Thursday, August 28, 2008

Liberalism's War Against Reason

If "every vice is an injury to nature" and vice, of course, hurts the sinner rather than God, it should come as no surprise that liberalism wars against rationality itself. Some time ago on Tom Brown's blog I remember someone bringing up the point that both Augustine and Aquinas considered sin to be that which is contrary to reason. Of course! What reasonable person would put their soul in danger for trivial gain?

When I speak of liberalism I mean, of course, that force and disposition (or lack of reason) behind both the "sexual revolution" and Cain's wicked sacrifice (and subsequent envy). I do not mean any liberalism which, by whatever means, seeks to advance human liberty in accordance with the very dignity thereof (but we needn't worry ourselves too much here since it is practically never used in this way anymore - I spoke here about the usage of this word).

The "spirit" of liberalism I'm speaking of should be clear in light of recent political events such as Nancy Pelosi making absurd claims on the evil of abortion or Obama claiming that he didn't know when life began and even down to Sean Hannity (on the other end of the spectrum) telling Father Euteneuer "judge not lest ye be judged" when called out for publicly defying Church doctrine. It should be clear now that I'm not talking about mere politics.

These people take Jesus figuratively when He says "what God has joined together, let man not separate" and literally when He says "be as wise as serpents". They assert that the Catholic prohibition of contraception has led to increased abortion which is itself the absurd idea that people will obey the Church behind closed doors and disobey in public. On every point they are not only mistaken, but unreasonably so.

The reason for this is that sin wars against our nature and nothing sinful is natural. Reason is part of our nature and therefore sin must also war against our reason.

Liberalism is the apex of what worldly wisdom could muster up philosophically. If it only fell short that would be one thing, but the reality is that it doesn't just leave a man short handed, it leaves him dull witted. For it doesn't fail its purpose of right thinking, it succeeds in its purpose of injurying man's very capacity to reject it.

It is no coincidence then that it is always the liberal who says "it doesn't matter if you're liberal or conservative as long as..." and always the liberal philosophers who come to the conclusion that truth cannot be known. Since they have embraced a philosophy that wars against ones very nature and his ability to reason, it is no surprise that they feel the need to shy away from objectivity. Find the man who embraces objectivity and you'll find one who has good reason to believe that he is really right. Find the man who rejects it, and you'll find one who subconciously knows that his philosophy cannot hold up under objective scrutiny.


Phil Snider said...

I hope you don't mind some, hopefully, constructive criticism:

First, I really don't think that, on one level, reason is what is at issue here. I don't doubt for a second that Pelosi and Obama believe every word that they say on the subjects that you cite and that they believe firmly that their positions are a result of using their reason. And they are (and here's the rub)... in their own way.

Second, what is really at issue are the assumptions that Pelosi/Obama start with and which you and I may start with. Reason, at the end of the day, is only a method of thinking, especially in following an inference to its logical conclusions. In that way, it is entirely possible to have a reasoned conclusion result from a dodgy inference. I learned long ago that if you really want to bring down an argument, you have to start with the inference and reason isn't going to help here because the inferences aren't provable by reason (which is rather the point).

Third, the result of these two points is that reason isn't the problem, but rather something closer to world-view. This isn't meant to be some kind of post-modern dance which states that all world-views are equal, I don't think they are. I think we can talk about truth and worldviews and we should. Just don't expect to argue someone out of a worldview. Conversion is needed here, I think. (Thus, why I find apologetics a waste of time- you can never argue someone into faith).

As a reading suggestion, you might like to read Alasdair MacIntyre (a Catholic philosopher, I think, at Notre Dame). Perhaps, After Virtue is the best place to start.


Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, thanks for the response. It's always helpful to have this kind of input. However, I think we may be talking past each other.

I really don't think that, on one level, reason is what is at issue here. I don't doubt for a second that Pelosi and Obama believe every word that they say on the subjects that you cite and that they believe firmly that their positions are a result of using their reason.

I don't think the issue is whether or not they believe what they said - I am sure that they do. Insane men believe what they say too, that's what makes them insane! Sane men may say insane things but they don't believe them, that's why we call them sane.

But who will doubt that the insane man's reason has been severely injured even though he believes what he says? In this world, we are all at least partially insane because of original sin. The degree to which we turn away from God is precisely the degree to which we turn towards insanity and ultimately fatal injury to our very nature (which includes reason) and ends only in death.

I will take it as a coincidence that you only seem to have an issue with the two liberals mentioned and not the "conservative". Or perhaps it is only because they are fresher on the mind.

As far as reason goes, my beef with Obama & Pelosi isn't so much that they have bad presuppositions (like atheism for example) and come up with poor conclusions (even if by faculty of good reason), it's that they claim to have good presuppositions (Christianity) and since they end up with poor conclusions from good presuppositions then I can state with confidence that their reason is impaired. This is an especially egregious violation of reason in the case of Pelosi who claims to be Catholic when nothing could be more obvious than the Church's condemnation of abortion.

In addition to repeated affirmations since the early days of the Church (and even by Jewish leaders before that and hell even the pagans knew this much!) no less than 8 US bishops have publicly and explicitly denounced her lies about Catholic dogma.

There is no reasonable way to pervert this evidence into anything quasi agreeable to the liberal philosophy and therefore I reiterate my premise: liberalism is an injury to reason itself.

Furthermore on the issue of presuppositions, it is still by reason that we must evaluate our presuppositions. Only one with a relatively uninjured reason has the ability to evaluate his presuppositions. Take atheists for example. Even the most prominent atheists like Richard Dawkins have demonstrated almost no ability to evaluate their presuppositions. They don't even believe that they have them. That is why they are nearly always put to shame when in live debates against theists.

On apologetics, I agree with you to a point. I am frequently fatigued by apologetics which seem to go nowhere but in circles. I agree that one cannot be argued into the faith (this goes for atheist > theist or non-Catholic > Catholic or vice versa).

But I wouldn't go so far as to call apologetics useless. After all, most of what we know about Christianity at any given point in history is preserved for us by apologists of various opinions. Gnosticism is known to us almost entirely by apologetics. Also, by means of apologetics the apologist himself learns a great deal about the faith. I think apologetics is a great way to prepare one's self for theology.

I'll look into the philosopher you recommended.

Rene'e said...


"Also, by means of apologetics the apologist himself learns a great deal about the faith."

I agree with you. I do not want, attempt, or try to persuade anyone to Catholicism. I have learned that it can not be done.

I enjoy reading and participating in discussions for the educational opportunity it gives me to learn my own faith and that of others.

This has helped me to grow greatly in understanding of Catholicism and what divides us as Christians which has helped me to have greater charity towards others.

I do not think I would have sought this opportunity if it were not for apologetics.

Rene'e said...

More more thing. I had always thought in the past, that I had charity towards others who were not Catholic. I have realized in the last months, I really only had charity with those who did not take their "Faith" seriously.

An important lesson I learned about myself, because of apologetics.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Charity can be difficult to muster up sometimes in these heated discussions. Why does stupidity make us angry? I have been asking myself that more and more lately. What reason do I have to get angry over someone with poor reason?

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it's unnatural and one of the consequences of original sin.

Tim A. Troutman said...

Phil, from my brief research on Alasdair MacIntyre, he seems to be a Marxist and a Liberation Theologist! If that is true, I certainly wouldn't waste my time on two philosophies already condemned by the Church.

Am I missing something?

Phil Snider said...


I think we're still having a disagreement on what reason actually is which is why I think you are misreading me. I would argue that it is entirely possible for an insane person's reasoning to be entirely consistent, but the presuppositions to be entirely wrong.

If you've ever spoken to a mentally ill person having a bad day, you'll notice that the discussion goes around in a circle because they can and do reason around any reasonable argument from a 'sane' vantage point. Everything is re-interpreted according to his/her insane assumptions. That is one of the insideous things about mental illness. It isn't reason that is lacking, it is touch with reality.

I also suspect we are disagreeing about our presuppositions. I think we would agree that what sets our presuppositions apart from an insane person's is that they, in some way, match with an external reality. So, our presuppositions are not irrational, but what I would argue is that they aren't established by reason, even if they are validated by reason. They fill in the gaps of what we don't know, so can be extrapolations (in that sense, they may or may not be reasonable), but they are not subject to rational proof (due to lack of information or certainty).

I hope those two points clarify things.

As for Alasdair MacIntyre, my first reaction to your comment was something along the line of wondering what you'd been smoking. MacIntrye a Liberation theologian???!!!!! I think I have an idea where you got that, since some of his early work was playing Marx off of liberalism (in the light of Aquinas and Augustine), so I can see the confusion. But, really, Tim, did you think I would recommend a Marxist and Liberation theologian to YOU!!!! ;)

Seriously, have a look at the Wikipedia article on MacIntyre. You'll find there that he's a Neo-Thomist and his main claim to fame is his contributions to virtue ethics. His main inspirations are Aquinas and Augustine. I think you'll like him and, more to the point, I think you find him a good guide. I do and, I hope, we agree just often enough to convince you to try him.


Tim A. Troutman said...

I would argue that it is entirely possible for an insane person's reasoning to be entirely consistent, but the presuppositions to be entirely wrong.

Well, my point wasn't so much about insanity being perfectly analogous to injured reason but that my problem with Pelosi,Obama, Hannity wasn't that they said things they didn't believe in but that their reasoning skills were poor (due to an injured nature).

On insanity, I think it was Chesterton who said that it wasn't the case that the insane man had lost his ability to reason, it was the case that he lost everything but the ability to reason (which as you mentioned is a sad state to be in).

I think I agree with you on the idea that presuppositions are not necessarily established by reason as long as we can insist on man's ability to evaluate them by reason and even change them if need be.

On MacIntyre, I am ashamed to have spoken so rashly. I will add him to my queue.