rejected a morals of geometry, an ethica de moro geometrico. Instead, Burke incarnated man in the here-and-now, as a countryman, as a family man, as one who was concerned with "one's own." Thus, politics was the practice of the particular, it "presupposes attachment to a particular . . . one's country, one's people, one's religious group, and the like." Strauss, 309. No political system is perfect; and all suffer from the weakness, habits, and foibles of men.

It may be, Strauss suggests, that Burke's distrust of theory, and his reliance on prudence and practical realities, led him to take an anti-theoretical stance. It may be, as Strauss states, that "Burke's opposition to modern 'rationalism' shifts almost insensibly into an opposition to 'rationalism' as such." Strauss, 313. Perhaps in his aversion to the theories of Rousseau and Hobbes, Burke himself stepped into a rejection of political theory in toto. Strauss suggests that perhaps Burke threw out the baby with the bath water: "Burke is not content with defending practical wisdom against the encroachments of theoretical science. He parts company with the Aristotelian tradition by disparaging theory and especially metaphysics. He uses "metaphysics" and "metaphysician" frequently in a derogatory sense." Strauss, 311. Burke does appear to reject the Aristotelian notion of a natural telos, an end in nature, and in human nature specifically. "There is," therefore, "a connection between [Burke's] strictures on metaphysics and the skeptical tendencies of his contemporaries Hume and Rousseau." Strauss, 312.

Homer nods. So does Burke. So do those who do not go beyond Burke.

To a certain extent, Burke suffers from the plight of all conservatives. What is it that one is trying to conserve? Sometimes, the very order one is trying to conserve is unconservative. There are times, it would seem, that a principled conservative would reject the immediate past, because the immediate past institutionalizes a rejection of an earlier, valid order. In other words, conservatism must not simply seek to preserve the cloth of order it has inherited, as the cloth of order may be sullied, stained, torn. One's patrimony, in other words, may need more than just polishing, it may need to be thrown away. If one were to inherit a library of pornography, is this a patrimony that ought to be preserved? A true conservative would have a standard that supersedes, though it might presume the importance of, his patrimony. Conservatism must sometimes seek to wash, to bleach, and to mend an inherited order that those before him ruined or soiled, or that the changing times have made untrue to a more fundamental principle of order. Burke, wed to the British constitution as he received it, appears, never to have gone beyond a first-phase conservatism. He was, for all his greatness, a bourgeois Whig. He was, and is, better than Rousseau, than Hobbes. He is not, for all that, the best.
[Burke] applied to the production of the sound political order what modern political economy had taught about the production of public prosperity: the common good is the product of activities which are not by themselves ordered toward the common good. Burke accepted the principle of modern political economy which is diametrically opposed to the classical principle: "the love of lucre," "this natural, this reasonable . . . principle," "is the grand cause of prosperity of all states." . . . [Burke's] intransigent opposition to the French Revolution must not blind us to the fact that, in opposing the French Revolution, he has recourse to the same fundamental principle which is at the bottom of the revolutionary theorems and which is alien to all earlier thought.
Strauss, 314-15 (quoting Burke). Burke, in Strauss's view, then is already infected with an incipient tendency toward "secularization" or "temporalization." Relative to Hobbes and to Rousseau, Burke is conservative. Relative to Aristotle, to Cicero, to Thomas Aquinas, to Suarez, to Richard Hooker, Burke is not. Burke has already swallowed the pill of modernism, of secularism.

(continued)
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*Terra australis means "southern land," and is a reference to the hypothesized continent in the southern hemisphere, also called terra australis incognita, or "unknown southern lands," in most maps between the 15th and 18th century based upon the unsupported speculations of Aristotle.
**Burke, however, "does not reject the view that all authority has its ultimate origin in the people or that the sovereign is ultimately the people . . . ." Strauss, 298. But Burke speaks less of "compacts" or "contracts," than he does of "constitutions," "custom," and "prescription."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Rousseau and Freedom

FREEDOM IS A WORD THAT IS SUBJECT TO ABUSE. It is, like many other fundamental yet multivalent concepts--justice, right, fairness, equality, to name other examples--a notably easy term to hijack. So we hear popular song lyrics include such inanities as, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to loose (lose?). . . ." When freedom is hijacked by radical individualists who pose as would-be philosophers such as Rousseau, it is deviated from its proper route and proper destination to some other undesired route and destination. In emptying the notion of the "state of nature" from any meaning, both social and rational (what Strauss calls the "depreciation or ex-inanition of the state of nature"), there was an inversely proportional emphasis on independence and freedom. Thus, Rousseau's concept of freedom, like Rousseau's life itself, is unbalanced, unhinged as it is from the cardinal guidance of any human nature. Freedom becomes a tyrannical principle because it tends toward arbitrariness:

According to Rousseau . . . freedom is a higher good than life. In fact, he tends to identify freedom with virtue or with goodness. He says that freedom is obedience to the law which one has given to one's self. This means, in the place, that not merely obedience to the law but legislation itself must originate in the individual. It means, secondly, that freedom is not so much either the condition or the consequence of virtue as virtue itself. What is true of virtue can also be said of goodness, which Rousseau distinguished from virtue: freedom is identical with goodness; to be free, or to be one's self, is to be good--this is one meaning of his thesis that man is by nature good. Above all, he suggests that the traditional definition of man be replaced by a new definition according to which not rationality but freedom is the specific distinction of man.

Strauss, 278. La distinction spécifique de l’homme que sa qualité d’agent libre. The notion that the distinction specific to man, as compared to the brute animals, is that he is a free agent, without regard to his social nature or to his rational nature, is what makes Rousseau's thought relatively novel, though it is really nothing but an extension and transformation and perhaps modernization of the old saws of Epicureanism. Nevertheless, at least for us moderns, "Rousseau may be said to have originated 'the philosophy of freedom.'" Strauss, 279. Torn from any moorings in man's social, moral, and rational nature, however, this Rousseauian freedom of the individual becomes socially, morally, and rationally noxious. The "rights" that it posits in the name of freedom become progressively less and less human.* The fruit that they eventually bear is a new tyranny, the tyranny of liberalism or relativism.

There is no such thing as law in Rousseau, at least not law as it has been universally understood. In Rousseau, law is a thing a man gives to himself. All law for Rousseau is derived from the individual, and even "legislation itself must originate in the individual." Strauss, 278. Law was released from any social, even any natural foundation or underpinning. Hobbes had already released law's norm, that is natural law, from any social duty and from any end or telos in nature. The result of this Hobbesian innovation was to lead to "conditional duties and to mercenary virtue." Strauss, 280. That is, everything related back to the fundamental desire of self-preservation. Rousseau accepted these Hobbesian assumptions, but sought somehow "graft the notion of unconditional duties and nonmercenary virtue." Strauss, 280. This, of course, meant he had to find a source of those duties somewhere other than the Hobbesian right of self-preservation. For Rousseau, the notion of self-preservation could not do this because man shared the desire for self-preservation with the brutes. Rousseau therefore tried to base duty and virtue on freedom. What Hobbes had effected between science and nature, Rousseau effected between morality (and, derivatively, law and politics) and nature.
[Rousseau] tended to conceive of the fundamental freedom, or of the fundamental right, as such a creative act that issues in the establishment of unconditional duties and in nothing else: freedom is essentially self-legislation. The ultimate outcome of this attempt was the substitution of freedom for virtue or the view that it is not virtue which makes man free but freedom which makes man virtuous.
Strauss, 281. This self-legislation is what Rousseau denominates as "true freedom" or "moral freedom," and though he distinguishes it from "civil freedom" and "natural freedom," yet he "blurs these distinctions." Strauss, 281. "The blurring of the distinctions between natural freedom, civil freedom, and moral freedom is no accidental error." Strauss, 281-82. Indeed not. For Rousseau, "the primary moral phenomenon is the freedom of the state of nature," which, grafted unto the "exploded notion of the state of nature" of Hobbes, gives the the "state of nature a new lease on life." Strauss, 282. But of course the notion of "state of nature," bound now with the fasces of of equality and of freedom instead of natural law, now means something completely different. Here in germ is obviously the source of political liberalism. Liberalism is the musings of Rousseau writ large.

Rousseau viewed the "state of nature" largely in positive light, at least when compared to his Lockean and Hobbesian counterparts. It was what defined the good life, and what was to be used in judging the adequacy of the social contract. How did the social contract advance the foundational "state of nature" underpinnings of equality and freedom? Man in his origins had a sense of "compassion," but as pride and vanity grew, inequality grew with it, and the cloth of freedom began to fray. So the social contract was an "artificial substitute" for the natural freedom and natural equality that was lost as man became corrupt. The social contract thus justifies itself the closer it approximates the original freedom and equality in the Rousseauian "state of nature." Similarly, law--that is, legislation--is "the conventional substitute for natural compassion" which respected natural freedom and equality. Strauss, 285. We have an odd exchange, a loss of natural compassion leads to a loss of freedom and equality which is exchanged for an artificial compassion which leads to an increase in freedom and equality. This is the Rousseauian bargain.

And yet the artificial compassion that is found in legislation becomes warped if man follows his private judgment, as distinguished from his public judgment. The private will in legislation infects the artificial compassion--and hence the gain in freedom and equality derived by it--if private will, instead of general or public will, is behind it. This requires, in Rousseau's view, a sort of collectivization of man. It is the only means that man may be both equal and free in a state of civil society, apart from a "state of nature." For Rousseau:

Freedom in society is possible only be virtue of the complete surrender of everyone (and in particular of the government) to the will of a free society. By surrendering all his rights to society, man loses the right to appeal from the verdicts of society."

Strauss, 286. Thus, to be free and equal, man must chain himself to positive law. "Free society rests and depends upon the absorption of natural right by positive law [of a properly qualified democracy]. The general will takes the place of the natural law." Strauss, 286. This is tantamount to deification of the general will: "By the very fact that he is, the sovereign is always what he ought to be." Man's will, what Rousseau would have called "democracy," has become god. The general will is Rousseau's new god. It is an unforgiving, jealous, inerrant, infallible god from whom there is no appeal.

And so the legislator as well as civil society itself must put before itself the task of constructing the rites of the citizen, that is its forced devotee's, worship. The society must construct for itself a civil religion. "Only the civil religion will engender the sentiments required of the citizen." Strauss, 288. The legislator should ascribe a divine origin to his code and a divine origin to his legislative mission. Hence, the nearly divine sanction given to the Constitution by Americans and the virtual apotheosis or deification given to the Father of our Constitution, George Washington, and the even more bizarre apotheosis of Lincoln and Washington found in some popular depictions. "Precisely a free society cannot exist," in the eyes of Rousseau, "if he who doubts the fundamental dogma of the civil religion does not outwardly conform." Strauss, 289.

Christ as Judge by Fra Angelico (ca. 1447)

Apotheosis of Washington (Capitol Rotunda, by Constantini Brumidi, 1865)

The comparison of, say, Fra Angelico's Christ in Judgment with the Apotheosis of Washington found in the Capitol's Rotunda would suggest that Washington, though a bit more smug and less compassionate than his divine counterpart, has become the New Christ of Republican Democracy. Washington is now the city planted on a hillside, the light of the world. Christ's role has been usurped by man, the follower of Rousseauian civil religion.

Holy Trinity by Pieter Coecke Van Aelst

Apotheosis of Lincoln by S. J. Ferris

In another equally revealing comparison, the Trinity of Pieter Coecke Van Aelst can be compared to the popular depiction of Washington's welcome of Lincoln by S. J. Ferris. Lincoln was the Great Redeemer of Republican Democracy, welcomed by its Father Washington, just as Christ the Redeemer of Mankind was welcomed by God the Father in traditional iconography. Comparing iconographies is too eerily telling. Rousseau saw himself competing with Christ. It is apparent that in the eyes of some at least, the Democracy of the United States, informed by Rousseau's theories, competes with Christianity.

But the very basis of Rousseauian political philosophy--its radical individualism--is infirm. It is infirm because it is indefinite.
The notion of a return to the state of nature on the level of humanity was the ideal basis for claiming a freedom from society which is not a freedom from something. It was the ideal basis for an appeal from society to something indefinite and undefinable, to an ultimate sanctity of the individual as individual, unredeemed and unjustified. This was precisely what freedom came to mean for a considerable number of men. Every freedom which is freedom for something, every freedom which is justified by reference to something higher than the individual or than man as mere man, necessarily restricts freedom or, which is the same thing, establishes as a tenable distinction between freedom and license. It makes freedom conditional on the purpose for which it is claimed.
Strauss, 294. Rousseau, it is true, still drank from the pagan dregs of Plutarch. He ceased reading the lives of the Saints. Nevertheless, he tasted through the insipid paganism of Plutarch the glimmer of the "disproportion between this undefined and undefinable freedom and the requirements of civil society." Strauss, 294. But his followers no longer would read Plutarch. These tomes would be shelved along with Suarez and St. Thomas Aquinas, there to gather dust. But our reader of Plutarch had given birth to the monster of liberalism, which joined to the monster of deified democracy, and together these political titans gave birth the birth of the modern liberal state, a state which, in the name of freedom and liberty entirely undefined and entirely unmeaning, seems to breathe above us, not with the Spirit of God in whom is perfect freedom, but with the stifling breath of a lustful tyrant which is simply biding his time until it has us all in chains that bear the words F-R-E-E-D-O-M.
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*Strauss calls them "anti-socialistic systems of natural right," but they could also be called "anti-rationalistic, anti-socialistic, anti-moralistic" systems of natural right. All of them (and their name is Legion) seem to flow out of the poisoned well of Rousseau's narcissism and irresponsible thought. Rousseau's thought was not responsible to man's social, rational, and moral nature.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI at Westminster Hall

Mr Speaker,

Thank you for your words of welcome on behalf of this distinguished gathering. As I address you, I am conscious of the privilege afforded me to speak to the British people and their representatives in Westminster Hall, a building of unique significance in the civil and political history of the people of these islands. Allow me also to express my esteem for the Parliament which has existed on this site for centuries and which has had such a profound influence on the development of participative government among the nations, especially in the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world at large. Your common law tradition serves as the basis of legal systems in many parts of the world, and your particular vision of the respective rights and duties of the state and the individual, and of the separation of powers, remains an inspiration to many across the globe.

As I speak to you in this historic setting, I think of the countless men and women down the centuries who have played their part in the momentous events that have taken place within these walls and have shaped the lives of many generations of Britons, and others besides. In particular, I recall the figure of Saint Thomas More, the great English scholar and statesman, who is admired by believers and non-believers alike for the integrity with which he followed his conscience, even at the cost of displeasing the sovereign whose ”good servant” he was, because he chose to serve God first. The dilemma which faced More in those difficult times, the perennial question of the relationship between what is owed to Caesar and what is owed to God, allows me the opportunity to reflect with you briefly on the proper place of religious belief within the political process.

This country’s Parliamentary tradition owes much to the national instinct for moderation, to the desire to achieve a genuine balance between the legitimate claims of government and the rights of those subject to it. While decisive steps have been taken at several points in your history to place limits on the exercise of power, the nation’s political institutions have been able to evolve with a remarkable degree of stability. In the process, Britain has emerged as a pluralist democracy which places great value on freedom of speech, freedom of political affiliation and respect for the rule of law, with a strong sense of the individual’s rights and duties, and of the equality of all citizens before the law. While couched in different language, Catholic social teaching has much in common with this approach, in its overriding concern to safeguard the unique dignity of every human person, created in the image and likeness of God, and in its emphasis on the duty of civil authority to foster the common good.

And yet the fundamental questions at stake in Thomas More’s trial continue to present themselves in ever-changing terms as new social conditions emerge. Each generation, as it seeks to advance the common good, must ask anew: what are the requirements that governments may reasonably impose upon citizens, and how far do they extend? By appeal to what authority can moral dilemmas be resolved? These questions take us directly to the ethical foundations of civil discourse. If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident - herein lies the real challenge for democracy.

The inadequacy of pragmatic, short-term solutions to complex social and ethical problems has been illustrated all too clearly by the recent global financial crisis. There is widespread agreement that the lack of a solid ethical foundation for economic activity has contributed to the grave difficulties now being experienced by millions of people throughout the world. Just as “every economic decision has a moral consequence” (Caritas in Veritate, 37), so too in the political field, the ethical dimension of policy has far-reaching consequences that no government can afford to ignore. A positive illustration of this is found in one of the British Parliament’s particularly notable achievements – the abolition of the slave trade. The campaign that led to this landmark legislation was built upon firm ethical principles, rooted in the natural law, and it has made a contribution to civilization of which this nation may be justly proud.



The central question at issue, then, is this: where is the ethical foundation for political choices to be found? The Catholic tradition maintains that the objective norms governing right action are accessible to reason, prescinding from the content of revelation. According to this understanding, the role of religion in political debate is not so much to supply these norms, as if they could not be known by non-believers – still less to propose concrete political solutions, which would lie altogether outside the competence of religion – but rather to help purify and shed light upon the application of reason to the discovery of objective moral principles. This “corrective” role of religion vis-à-vis reason is not always welcomed, though, partly because distorted forms of religion, such as sectarianism and fundamentalism, can be seen to create serious social problems themselves. And in their turn, these distortions of religion arise when insufficient attention is given to the purifying and structuring role of reason within religion. It is a two-way process. Without the corrective supplied by religion, though, reason too can fall prey to distortions, as when it is manipulated by ideology, or applied in a partial way that fails to take full account of the dignity of the human person. Such misuse of reason, after all, was what gave rise to the slave trade in the first place and to many other social evils, not least the totalitarian ideologies of the twentieth century. This is why I would suggest that the world of reason and the world of faith – the world of secular rationality and the world of religious belief – need one another and should not be afraid to enter into a profound and ongoing dialogue, for the good of our civilization.

Religion, in other words, is not a problem for legislators to solve, but a vital contributor to the national conversation. In this light, I cannot but voice my concern at the increasing marginalization of religion, particularly of Christianity, that is taking place in some quarters, even in nations which place a great emphasis on tolerance. There are those who would advocate that the voice of religion be silenced, or at least relegated to the purely private sphere. There are those who argue that the public celebration of festivals such as Christmas should be discouraged, in the questionable belief that it might somehow offend those of other religions or none. And there are those who argue – paradoxically with the intention of eliminating discrimination – that Christians in public roles should be required at times to act against their conscience. These are worrying signs of a failure to appreciate not only the rights of believers to freedom of conscience and freedom of religion, but also the legitimate role of religion in the public square. I would invite all of you, therefore, within your respective spheres of influence, to seek ways of promoting and encouraging dialogue between faith and reason at every level of national life.

Your readiness to do so is already implied in the unprecedented invitation extended to me today. And it finds expression in the fields of concern in which your Government has been engaged with the Holy See. In the area of peace, there have been exchanges regarding the elaboration of an international arms trade treaty; regarding human rights, the Holy See and the United Kingdom have welcomed the spread of democracy, especially in the last sixty-five years; in the field of development, there has been collaboration on debt relief, fair trade and financing for development, particularly through the International Finance Facility, the International Immunization Bond, and the Advanced Market Commitment. The Holy See also looks forward to exploring with the United Kingdom new ways to promote environmental responsibility, to the benefit of all.

I also note that the present Government has committed the United Kingdom to devoting 0.7% of national income to development aid by 2013. In recent years it has been encouraging to witness the positive signs of a worldwide growth in solidarity towards the poor. But to turn this solidarity into effective action calls for fresh thinking that will improve life conditions in many important areas, such as food production, clean water, job creation, education, support to families, especially migrants, and basic healthcare.

Where human lives are concerned, time is always short: yet the world has witnessed the vast resources that governments can draw upon to rescue financial institutions deemed “too big to fail”. Surely the integral human development of the world’s peoples is no less important: here is an enterprise, worthy of the world’s attention, that is truly “too big to fail”.

This overview of recent cooperation between the United Kingdom and the Holy See illustrates well how much progress has been made, in the years that have passed since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations, in promoting throughout the world the many core values that we share. I hope and pray that this relationship will continue to bear fruit, and that it will be mirrored in a growing acceptance of the need for dialogue and respect at every level of society between the world of reason and the world of faith. I am convinced that, within this country too, there are many areas in which the Church and the public authorities can work together for the good of citizens, in harmony with Britain’s long-standing tradition. For such cooperation to be possible, religious bodies – including institutions linked to the Catholic Church – need to be free to act in accordance with their own principles and specific convictions based upon the faith and the official teaching of the Church. In this way, such basic rights as religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of association are guaranteed. The angels looking down on us from the magnificent ceiling of this ancient Hall remind us of the long tradition from which British Parliamentary democracy has evolved. They remind us that God is constantly watching over us to guide and protect us. And they summon us to acknowledge the vital contribution that religious belief has made and can continue to make to the life of the nation.

Mr Speaker, I thank you once again for this opportunity briefly to address this distinguished audience. Let me assure you and the Lord Speaker of my continued good wishes and prayers for you and for the fruitful work of both Houses of this ancient Parliament. Thank you and God bless you all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Rousseau's Doctrine of Natural Right

ROUSSEAU'S UNDISCIPLINED AND WOBBLY GENIUS addressed the "history" of man in his Second Discourse (Discourse on the Origin of the Inequality of Man). It purports to be an exploration of man's "history" using techniques of modern natural and social science, and starts with Cartesian presuppositions. The Second Discourse is "identical with a study of the basis of natural right and therewith of morality." Strauss, 266. Rousseau's aim to reveal for us what political order accords with natural right. In so doing he seems to dethrone God, and certainly to disennoble man.

Rousseau . . . tells us the story of man in order to discovery that political order which is in accordance with natural right. . . . [H]e follows Descartes . . . [and] assumes that animals are machines and that man transcends the general mechanism, or the dimension of (mechanical) necessity, only by virtue of the spirituality of his soul. . . . Rousseau questions not only the creation of matter but likewise the traditional definition of man. Accepting the view that brutes are machines, he suggests that there is only a difference of degree [and not of kind] between men and the brutes in regard to understanding . . . . It is man's power to choose and his consciousness of this freedom . . . which proves the spirituality of his soul.

Strauss, 264-65. The uniqueness in man relative to the brute animals, at least to Rousseau, was not in his reason, but in his freedom of the will. But it was not the freedom of man which was the foundation upon which Rousseau built his theory. Seeking to avoid the arguments that accompanied the notion of human freedom, Rousseau (controversially) sought to build his argument on something less controversial: on the perfectibility of man. This foundational decisions was "mean to be neutral with regard to the conflict between materialism and antimaterialism, or to be 'scientific' in the present-day sense of the term." Strauss, 266.

The general tack that Rousseau takes in his Second Discourse is interesting. Essentially, he accepts the Hobbesian premises, but then forgoes the Hobbesian conclusions, instead extending the Hobbesian premises to more extreme conclusions, thereby undercutting the Hobbesian premises. Strauss identifies two of these Rousseauian extensions of Hobbesian premises. The first such extension has to do with the Hobbesian "state of nature" premise, which Rousseau washes clean of any social nature whatsoever. The second such extension relates to the foundation of natural right on passion, and not reason, Rousseau essentially robs man of any reason in his "state of nature," reason being something acquired as a result of language which is conventional. The result is an entire disassembly of any notion of natural law or natural right. The last remnants of any kind of classical or Christian stain of natural law or natural right remaining in Hobbes were bleached out by Rousseau. Both the baby and the bathwater were now thrown out.

In any event, Rousseau clearly rejects any traditional teaching of natural law, and in exchange adopts the Hobbesian premise that natural law can be found only be going to the "state of nature." "Hobbes," Rousseau says, "has seen very well the defect of all modern traditions of natural right."[1] Hobbes a très bien vu le défaut de toutes les définitions modernes du droit naturel. Rousseau clearly rejects any definition of natural law that placed predominance upon man's use of reason or put man under some natural duty, under some natural law. Likewise, he clearly intended to reject any scriptural influences, being "fully aware of the antibiblical implications of the concept of the state of nature." Strauss, 267 n. 32. Any foundation of natural law must not be based upon reason (or a fortiori must not be based upon scripture), but upon something that is prior and preeminent to reason (or scripture), namely, passion, and most specifically, the impulse to self-preservation, which, of course, is an impulse that is self-regarding, not other-regarding:
[Rousseau] agrees, then, with Hobbes's attack on the traditional natural law teaching: natural law must have its roots in principles which are anterior to reason. i.e., in passions which need not be specifically human. He further agrees with Hobbes in finding the principle of natural law in the right of self-preservation, which implies the right of each to be the sole judgment of what are the proper means for his self-preservation.
Strauss, 266. Such a view of man's nature immediately jettisons the formulations of traditional natural moral law, most notably perhaps, the "Golden Rule." For Rousseau, like Hobbes, the "Golden Rule" is not a principle of natural law.

Rousseau expresses his loyalty to the spirit of Hobbes's reform of the natural law teaching by substituting for "that sublime maxim of reasoned justice 'Do unto others as you would have them to do unto you' . . . this much less perfect, but perhaps more useful maxim 'Do good to yourself with as little evil as possible to others.'"[2]

Strauss, 266-67 (quoting Rousseau's Second Discourse).

While Rousseau accepts the Hobbesian premise that one must go back to the "statute of nature," it does not lead him to where Hobbes ends up. Hobbes, like all others that have resorted to a "state of nature" analysis, "felt the necessity to go back to the statute of nature, but not one of them has arrived there." Les philosophes qui ont examiné les fondements de la société ont tous senti la nécessité de remonter jusqu’à l’état de nature, mais aucun d’eux n’y est arrivé. No, none but our narcissistic Rousseau, with his remarkable genius, foresight, and light was able to "arrive." Like a good Trekkie, Rousseau was the only one who was able "to boldly go where no other man has gone before." (Had Rousseau lived in the era of Star Trek, would he have dressed himself up as Captain Kirk like he dressed himself up like an Armenian?) Rousseau (who was buffeted by passion) alone can figure out which one of men's passions are conventional, arising as they do from man's decision to leave the "state of nature" and bind himself in conventional society, and which are to be found only in a "state of nature." Rousseau found the "method," the "physical" investigation, that could overcome all others' failures:
The method which he uses is a "meditation on the first and most simple operations of the human soul"; those mental acts which presuppose society cannot belong to man's natural constitution, since man is by nature solitary.
Strauss, 269.

Rousseau also erases any role of reason in natural law or right, and he does this, again, on Hobbesian premises. Hobbes is right, Rousseau insists, on founding natural right on passions, but he goes wrong in drawing out of this premise any sort of rules or duties, or even conclusions or theorems, using reason. For Rousseau, if the natural law is going to speak to man, it must be in his "state of nature," and that means it must be "rooted directly in passion," "it must be prerational." Strauss, 269.

The fact that the "state of nature" is presocial and prerational results in Rousseau concluding that "man is by nature good." Strauss, 269. In a "state of nature," there can be no such thing as pride or vanity, because these are social vices, and man, prior to society in his "state of nature" cannot suffer from these vices. The same is true mutatis mutandis for all vices, pride being the basis for all of them. For Rousseau, then, "[n]atural man is therefore free from all viciousness." Strauss, 269-70. Moreover, "natural man is compassionate." Strauss, 270. And it is compassion which is the "passion from which all social virtues derive." Strauss, 270. Similarly, man in a "state of nature" lacks reason. Reason requires language for Rousseau, and language is conventional, presupposing society. "Since language is not natural, reason is not natural." Strauss, 270. This thought process of Rousseau naturally leads to an entirely revolutionary concept of man. Man in his "state of nature" is no longer a "rational animal," nor a "social animal." He is a "stupid animal." Strauss, 276. In the Rousseauian view, therefore, natural law understood in its classical, traditional sense does not exist:
[S]ince natural man is prerational, he is utterly incapable of any knowledge of the law of nature which is the law of reason . . . . Natural man is premoral in every respect: he has no heart. Natural man is subhuman. . . . There is no natural constitution of man to speak of: everything specifically human is acquired or ultimately depends on artifice or convention. . . . Man is by nature almost infinitely malleable. . . . Man's humanity or rationality is acquired
Strauss, 270-71, 272. All this has significant importance in the history of natural law. As Strauss observes:

By thinking through [Hobbes's] teaching, Rousseau was brought face to face with the necessity of abandoning it completely. If the state of nature is subhuman, it is absurd to go back to a state of nature in order to find in its the norm of man. Hobbes had denied that man has a natural end. He had believed that he could fin a natural or nonarbitrary basis of right in man's beginnings. Rousseau showed that man's beginnings lack all human traits. On the basis of Hobbes's premise, therefore, it became necessary to abandon altogether the attempt to find the basis of right in nature, in human nature.

Strauss, 274. All law, all right, all justice then was conventional. This was the upshot of the Hobbesian premises. Humanity had no end to provide guidance. This was Hobbes's marvelous contribution to human thought. Humanity had no beginning that could provide guidance. This was Rousseau's marvelous clarification of Hobbesian thought. There was hence no natural foundation for law, for right, for justice. All of these--law, right, justice--were arbitrary, standardless. The only law is that which the infinite malleable man gives to himself. Rousseau "says that freedom is obedience to the law which one has given to one's self." Strauss, 278.

Accordingly, we shall next look at Rousseau's concept of human "freedom."

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[1]By "modern" he means "contemporary," that is to say, "the traditional definitions which still predominated in the academic teaching of his time." Strauss, 266.
[2]
"c’est elle qui, au lieu de cette maxime sublime de justice raisonnée : Fais à autrui comme tu veux qu’on te fasse, inspire à tous les hommes cette autre maxime de bonté naturelle bien moins parfaite, mais plus utile peut-être que la précédente : Fais ton bien avec le moindre mal d’autrui qu’il est possible." For a discussion of Hobbes's treatment of the "Golden Rule," see our prior posting, Golden Rule in Thomas Hobbes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: The Rousseauian Crisis of Virtue

YOU CAN'T GO TINKERING WITH TRADITION without causing crises. Often, little changes in thought have great unintended consequences: a wrong step at the beginning of a journey can make a big difference at the end. So, it appears, was the Enlightenment Project to Rousseau who felt "that the modern venture was a radical error." Strauss, 252. Unfortunately for both Rousseau and those who seized upon and those who suffered the effect of his teachings--most poignantly those whose heads were severed from their bodies through the morbidly efficient invention of Dr. Joseph-Ignace Guillotin--Rousseau felt right, but reacted wrongly. "He abandoned himself to modernity" while rebelling against it.

In confronting the Enlightenment thinkers, Rousseau's modus operandi was to return to the classics, drawing therefrom the ideas of "city and virtue, on the one hand, and nature, on the other." Strauss, 253. But in doing this, he not only maintained the error of the moderns, he advanced their error by rejecting parts of the classical thought that even the moderns had the sense to leave in place. Rousseau was sort of like a little boy who goes into a messy room, makes it messier, and then claims to have cleaned it and earned his allowance. As Strauss sees it, therefore, Rousseau's "return to antiquity, was at the same time, an advance of modernity." Strauss, 252. Best as I can figure it out, Rousseau the "modern" dressed up in the city-virtue-nature clothes of the ancients, but it was as unimpressive as when he dressed himself in the furs of an Armenian. In both instances he was unconvincing. All dress, no show. This vain little narcissist is singularly one of the least impressive of little men--we might point out, for one, the five children he fathered out of wedlock that he abandoned--, and he thought he could fool us by dressing up his thoughts in the words of the ancients. Rousseau was sort of like a little kid at a carnival who's dressed up as a soldier, and in his vivid (if puerile) imagination really sees himself as one. Did Rousseau really think that by dressing up his thought with a chiton or a toga we would think him a Socrates or a Cato?[1]

Rousseau Dressed Like an Armenian

Rousseau was a wobbler. He could never quite figure out what he liked more about the ancients, the city (convention) or nature. There is an obvious tension between the convention of the city and the state of nature, and this "tension is the substance of Rousseau's thought." Strauss, 254. But this wasn't the tight tension of a synthesis. No, rather it was the "confusing spectacle of a man who perpetually shifts back and forth between two diametrically opposed positions." Strauss, 254. One the one hand, the city. On the other, nature. On the one hand, the rights of the individual. On the other, the complete submission of the individual to the state. Rousseau was, as I said, a wobbler.

Locke was the Grand Dissembler. Rousseau was the Grand Wobbler.[2]

Rousseau never solved his dilemma, and his thought wallowed in inconsistency. Complaining of the moderns, he appealed to the classics and their "city," and then "almost in the same breath," he appealed the the "'man of nature,' the prepolitical savage." Strauss, 254. "The question is, then, not how he solved the conflict between the individual and society [since he never solved it] but rather how he conceived of that insoluble conflict." Strauss, 255. Strauss believes Rousseau never resolved his problem between the conflict of the individual versus society, any resolutions were clearly tentative and unstable.

Virtue! screamed the unvirtuous Rousseau in his First Discourse,[3] yielding the word like a club against the arts and the sciences, when he should have been beating his breast praying mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa and taking care of his abandoned children, or at least controlling his sexual appetite. But virtue for Rousseau was principally envisioned as a political virtue, not a personal one, the "virtue of the patriot or the virtue of a whole people." Strauss, 256. This virtue, though he points to Socrates, or the austere Fabricius and Cato as exemplars, is something different from the classical and Christian understanding of it on at least two points. First, it is squeezed into democratic and egalitarian bottles. Equality, or at least the recognition of equality, is made inseparable from Rousseau's virtue. Second, Rousseau finds the source of this virtue not in reason, but in conscience. However, Rousseau's understanding of conscience is non-traditional; it is more akin to "sentiment" or "instinct." Strauss, 256. Here, then, passion is king. Then he ties the two together: "Rousseau saw a connection between his inclination toward democracy and his preference for sentiment above reason." Strauss, 256. In Rousseau, "passion began to pass judgment, in the severe accents of Catonic virtue." Hmmm, something is rotten in the state of Rousseauville.

This Rousseauian virtue was so tied to the conventional "city," that is, it was contrary to science or philosophy (Rousseau uses the word "science" broadly in the original Latin sense of scientia to include any sort of "knowledge," including philosophy, but also the natural sciences) because virtue was particular to a nation, to a people, whereas science was universal. Science or philosophy therefore can act as a solvent against the particular genius of a people and nationalistic and patriotic virtues. Science further emasculates a people, removing from them their warlike spirit. Any effort applied to science, moreover, is effort that is wrongly diverted from the common good of the people. So the "dogmas" of a people, "the sacred dogmas authorized by the laws" face unhealthy competition from science. A people are cemented together with opinion and faith. Science dissolves these bonds through truth and knowledge. Science is, moreover, fostering of inequality. The philosopher or scientist, in short, cannot be a good citizen.

But here we come upon a Rousseauian contradiction. It is through philosophy that Rousseau condemns philosophy and science and promotes political or national freedom and virtue. He also heaps encomia upon such men as Bacon, Descartes, and Newton, which would appear inconsistent with his primary thesis. So he devises some ways out of his situation, none of them entirely convincing. First, he suggests that "science is bad for a good society and good for a bad society." Strauss, 259. In other words, science has a role when society is bad in criticizing that society, but once that society becomes purified of its evils, science has no more role. But he saw his "science" as perennial, and therefore lasting and valid even in the context of a good society. Obviously, our diminutive narcissist would not want his "science" ever to be passé. So there is another explanation given, this one equally as narcissistic. Science is bad for the hoi polloi, for the common man, but not for the brilliant minority, of which, naturally, Rousseau was a part. Again, our little man was nothing but a little boy who loved to dress up:

[Rousseau] intimates that, far from being a common man, he is a philosopher who merely appears in the guise of a common man and that, far from ultimately addressing "the people," he addresses only those who are not subjugated by the opinions of their century, of their country, or of their society.

What hubris! Rousseau, the grand philosopher, suffers to show himself a common man, so as to speak to--not the common man, for the common man could not understand him--but the visionary equally brilliant as he to impart his divine gnosis! This way he can save the common man. Oh Rousseau, who, being equivalent to divine philosophers, did not consider equality to be grasped at, but humbled himself, taking the nature of the common man, and so lowered himself, even toward the death of being misunderstood. Presumably, our virtuous light from light did all this so as to save us from our darkness.

Me thinks our little man suffered from a Messiah complex. Indeed, as Professor Carol Blum notes in her Rousseau and the Republic of Virtue, Rousseau envisioned himself a kind of Christ figure, for Rousseau's “wish was not to imitate Jesus Christ, but to compete with him.” Well, I have news for Rousseau. He lost the competition. Besides, now he finds himself in another quandary. Now he has re-injected inequality among men, which is inconsistent with his egalitarian premises.

The third way Rousseau sought to get out of his quandary between the philosophy being bad for the city, and yet his philosophy being exceptional is as follows. Rousseau distinguished between two kinds of science or philosophy. There is one kind ("metaphysics) which was incompatible with virtue, and there was another kind ("Socratic wisdom") which was compatible with virtue. Naturally (is it any surprise?), Rousseau's philosophy was the latter kind. This Socratic wisdom was consistent with virtue because it recognized the need to be concerned with the "science of the simple souls." As Strauss puts it: "Socratic wisdom is needed, not for the sake of Socrates, but for the sake of the simple souls or of the people." Strauss, 263.
The true philosophers fulfil the absolutely necessary function of being the guardians of virtue or of free society. Being the teachers of the human race, they, and they alone, can enlighten the peoples as to their duties and as to the precise character of the good society.
Strauss, 263. This would seem to be a solution, yet Rousseau again wobbles things by questioning the very thing the one with Socratic wisdom was meant to serve: the city and virtue. "In the name of nature, Rousseau questioned not only philosophy but the city and virtue as well." Strauss, 263. This was forced upon him because his particular brand of "Socratic wisdom" was highly untraditional and against the classical and Christian spirit that came before him. The Rousseauian philosophy was not philosophy at all, but "a particular kind of theoretical science, namely, modern natural science." Strauss, 263.

And this leads naturally to Rousseau's Second Discourse,[4] the Straussian view of which shall be the topic of our next blog posting on Rousseau.

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[1] Rousseau has been the subject of prior postings, and you can search the blog using the gadget on the upper left of the blog, using his name as a search term to find them. But his hypocrisy was particularly treated in Ecstatsis and Telos: Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the Disfigured Man.
[2] Rousseau wobbled in his faith. He converted (in a fashion) from his childhood Calvinism to Catholicism in 1728, only to give it up in favor of Calvinism in 1754. But whether Protestant or Catholic, his life was not particularly led by Christian values. He also wobbled in his occupation, and in his relations with women. He was a man with no true compass. His only consistent attribute was a self-preening narcissism.
[3] The First Discourse refers to Rousseau's Discours sur les sciences et sur les arts (A Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts).

[4] The Second Discourse refers to Rousseau's Discours sur l'origine de l'inégalité (Discourse on the Origin of Inequality). It is significantly the more important text in understanding Rousseau's political philosophy.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Locke on Property and its Acquisition: Vice Turned Virtue

LOCKE'S DOCTRINE OF PROPERTY is central to his political teaching, and is something that distinguishes his teaching from his predecessors. It is important to grasp Locke's notions on property, for they are deeply revolutionary in spirit. They are anti-conservative, or at least they are contrary to the best thinking of the pagan philosophers and the highest thought of the Christian moral theologians, which is what real conservatism is all about: the first things. As Strauss concludes his analysis of Locke's doctrine on property:

Locke's teaching on property, and therewith his whole political philosophy, are revolutionary not only with respect to the biblical tradition but with regard to the philosophic tradition as well.

Strauss, 248. Again, Locke's doctrine of property purports to be a "natural law" doctrine, and doing so "it partakes of all the complexities" of Locke's doctrine of natural law which, at best, could be called a doctrine of quasi-natural law or something altogether different disguised as a natural law. But it also suffers from what Strauss calls a "peculiar difficulty." Strauss, 234. This "Locke's teaching on property, and therewith his whole political philosophy, are revolutionary not only with regard to biblical tradition but with regard to the philosophic tradition as well."
--Leo Strauss
difficulty arises out of Locke's theory which requires the transformation of a natural right to property (the "original law of nature") to a civil right to property, wherein the former essentially ceases to be valid. For Locke, the natural right to property arises from the natural right to self-preservation and the desire for happiness, i.e., the pursuit of happiness. Immediately, man in a state of nature confronts the problem of others of his kind with the same natural right who are in competition with him in taking the things from the earth. Neither begging nor stealing property is right; the only title to right to property arises from a man's labor as he appropriates the goods of nature. It is the mixture of labor and the goods of the earth which, combined, give rise to the right to property. "Labor is the only title to property which is in accordance with natural right." Strauss, 236.

The only limit to acquisition, that is, to title to property, is that the property acquired must remain useful to man. "Man may not appropriate things which through his appropriating them would cease to be useful." Strauss, 237. If a kind of property is not subject to waste (gold, silver, diamonds), then a man can acquire as much as his heart desires. On the other hand, he ought not acquire more perishable commodities that he can use without waste. Therefore, man is entitled to more nuts (which are less perishable) than, say, plums (which are perishable). Waste is for Locke, the mortal sin of property ownership, not covetousness, greed, or selfishness. As Strauss puts it: "The terrors of the natural law no longer strike the covetous, but the waster." Strauss, 237. In acquiring property, man "does not have to think of other human beings." Strauss, 237. Put proverbially, Strauss labels Locke's thought thus: Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous.* The fancy French may be roughly and vulgarly translated as "Screw everybody else." And this attitude Locke justified whether man, in a state of nature, had plenty or lived in want.

Labor, however, created title to property only under the "original law of nature" pertaining to property. In a state of civil society, "labor no longer creates a sufficient title to property," Strauss, 240, though it retains its role as "the origin of value or of all wealth." Strauss, 243. So the worker who yearns to labor so as to acquire not only what he needs, but what he wants, is "a greater benefactor of mankind than those who give alms to the poor." Strauss, 243. Amor habendi, amor nummi is greater than amor proximi.** Indeed, there appears to be no limitations to the acquisition of goods in civil society, other, perhaps, than the property must be acquired in a manner allowed by positive law. Locke seems, nay, does, turn the classical and Christian teaching on property entirely on its head.

How does Locke justify the right to untrammeled acquisition of property to the neglect of the fundamental law of law of neighbor? Locke was not foolish enough to emancipate acquisitiveness from moral law by arguing that it was a virtue per se. "He justifies the emancipation of acquisitiveness in the only way in which it can be defended: he shows that it is conducive to the common good." Strauss, 242. For Locke, then, "[u]nlimited appropriation without concern for the need of others is true charity." Strauss, 243. So similarly is the study of nature and knowledge treated by Locke. The study of nature and the acquisition of knowledge, too, is emancipated from the moral law through similar argument. "[T]he study of nature . . . may be of greater benefit to mankind than the monuments of exemplary charity that have, at so great charge, been raised by the founders of hospitals and alms-houses." So he who discovered the medicinal properties of quinine did more than those who built hospitals. George Soros and Bill Gates more virtuous and greater philanthropists than Mother Theresa or St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Virtue has nothing to do with the inside of a man. Money, money, money, money, and the love of it is apparently Ok with Locke.

So this is the great charge of government, to preserve property. "The great and chief end . . . of men's uniting into commonwealths and putting themselves under government is the preservation of their property." Strauss, 245 (quoting Locke's Treatise) Madison in the Federalist No. 10, puts the Lockean notion of government succinctly: "The protection of [different and unequal faculties of acquiring property] is the first object of government." To protect the greedy? To sanction pleonexia?*** That's is the "first object," the "great and chief end" of government?

In Locke's notion of property, then, and in the civil government's role in protecting it, we have something very different, something highly revolutionary and anti-conservative and vicious. It is the formalization, the institutionalization, the invirtuation, of libido habendi. The rationalization: "Private vices" yield greater "public benefits." Virtue, after all is "unendowed," but vice is richly endowed. Wrong is thereby made right because it pays better. Since in the age in which Locke was writing most people still believed that the unlimited acquisition of wealth was unjust or morally wrong, however, Locke felt the need to "conceal" his doctrine, to justify unlimited acquisition by tying it to the common good, to appear to be "going with the herd," and further, to "so involve[] his sense, that it [would] not [be] easy to understand him." Strauss, 246. In a word, dissemble.

Locke, then, "is a hedonist," but a hedonist who advances a "peculiar hedonism." Strauss, 249. It is a Midasian hedonism, where the greatest pleasure is not in enjoying the greatest pleasures, but "in the having of those thing which produce the greatest pleasures." In short, "Locke says in effect that the greatest happiness consists in the greatest power." Strauss, 249. "Life" becomes what it seems to be for so many Ugly Americans who have swallowed the poison of Locke wrapped up in the sweet capsule in which he hid it and who frenetically pursue wealth, and not virtue, as the end of all ends: "the joyless quest for joy." Strauss, 251. One becomes as despairing as Midas, swallowed up in his greed, and bereft of any human consolation. He cannot love his wife, or his children, or give a piece of bread and hot soup to the poor, or clothe the naked, or perform any work of mercy, for everything is measured in, and therefore is transformed into, filthy lucre.

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*Translation: "Every man for himself, and God for us all." In other words, let me take care of myself, and let God worry about others.
**Amor habendi = love of having or possessing. Amor nummi = love of money. Amor proximi = love of neighbor.
***Pleonexia (from Greek: πλεονεξια) is the Greek word for greed, covetousness, the inordinate grasping of more than one is entitled to. It is a concept that is both Biblical (cf. Col. 3:1-11, Luke 12:13-21) and classical Greek, found and described by both Plato and Aristotle as a disordered, vicious, and undesirable quality.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Locke and the Pursuit of Happiness

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS is, for an American, a given, a moral and political shibboleth. The "pursuit of happiness" has made it into one of our organic, institutional documents, to wit, the Declaration of Independence. There is, of course, a perfectly classical way to view the "pursuit of happiness." The "happiness" ethics, the eudaemonistic ethics of Aristotle and St. Thomas, with their objective basis, could easily inform us as to what the "pursuit of happiness" means, and all would be well. But Americans have taken the "pursuit of happiness" to mean something entirely different, something inherently subjective.* How much of this, if any, is Locke's fault?

It is difficult, of course, ever to answer such questions as the imposition of blame for ideas. No one can measure the human cost arising from bad ideas. Some of them are horrible. Ideas such as national socialism, communism, Maoism, antisemitism, radical Islam have horrible costs attached to them. Locke's ideas, we may be sure, had a human cost much, much lower than these vicious counterparts. But at least we can look into Locke's ideas of happiness and make an educated guess and what sort of moral cost, if nothing else, such ideas have.

For Locke, there was precious little in man that was innate. Certainly, no principle of natural law was innate. Locke rejected the notion of universal law: he saw "no rules of the law of nature 'which, as practical principles ought, do continue constantly to operate and influence all our actions without ceasing [and which] may be observed in all persons and all ages, steady and universal.'" Strauss, 226 (quoting Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding). The desire for happiness was an exception; for Locke, this desire was innate:

Nature . . . has put into man a desire of happiness, and an aversion to misery; these, indeed, are innate practical principles."

Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, I, iii, 3. This desire for happiness, and the pursuit of happiness to which it gives rise, is not the source of duty (as the case would be if it were "law"). It is, however, the source of right, and so, for Locke, "the desire for happiness and the pursuit of happiness have the character of an absolute right, a natural right." Strauss, 226. This coupling of Lockean aversion to an innate natural law with advancement of the notion of the innate desire as the source of right means, in short, that "[t]here is, then an innate natural right, while there is no innate natural duty. . . . Since the right of nature is innate, whereas the law of nature is not, the right of nature is more fundamental than the law of nature and is the foundation of the law of nature." Strauss, 226-27. There really is no law in a "state of nature," since in that state, "any man may do what he thinks fit." Strauss, 228 (citing Locke passim). This state of lawlessness, is of course, highly unpalatable, as it exposes man-in-a-state-of-nature to constant danger. He seeks peace so as to preserve his life so as to satisfy his desire for happiness and therefore contracts with his fellows for a State.
The contract of the individuals actually concerned with their self-preservation [and their pursuit of happiness built thereon]--not the contract of the fathers qua fathers or divine appoint or an end of man that is independent of the actual wills of all individuals--creates the whole power of society: "the supreme power in every commonwealth [is] but the joint power of every member of society."
Strauss, 228-29 (quoting Locke's Treatise).

One of the most notable features of Locke's doctrines is its emphasis on property rights. It is part of the Lockean trilogy: life, liberty, and estate or property. To that we shall turn to next in our last blog entry on the Straussian analysis of Locke. Again, Locke departs from any classical or Christian concept of natural law.
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*On this issue, I heartily recommend Deal W. Hudson's Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction (Boston: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Locke's Great Dissemblance

OH IF LOCKE HAD LIVED TODAY, where there are no penalties but rather praise attached to being a secular liberal, how untrammeled would he have been, and how much clearer it would have been for his readers to see what he had intended to say! But then many our founding fathers, at least those who were practicing Christians, would not have chewed on his fat. Yet nevertheless we would not have to read between the lines and read so carefully. Instead, the social strictures of the time in conjunction with his temporal prudence caused him to write Hobbesthought using Hookerspeak. Carefully read, however, "a summary comparison of [Locke's Second Treatise] with the teaching of Hooker and of Hobbes would show that Locke deviated considerably from the traditional natural law teaching and followed the lead given by Hobbes." Strauss, 221. Strauss engages in such a comparison in his book Natural Right and History, which will not be addressed here.

But in one area, Locke disrobes, and we see his deviant Hobbesian skivvies that cover up his swelling atheistic pudendum. Strauss identifies for us Locke's "radical deviation" from Hooker. What and where is it? It is to be found in Chapter II of his Second Treatise, entitled "Of the State of Nature." It is the notion that in the state of nature, "every one has the executive power of the law of nature." Locke, Sec. Tr., § 13; see also § 8 ("every man hath a right to . . . be executioner of the law of nature.") Locke admits that this doctrine is "strange," that is, novel, Sec. Tr., §§ 9, 13, but he asks for the reader's indulgence and begs no hasty judgment. That man has "executive powers" in a state of nature to enforce the law of nature (in other words, in a state of nature, I can act as judge and jury and executioner against a fellow man who has infringed the natural law) is not to be found in Hooker. Nor is it to be found in any classical or Christian treatment of natural law. Why, then, does Locke insist upon this executive power in man in a state of nature? Why does he risk an express breach with the words of Hooker and the distrust of his fellows?

It is because in Locke's view, for natural law to be law at all, there must be sanction, and for there to be effective sanction, there must be enforcement. The traditional view taught that natural law's sanction was "supplied by the judgment of conscience, which is the judgment of God." Strauss, 222. Locke, however, who rejected a natural law that contains within it the notion of "nature's God," had to find the sanction/enforcement mechanism elsewhere than in conscience or God. So he wrests it from conscience, the spark of God in man, and puts it in the soiled hands of brutish men with clubs. Look at Locke's deprecatory notion of conscience: for Locke, the conscience "is nothing else but our own opinion or judgment of the moral rectitude or pravity of our own actions." (Locke, Essay Concerning Human Understanding, I.iii, § 8) Our own opinion? This is fully and entirely Hobbesian: "private consciences . . . are but private opinions." Hobbes, Leviathan, Chap. 29. Conscience, for Locke, not only is no guide, it supplies no sanctions, and it hardly need be said that it is in no wise linked to God. For God is not the God of opinions, but of truth. Thus, in Locke's view, only men can enforce this partial natural law in the state of nature, which means, at the end of the day, that the law is not a natural law at all, but a man-made law. In a state of nature, man is its executive. Under social contract, that executive power is conveyed to the Leviathan State. God is altogether out of the picture, in theory and in practice.

The law of nature is indeed given by God [a concession of Locke to the times], but its being a law does not require that it be known to be given by God, because it is immediately enforced, not by God or by the conscience, but by human beings.

Strauss, 223. Is Locke's view any different from Hobbes's? Once the veils are removed, manifestly no. Has he departed from Hooker? Once the smokescreen clears, manifestly yes.

But the problem is even worse than merely a lack of enforcement mechanism tied to God. God is entirely out of the picture in the matter of promulgation of this "partial natural law."
Man would know the law of nature in the state of nature if the "the dictates of the law of nature" were "implanted in him" or "writ in the hearts of mankind." But no moral rules are "imprinted in our minds" or "written on [our] hearts" or "stamped upon [our] minds or "implanted." Since there his no habitus of moral principles, no synderesis or conscience, all knowledge of the law of nature is acquired by study: to know the law of nature, one must be "a studier of that law." . . . . [Therefore] the law of nature is not promulgated in the state of nature. Since the law of nature must be promulgated in the state of nature if it is to be a law in the proper sense of the term, we are again forced to conclude that the law of nature is not a law in the proper sense of the term.
Strauss, 225-26.

So the natural law of Locke, it turns out, is not natural law at all. It requires no knowledge of God, of its promulgation by God, of its enforcement by God. It requires no belief in judgment after death, or in life after death. There is no room in it for God. It requires no conscience to inform man of it, or to account to man that he has violated it. It is no law at all. It is in fact only desire, a desire to pursue happiness. Locke's natural law, or perhaps replacement for natural law, is desire. The pursuit of happiness, then, becomes the one-and-only law of man, and it follows from the desire for self-preservation. It requires property to be fulfilled. Hence, Locke's trilogy of rights: life, liberty, property. Naturally, for Locke, the pursuit of happiness, being entirely natural, is happiness without God. Some people, by the way, would call this Hell.

(continued)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Leo Strauss and Natural Law: Locke's "Partial Natural Law" Not Natural Law At All

LE SAGE LOCKE, "the sagacious Locke," is what Voltaire called John Locke. Thomas Jefferson called Locke one of the three greatest men who ever lived, rivaled in greatness only by Bacon and Newton. For Locke to have gained the respect of two such virulent haters of the Catholic Church and revealed religion should give one pause before accepting him hook, line, and sinker, or, perhaps more paronomasiacally, lock, stock, and barrel. If Locke, who quoted the Aristotelian/Thomistic Richard Hooker, "one of the least revolutionary men who ever lived," Strauss, 207, who appeared to advance a traditional notion of natural law, who feigned intimate knowledge with "those justly descried names" of Thomas Hobbes and Baruch Spinoza, was up front, then why are these two princes of the Enlightenment, these two chiefs of the Revolution, so bullish on Locke?

What's up with that? Were his traditional-sounding words part of a great dissembling? Was Locke the "Great Dissembler"? This seems to be the judgment of Leo Strauss:

We see, then, that, according to Locke, cautious speech is legitimate if unqualified frankness would hinder a noble work one is trying to achieve or expose on to persecution or endanger the public peace; and legitimate caution is perfectly compatible with going with the herd in one's outward professions or with using ambiguous language or with so involving one's sense that one cannot easily be understood.

Strauss, 208-09. Locke writes as if the New Testament revelation provides the perfect law, but he responds or acts in such a manner so as to belie that belief. As Strauss notes, actions speak louder than words, and Locke wrote "Two Treatises on Government, and not a 'Politique tirée des propres paroles de l’Écriture sainte.'"* Granted, it is difficult if not impossible to know whether the dissembling was the result of Locke's own doubt on revelation, or rather his concern that his audience had doubts with respect to it. Therefore, though his words sound pious, he seems to have been judicious though calculating nevertheless to advance a form of political teaching, of natural law, as independent of Scripture and Christianity, indeed as independent of God, as he could possibly make it. Strauss, 209. Locke appeared to believe that it was impossible, through the light of reason alone, to arrive at any conclusion on life after death for mankind. Accordingly, any law that referred to life after death, or a notion that "after death comes judgment," Heb. 9:27, was not, strictly speaking, a natural law based upon reason alone at all.
Therefore, if there is to be a law "knowable by the light of nature, that is without the help of positive revelation," that law must consist of a set of rules whose validity does not presuppose life after death or belief in a life after death.
Strauss, 212. Not only was the belief in life after death not materia propria for natural law philosophy, neither was the connection between virtue and happiness, since from the vantage point of any particular man's mortal life alone there seems to be little correlation between virtue "Locke cannot have recognized any law of nature in the proper sense of the term."
--Leo Strauss
and happiness or prosperity (That's why Billy Joel has the seducer sing to the Catholic Virginia who insists on the virtue of chastity: "Only the good die young!") But what was apparent on a micro scale to Locke was not necessarily so on a macro scale. And Locke seized on what he perceived was something arguable by reason alone: a necessary link between "several moral rules" and "public happiness," and on this linkage crafted a doctrine of a "partial law of nature," different from the "complete law of nature." Strauss, 213.

There exists, indeed, [in Locke's view], a visible connection between "public happiness" or "the prosperity and temporal happiness of any people" and the general compliance with "several moral rules." These rules, which apparently are a part of the complete law of nature, "may receive from mankind a very general approbation, without either knowing or admitting the true ground of morality; which can only be the will and law of a God, who sees men in the dark, has in his hands rewards and punishments, and power enough to call to account the proudest offender."

Strauss, 213. The "several moral rules" in this "partial" natural law seem rather limited, as even the laws of marriage Locke finds outside of them, apparently having difficulty justifying monogamous marriage from polygamy or even concubinage or incest (the latter two the dissembler simply remains silent about) under principles of natural law, and does not see marriage as a union for the life of the spouses, but only one that ought to be "more firm" and more "lasting" (whatever that may mean) in men, than say satyrs or rabbits, but only because of the length of time needed in the raising of children. It seems that for Locke, the civil society can legislate on marriage virtually in any way it wants, since the natural law has so little to say about it. Marriage is therefore in practice outside of Locke's "partial" natural law. There are other discrepancies between Locke's "partial" natural law and the teachings of Scripture, the details of which need not be gone into here. "It can safely be said," in any event, "that Locke's 'partial law of nature' is not identical with clear and plain teachings of the New Testament or of Scripture in general." Strauss, 219. A fortiori when we add the moral teachings of the infallible Church, which, of course, Locke, the good Protestant become Deist and incipient Atheist he was, had long ago jettisoned as having any relevance.

In Locke's take of the natural law, this "partial natural law," the law of nature is totally and thoroughly secularized, nay, more, temporalized. The "one thing necessary," the unum necessarium,--contemplation of God--has disappeared. Maries are ostracized from the natural law. The natural law is only for Marthas. (Cf. Luke 10:38-42) Indeed, "the 'partial law of nature' does not require belief in God." Strauss, 219.

There is yet another log in Locke's intellectual eye which prevents his teachings on "partial" natural law from being on a sound foundation. "Locke's political teaching stands or falls by his natural law teaching concerning the beginnings of political societies." Strauss, 215. "Locke's entire political teaching is based on the assumption of a state of nature," a notion that refers neither the pre-lapsarian or post-lapsarian state of man. Strauss, 215. Locke's notion of the "state of nature" is Hobbesian, and it is a notion, it may be observed, entirely at odds with Scriptural concepts. The Fall of Man has no meaning to Locke in his political theories. It is a notion, as Strauss notes, "wholly alien to the Bible." Strauss, 215.

So when Locke's suggestion that the natural law is contained in the Scriptures is compared to his "partial law of nature" and its contradiction to the Scriptures, "it follows that the 'partial law of nature' does not belong at all to the law of nature." Strauss, 219. Indeed, since the "partial law of nature" does not require belief in God, it follows that there is no enforcer or judge of it, which means, naturally, that the "'partial law of nature' is, then, not a law in the proper sense of the term." Strauss, 220. It is thus that Strauss concludes in a manner that he admits is "in shocking contrast to what is generally thought to be his doctrine." "Locke cannot have recognized any law of nature in the proper sense of the term." Strauss, 220.

Egads! Isn't Locke one of the principal inspirations for the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution? And, if Strauss is to be believed, he did not recognize the natural law in any proper sense of the term? What does all this mean?

(continued)

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*The reference is to Bishop Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet's (1627-1704) work by that name. Translated, the title is: "Politics Drawn from the Very Words of the Holy Scriptures."