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.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Need for the Tao: C. S. Lewis and the Natural Law

LIBERALISM AND RELATIVISM IN EDUCATION IS FATAL to the human spirit because it excludes reality from its auspices, and so is completely unable to come to terms with the emotional life of man. Sentiment can be reasonable or unreasonable, but in the world of liberalism and relativism the standard by which sentiment can be judged and then reined is rejected. Plato's chariot runs wild: the horse of reason will never control the horse of passion.* The Gaiuses and Titituses of the world exclude a "reference to something beyond the emotion." Abolition, 20.

As C. S. Lewis observes emotions, in themselves, are arational or non-rational. If they are regarded as irrational, it is not because they are ipso facto against reason; rather, they are irrational only in the sense that the emotion or sentiment, judged against the external standard, is adjudged aberrant. To judge some emotions as irrational and others as rational, then, one has to to stand within the Tao, and not outside of it like the modern educators that C. S. Lewis criticizes. Those within the Tao, within the tradition, within the natural law, see the task of moral formation, of education, of paideia, of the studia humanitatis.

For those within [the Tao, the task is to train in the pupil those responses which are in themselves appropriate, whether anyone is making them or not, and in making which the very nature of man consists. Those without, if they are logical, must regard all sentiments as equally non-rational, as mere mists between us and the real objects. As a result, they must either decide to remove all sentiments, as far as possible, from the pupil's mind; or else to encourage some sentiments for reasons that have nothing to do with their intrinsic 'justness' or 'ordinacy'.

Abolition 21.

C. S. Lewis concretizes, and he takes as an example a Roman father, let us call him Marcus Porcius, steeped in the traditions of a Republican Rome: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori, the Father, quoting the poet Horace** instructs his son. "It is sweet and fitting to die for one's country." The Roman father believed that such an emotion was fitting, was true, and was ordered to nobility in death for causes greater than oneself such as the common good. Gaius and Titius would find this statement impossible. Two courses would be open to them: they either debunk the sentiment of patriotism which Marcus Porcius wishes to instill in his son, or they must find some other basis for inculcating such a sentiment other than that it is right, perhaps by seizing a utilitarian motive. Either way, the young Roman has been corrupted if his head and heart are influenced by Gaius and Titius. What in the old way was pedagogy--a system of educare, of drawing out, of inculturare, of inculturating, is not the same thing in the new.

Men Without Chests

If instead of mere debunking the emotion the modern educator who has rejected the guidance of the Tao turns to steer emotions, there is much to beware. Since such a one rejects the Tao, his only standard is his own, an arbitrary one, an ideology. Pedagogy, then, becomes demagogy or ideagogy (to coin a neologism)--a system of propagandization, of brain washing. The words dulci et decorum est pro patria mori are decidedly different in the lips of a Roman father, steeped in the Tao, than in the hands of an idealogue who stands without the Tao. They become too horrible to hear on the lips of the Islam radical cleric, say an Abu Hamza al-Masri, or on the lips of Baldur von Schirach, the Reichsjugendführer or leader of the Hitler Youth movement. Both of these latter stand outside the Tao.

If, however, the modern educator turns to debunking the emotion on the basis that there is no objective standard by which to measure it, while it may be slightly less objectionable than the person who co-opts the emotions to recruit them to his ideology, it still is a destructive response. To begin with, the denial of objective standards is itself problematic. Can virtues even exist if there is no objective reality? Assuming that they can, can the virtues exist when unsupported by properly trained emotions? Pace Socrates and his belief that knowledge alone is necessary and sufficient to assure justice,*** it seems apparent to Lewis that the proposition is rather dubious:
Without the aid of trained emotions the intellect is powerless against the animal organism. . . . In battle it is not syllogisms that will keep the reluctant nerves and muscles to their post in the third hour of bombardment. . . . The head rules the belly through the chest--the seat, as Alanus tells us,**** of Magnanimity, of emotions organized by trained habit into stable sentiments. The Chest-Magnanimity-Sentiment--these are the indispensable liaison officers between cerebral man and visceral man. It may even be said that it is by this middle element that man is man: for by his intellect he is mere spirit and by his appetite mere animal.
Abolition, 24-25. It is Alan of Lille's Magnanimity, the seat of the emotions that hover between the viscera, the pudenda, below and the mind, the Geist, above, that Lewis calls a man's chest. The liberals, then, seek to create men without Magnanimity, without trained or habitually disposed emotions, "Men without Chests."

Liberals, of course, like to think themselves as intellectuals, and those who insist that traditional values ought to be inculcated in youth and believe in an objective normative order against which emotions ought to be judged they view as fools. But this is an outrage, as the intellectual virtues are not possessed by the liberals alone, and any perception of a big brain is only the result of a trick of the senses, and optical or intellectual illusion:

It is an outrage that they [the liberal debunkers] should be commonly spoken of as Intellectuals. This gives them the chance to say that he who attacks them attacks Intelligence. It is not so. . . . Their heads are no bigger than the ordinary: it is the atrophy of the chest beneath them that makes them seem so.

Abolition, 25. And the "tragi-comedy" of liberal making is that the liberals cannot figure things out. They cannot seem to solve social problems they have engendered or exacerbated, and they refuse to believe that it may be their theories that are the problem to begin with:
We make men without chests and we expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor [or chastity, or piety, or obedience, or any other virtuous quality] and we are shocked to find traitors [or pedophiles, or Satan worshipers, or anarchists] in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.
Abolition, 26.

Let us leave the Lewisian horse metaphor and speak plainly: We unman men, emasculate them, and then expect them to have, as we might say in South Texas, cojones. To continue the South Texas theme: That dog just don't hunt.
*See Plato, Phaedrus, 246a-254e.
**Horace, Odes (III.2.13).
***See Plato's Protagoras, 361b. See also discussion of Plato's Protagoras in Contra Consequentialismum: Virtue.
****For Alanus ab Insulis (Alan of Lille) and his De Planctu Naturae, see, generally the posting Nature's Complaint: Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 1. For the particular reference to Magnanimity referred to be Lewis, see the posting Alan of Lille's The Plaint of Nature, Part 3.

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