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.

Friday, June 19, 2009

"Law Like Love"--3rd Myth--Progressives and Liberals

The grandchildren put out a treble tongue,
Law is the senses of the young.

The grandfather—symbol of the wisdom of the old or of the past—is not the only one whose answer is rejected by Auden. Similarly the grandchild—symbol of the progressive, liberal, and seemingly unmoored and tinkering reformer—has an ideal of law that is equally objectionable. The treble tongue of the grandchildren referenced by Auden has an ambiguity in it.[i] It is treble in the sense that it is high-pitched, immature, a symbol of the fickleness and shallowness typical of youth. The voice of the young who reject the traditions of their elders lacks the depth and the reliability of the basso continuo. It is also treble in the sense of triple; the triple tongue being perhaps a reference to a serpent that traditionally was pictured as having a triple tongue, an ore trilingui.[ii] In advocating their senses as the foundation of law—law based on emotivism[iii]—and rejecting the role of practical reason and the traditions of their elders in the construction of their law, the youth, i.e., moderns, speak the words of the devil. Law as custom or tradition, viewed by moderns as antiquated, and rejected by our world which—since (seminally) the Renaissance and Reformation and (expressly) in the Enlightenment—has rejected the Aristotelian notion of virtue and man as a political animal. The result has been a subjectivism and relativism in ethics and, by extension, in law, which is well-nigh crippling in terms of dialogue and moral consensus and progress. (MacIntyre)

If both the traditions of the elders and the emotivism of youth are inadequate sources of Law, then where do we go? To Revelation? To the Church? To a Theocracy?

[i] Ambiguity is a recurring feature in Auden’s poetry. Anthony Hecht, The Hidden Law: The Poetry of W. H. Auden (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1993), 10.
[ii] Cf. Horace, Book III, Ode XI, v. 20; Book II, Ode XIX, v. 31.
[iii] Emotivism in ethics (also known as the emotive theory) is the meta-ethical theory that value judgments—which include moral judgments and by extension law—do not state facts, but, are rather merely expressions of emotions. The philosophical “father” of emotivism in ethics is G. E. Moore (see, e.g., his Principia Ethica and Ethics). and the theory was popularized by A. J. Ayer in his book Language, Truth and Logic. As Alasdair MacIntyre defines it: “'Emotivism is the doctrine that all evaluative judgments and more specifically all moral judgments are nothing but expressions of preference, expressions of attitude or feeling, insofar as they are moral or evaluative in character.” Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame Press), 10-11. The theory is clearly horribly subjective, rejects the principles of an objective ethics, and thus precludes any rational discussion on ethics, right and wrong, and the true and the good. It results in “Children afraid of the night / Who have never been happy or good.” Auden, "September 1, 1939"

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