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.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How Liberalism Cuts Out the Natural Law: John Rawls's Sleight of Hand, Part 2

THE INVIDIOUS NATURE OF THE RAWLSIAN FORMULA stems from its demands that all comprehensive doctrines (and this would include the natural law, and a fortiori Catholicism) excuse themselves from the public square, at least if they want to try to bring in their comprehensive doctrine. It demands this irrespective of the question of the truth or even the reasonableness of those comprehensive doctrines. Confronted with "the fact of reasonable pluralism," Socrates, Cicero, and Jesus would be persona non grata in the chambers of Congress and the benches of the Courts. Only Pontius Pilates--men of the quid est veritas? "What is truth?" variety--are invited to the political party. This reciprocal abandonment of principle by all those who hold comprehensive doctrines, even if those are predicated upon reason, is the price that must be paid for a working egalitarian democracy in the face of pluralism. So Rawls says.

Quid est veritas? by Nikolai Nikolajewitsch Ge

In the Rawlsian construct, the strictness by which the "criterion of reciprocity" and the "liberal principle of legitimacy" are interpreted are inversely proportional to the breadth of "public reason" that is allowed in the public forum. The stricter the former are construed, the wider the latter. The broader the former are construed, the more limited the latter. It is sort of like a filter, if the holes are too large, not enough dirt is removed. The problem (at least for Rawls) is that Rawls is compelled to interpret the "criterion of reciprocity" and the "liberal principle of legitimacy" broadly so as to keep out comprehensive doctrines such as the natural law from invading his legislative chambers. Rawls's doctrine requires a very fine filter.

As Robert George notes in addressing this problem, the Rawlsian formula, specifically its "criterion of reciprocity" and its "liberal principle of legitimacy," can be interpreted narrowly or broadly. If interpreted narrowly, then a comprehensive doctrine can be brought into the public fora so long as that doctrine can be expressed, or at least thought to be expressed, using reason. "The scope of 'public reason' under this narrow interpretation of reciprocity and legitimacy would be wide." George, 86. Thus, those who claim a special revelation or secret gnosis may have to check those and their overcoats with the clerk at the door. But outside of such fideistic doctrines, such comprehensive doctrines that are predicated upon reason or at least articulable in terms of reason (and the natural law is one of those par excellence) would not be prohibited from bringing in their view of human nature, dignity, and destiny as a basis for law. "It seems clear, however, that Rawls himself cannot accept the narrow interpretation of reciprocity and the correspondingly very wide conception of public reason." George, 87.

Rawls champions a broad interpretation of his "criterion of reciprocity" and its "liberal principle of legitimacy" and it therefore follows that he advocates a restrictive notion of what constitutes "public reason." He must champion such a broad interpretation of reciprocity and legitimacy because if he doesn't, then he cannot keep out those nonliberal comprehensive doctrines (such as the natural law) out of the public forum, and this is something Rawls (the inveterate, non-believing liberal that he is) seeks to do. Rawls does not want to deal with "rationalist believers who contend that [their] beliefs are open to and can be fully established by reason." PL, 152-53. For him, these are flies in the ointment of his political liberalism.

Notable among such [comprehensive] doctrines is the broad tradition of natural law thinking about morality, justice, and human rights. This tradition poses an especially interesting problem for Rawls's theory of public reason because of its integration into Catholic teaching. So it is, at once, a nonliberal comprehensive philosophical doctrine and part of a larger religious tradition that, in effect, proposes its own principle of public reason, namely, that questions of law and policy (including what Rawls has in mind when he refers to "constitutional essential and matters of basis justice") ought to be decided in accordance with natural law, natural right, natural rights, and/or natural justice . . . .

George, 87. And so Rawls and his fellow liberal Rawlsians find themselves in a quandary. They do not welcome the advocates of natural law. They do not want want these folks in the legislative chambers to spoil things by advancing public reasons against homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, fetal experimentation, or whatever else the liberals may be up to in advancing their secularist agendas. Just like they don't want those bitter people who cling to guns and religion to make laws or participate in the public discussions, they do not want folks to start claiming moral absolutes, even if they can articulate a reasonable basis for those absolutes. They do not want to go home after a long day's work in the House or Senate with their consciences chafing. Such illiberals and moral absolutists are not welcome since they frustrate the liberal legislative agenda, and upset the liberal apple cart of political sins. But the principles of Political Liberalism, at least if fairly applied, do not allow Rawls and Rawlsians to exclude them. Hence their quandary.

So here is the Rawlsian dilemma when confronting an advocate of the natural law. On the one hand, Rawls not want "rationalists believers who contend that [their] beliefs are open to and can be fully established by reason." On the other hand, Rawls's "methodological and moral commitments require him to avoid denying the soundness, reasonableness, or truth of the reasonable, if controversial, moral, metaphysical, and religious claims that his "political" conception of justice would exclude from political discourse and as grounds for political action." George, 88. The only way that Rawls could do so would be to modify his "political liberalism" into the "comprehensive liberalism," something which he specifically tried to avoid in correcting the apparent errors in his Theory of Justice by publishing his Political Liberalism.

Jesus Heals the Gadarene Demoniac

So what does Rawls do? Rawls seeks to avoid his quandary by waving away the flies that irritate his conception of political liberalism. He does so by accusing them of denying "the fact of reasonable pluralism." George, 88. He does so by the simple denial, in Harvardian lilt, that such claims "can be publicly and fully established by reason." PL, 153; George, 88. Those who advocate the natural law, then, are living in a dream world, and, until they come down to reality and face the fact that all is relative and all is plural, and what they are pushing for is not reasonable, they ought to be excluded from political discourse. "Face the fact," Rawls one may imagine insisting to the rationalist believer in words echoing those heard in the country of the Gadarenes, "our name is Legion for we are many." Rawls then dons the agnostic toga of Pilatus and scoffs at the suggestion that the natural law is truth based upon reason. Truth? What is truth? Quid est veritas? So to avoid the quandary, Rawls willingly becomes a possessed procurator and thus, like the liberal Roman pawn of Caesar, is blinded to the truth coram illo. He has refused to listen to St. Procula, and, like all liberals who refuse the role of natural law, has made a massive mistake in judgment.

The Philosopher John Rawls

Rawls's theory thus suffers from an intrinsic bias against "rationalist believers." As is frequently the case, the liberal is liberal only to fellow liberals, and illiberal to everyone else. A Rawlsian simply cannot evade the question of truth:
It will not do for Rawls to claim that he is not denying the truth of "rationalist believers'" claims but merely their assertion that these claims can be publicly and fully established by reason. What makes a "rationalist believer" a "rationalist" is precisely his belief that his principles can be justified by rational argument and his willingness to provide just such rational argumentation. The argument he offers by way of justifying his principles and their applications to specific political issues will be either sound or unsound. If they are sound, then Rawls can give no reason for excluding the principles they vindicate on the grounds that they are illegitimate reasons for political action; if they are unsound, then they ought to be rejected precisely on that basis, and not because the principles in support of which they are offered are, in Rawls's sense, "nonpublic."
George, 89. Not only is the Rawlsian formula biased and evasive, it is founded upon a lapse in logic. Rawls insists that someone behind the "veil of ignorance" in the "original position" will not select any "comprehensive doctrine" as the basis for any political order because that person would not know whether he would accept that "comprehensive doctrine" in the fictive future. Views of justice based upon such "comprehensive doctrine" Rawls denominates as "perfectionist" principles of justice. Rawls therefore rejects any "perfectionist" principles of justice, and argues that the only "substantive principles of justice" are the "liberal principle of legitimacy" and the ideal of "public reason." George, 90. This suggests that "perfectionist" principles predicated upon "comprehensive views" about what is good and right are unjust. But this does not follow from the premises:
Rawlsians seem to suppose that from the proposition that principles that would be selected by such parties under such conditions are just (i.e., involve no injustice), it follows that perfectionist principles--which might very well be chosen by reasonable and well-informed persons outside the original position--are unjust. Non sequitur.
George, 91. (I would add, also, that even under a veil of ignorance, no one could reasonably choose any alternative other than the natural law as the basis for political action. How could anyone in the "original position" under a "veil of ignorance" want to be subject to a political system that is based upon something other than the natural moral law, that is, under a political system that is unreasonable? The liberal conception of justice is unreasonable, and so it would not ever be chosen by someone in the "original position.")

Rawls's bias against the natural law--proof that he has stacked the deck in favor of liberal dogma and against the doctrine of the natural law--is displayed in the "now famous footnote" in Political Liberalism. George, 93. Rawls descends from his highfalutin generalities into the area of detail, specifically abortion, and, lo and behold, he comes out smelling like the liberal he is. We will discuss that famous footnote in the next and last blog entry devoted to the Rawlsian effort and excluding the natural moral law from any role in the public square.

Note: In this series of blog entries relating to the Rawlsian critique, I have relied heavily on Robert P. George, "Restricting Reasons, Attenuating Discourse," in Human Nature in its Wholeness: A Roman Catholic Perspective (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2006), 80-94, cited here as "George."


  1. scoffs at the suggestion that the natural law is truth based upon reason.

    The real Natural Law of the Greeks and Romans is based on Nature. That is why it is called the "n-a-t-u-r-al" Law. I don't know what is going on but communists "reason", socialists "reason", Liberals like John Rawls "reason", J. S. Mill "reasons, Catholics "reason". Much of Human Thought is reason---but, just like Protestants which have 1200 sects, Reason likewise has 1200 sects!

    But a funny thing happened---"There is ONLY ONE Natural Law". The Earth teaches only ONE type of Righteousness. There is no Catholic righteousness, no Communist righteousness, no Liberal righteousness. The Natural Law teaches Reality.

    The Basis of "Reality" is Reason! This is what is meant by the Greco-Roman term natural Law---discovering the Reason, The Logos, behind the Natural Order. Humans don't make the Natural law. It is NOT human Reason. The Natural Law is the DIVINE WISDOM that built the Natural Order.

    Psalm "How great are thy works O Lord, IN WISDOM, has thou made it all"!

    That Wisdom that built the Natural Order is called by the Greco-Roman tradition, Socrates, Plato, Horace, Ulpian, the Natural Law. The Natural Law is not dysfunctional corrupted venal corrupted Human reasoning!

    Correct human reasoning must be based on principles and laws from Divine Revelation and the Wisdom of the Natural Order. The Natural Law is not "reasoning out of thin air" which I think is the gist behind the RC conception of the natural law.

  2. From the first part of this series: ""regardless of their particular religious or philosophical comprehensive commitments""

    This sentence needs to be rewritten to say, "regardless of their particular religious or philosophical or RACIAL commitments."

    What about their commitment to the their kinsmen? Again, I point to a peasant saying, "Blood is thicker than water".

    To disregard race, that race does not matter, that ties of blood have no impact is Nihilism!

    Does not Scripture condemn miscegenation? Then, why aren't we mentioning Race? Or is it because it is taboo to mention race in Catholicism? Race does not matter with Roman Catholics? That Roman Catholics adopt the Novus Ordo when it suits them?

    You don't play on the Devil's playground! He sets the rules and then we have to argue to his set and of course slanted boardgame? I think not!

    Tell, where does a "Pluralistic society" come from? Is it "Natural Organic" or is it a man-contrived state? I thought the Catholics upheld and promoted "The Natural Organic Theory of the State"! So what are we doing meddling with secularists, liberals, Freemasons, etc for?

    A Pluralistic society is at essence about "relativity", there is NO truth in it whatsoever! A Pluralistic society is a creation of Man. God created races, tribes, nations---But nowhere did God create a Pluralistic society! A Pluralistic society is nihilism. There is nothing there for a Catholic or Orthodox to engage in! The first basis is that if all men are equal, then all ideas are equal as well. Equality denies all principles, any hierarchy of value!!!!!!

    The basic fundamental of Christian thought and the Natural law is a Heirarchy of values, laws and principles! There is none of that in a Pluralistic society.

  3. From the first part of the series: ""it matters not what our moral, philosophical, or religious convictions may be as to "human nature, dignity, and destiny."""

    Joseph de Maistre a traditional Roman Catholic fighting liberalism, democracy and egalite recognized this new form of speaking about humans in a deracinated way: "The Constitution of 1795, just like its predecessors, was made for man. But there is no such thing as man in the world. In the course of my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians etc.; I know, too, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be a Persian. But as for man, I declare that I have never met him in my life; if he exists, he is unknown to me."

    Is there a "human nature" or is there an European nature distinct from a Semitic nature? Is there distinct nature from an Anglo-Saxon to a Frenchman? Where the Doric Greeks have a distinct human nature different from the Ionian Greeks? Was there a distinct racial nature between the Romans and the Greeks?

    I don't know where moderns come up with this horsesh*t, but as a classicist, you can not tell me that there is a "common nature" between the Ionians and the Dorians! I'll point to J. Salwyn Shapiro's work Liberalism and the Challenge of Fascism where he compares and contrasts the difference between France and England with Liberalism. You can't say that there is a "human nature".

    Where is Georges Dumezil? Are we not aware of his work? The case of Trifunctionality buried within the psychical thought of European peoples? Or this shouldn't matter?

    ""What we will see, however, is that the Rawlsian "political morality" is not neutral; it is not even secular; it is decidedly secularist.""

    Not only do we not know the real natural law--we do not even know the Divine Law. Did not God in Genesis put ENMITY between the sons of darkness and the sons of light? Was it that St. Paul say "What does Baal have to do with god"? A secularist is an Atheist. We have NO business participating in a secular society. We have no business even entertaining such drivel! Plato had atheists put to death in the Laws! Plato even saw that there can be NO quarter given between atheists and theophili! NONE. No covenant can be made, no social contract between secularists and believers. God put enmity that can not be put away. (In Christendom, atheists were suffered, and suppressed.)

    The Natural Law. What exactly is the Catholic Church promoting when you announce a "can accomplish what secular writers such as . . . Rawls seek to accomplish. It can provide an accurate understanding of the moral principles and norms that should govern political life in the concrete circumstances of particular societies," including, and perhaps most especially, those that are pluralistic. George, 81.""

    The natural law? Only the Roman Catholic Moral one? or the rest of the Natural Law? The real original Natural Law condemns pluralism! It does not exist in a pluralistic society. The Natural Law is lived, breathed, obeyed in an Natural Organic society and nowhere else!

  4. And what exactly is a "Pluralistic society"? Is it Western Culture? Is it Western Civilization? Or is it really Marxism? A Pluralistic Society is a Masonic Society.

    On the back of the American One Dollar Bill is this saying under the Pyramid: "Novus Ordo Seculurum". And the Motto of this Novus Ordo is "E Pluribus Unum". It means "Out of Many, One".

    This is Masonic. This is not the Natural Law.

    The Natural Law is this "Ex Uno, Plures"! Out of God the Father, proceeded the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is the model for the rest of Creation. Everything operates on that principle, i.e. Macrocosm/Microcosm. "As above, So Below". Out of One Adam, Many Men. From the Patriarchs arose tribes. From Isaac arose 12 tribes. Ex Uno, Plures. From One Dog, arose 120 different breeds. (And by the way, you can NOT breed back! You can not take a Chihauhau and breed a Wolve out of it!) Scripture has it that there was to be NO intermarriage between the tribes, What God had separated---Man was not to combine! That is the Moral Lesson of the Scriptures.

    Out of one Matriarch, Helen arose the Acheans, the Ionians and the Dorians.

    Freemasonry is about reversing the Natural Order; it is about reversing Ex Uno Plures. "Ex Uno Plures" is the Natural Law. America is condemned by the real original Natural Law. A Pluralistic society is about replacing Western Culture and Western Civilization! Beware that thou be NOT deceived. God mentions that a couple of times. No one enters heaven who is deceived.

  5. John Rawls is really a nutcase; a man who is so blinded, a man who doesn't know reality. He creates this "original condition", against the teaching of Genesis, against Divine Revelation? Then he has it that all are "free and equal"? Right. Again, more idiocy. Is a Man equal to a woman? No. Aristotle writes, "Tis meet that Greek rule Barbarian". Nothing is Equal. Again, Aristotle writes of the Natural Law, (in his book Politics) "All things are either in Authority or subjection". God put all women under subjection of Males! Period. End of Discussion. If in the microcosm of gender there is authority/subjection, then in the macrocosm of Men, there are some who are going to be in authority and in subjection. Nowhere does the real original Natural Law teach equality. John Rawls is doing something that Rev. Fahey has pointed out: "Kant carried out the "Copernican revolution" of making things conform to the human mind instead of the human mind seeking to grasp the objective order of the world". It is obvious that John Rawls, J. S. Mills and other sundry liberals can not grasp the objective order of the world. Why listen to people like this. They don't have a clue what is going on. These people just need to be dismissed outright. If you can't see the world as is---No amount of "reasoning" will touch them". They are blind idiots. They are fools. They are not worth the time of day.

  6. We certainly seem to have common notions regarding liberals!