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.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Aliquid Quod Non Possumus Non Scire

“DISBELIEF IN COMMON MORAL GROUND is becoming a pillar of middle class prejudice," says J. Budziszewski,* and, unfortunately, he may be right. The only exceptions appear to be fundamentalist Christians, practicing Catholics (those of the non-Cafeteria variety), and Muslims. Unfortunately, first group and the last group do not have well-developed notions of natural law theory, and rely largely if not entirely on notions of divine positive law, one relying on the Bible, the other relying on the Qur'an. It is not that the entirety of morals has been put on the table: most people, for example, would think it wrong to rob a convenient store, or murder their spouse, or cheat on their spouse. But moral relativity has had its effect. And consensus, has disappeared at the edges--at very important edges--of shared common moral realm. Moral consensus in the area of sex has collapsed. Premarital sex--what used to be called fornication--is essentially considered normative and, so long as "safe" and consensual, morally acceptable. Artificial contraception is rampant, and those who suggest that it is violative of the natural moral law to use artificial contraception are viewed as moral troglodytes. Homosexuality is considered a human right, and, progressively, homosexual "marriage" (a chimerical monster if there ever was one) is considered a common and moral good. We find a similar collapse of moral consensus on life issue: abortion seems to be institutionalized and is a moral blight which we seem unable to shed, and euthanasia is commonly regarded as acceptable. Family life is in shambles. Our public discourse, public fora, and communications media are replete with what, only two generations ago, would have been considered unmentionable. We live in a time of moral Babel and a moral sophistry. The tyranny of the relative is upon us: any mention of an objective moral code will earn one ridicule, scorn, or pariahship.** Presently, the only immorality seems to be the claim that there is such a thing as morality.

There is a moral compass within us that shows true North

But the denial of an objective morality is not the same thing as being in denial about an objective morality. If the objection to an objective morality presupposes an objective morality (even if it involves re-crafting it into a the objective moral rule that there is no such thing as an objective morality), then the objector has not given us reasons to disbelieve in an objective morality; rather, by his very objection he has given us grounds to believe that (deep inside) he knows that there is such a thing as objective morality. The very intolerance to advocates of objective morality by these moral relativists--their insistence (even though contradictory) that the only universal, objective rule of morality is that morality is relative--accuses them. Deep inside, they know they are wrong. They are sinning against their own light, against what Budziszewski calls their "deep conscience." And the contents of this "deep conscience" is something which we can't not know, aliquid quod non possumus non scire.

And the relativist's sinning against his own "deep conscience" shows. The natural law is irrepressible. "Like crabgrass growing through the cracks and crannies of concrete slabs, the awareness of the moral law [in deep conscience] breaks even through the crust of our denials." Budzizewski, 10. If repressed, the deep conscience kicks. This quality Budziszewski calls its "harrowing" quality. The deep conscience is a furious "avenger," an avenger with five furies: remorse, confession, atonement, reconciliation, and justification. Sinning against the "deep conscience," the natural moral law, then screams for a Savior, for one thing man should know is that he cannot save himself. He has sinned against a law not of his own making, and he must ask mercy from He who promulgated that law.

We shall spend the next several blog postings going over J. Budziszewski's insights in his book What We Can't Not Know.
*J. Budziszewski, What We Can't Not Know (Dallas: Spence Publishing 2003), 5 (herein Budziszewski (2003)).
**But if you advocate bestiality, and decry that prohibitions against it are nothing other than medieval relics, as did Princeton University's "ethicist" Peter Singer, you remain an academic of good standing. See (if you have the intestinal fortitude to read the perverted musings of a morally unmoored mind) Peter Singer, "Heavy Petting," Nerve (2001). On the other hand, as Budziszewski notes: "The . . . claim [that commonly-held and universal moral truths exist] has become outrageous--in the original sense of provoking outrage. People become angry when one asserts the moral law." Budziszewski (2003), 9-10.

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