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.

Monday, July 4, 2011

De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Conscientia Profunda

IN EVERY HUMAN SCIENCE THERE must be some first principles, else we could never know anything. Knowledge builds upon knowledge, not upon nothing. As the pursuit of any knowledge requires some knowledge, else we would have no basis for starting. In the moral sciences, we have self-evident principles, the foundational principles upon which all thinking is based, and the the acceptance of which is not an article of faith, but a presupposition of reason, of rationality itself. To reject the first principles is to reject the life of reason entirely; it is to condemn oneself to absurdity, to unreality. It is, in fact, a form of insanity, not to mention a basal viciousness, to reject the reality of these first principles.

How is it that we know these first principles? In Budziszewski's presentation, he denominates the sources of these first principles as "witnesses," and he identifies four of them: the "witness of deep conscience," the "witness of design as such," the "witness of our own design," and the "witness of natural consequences." See Budziszewski (2003), 78-106.

We shall address each witness in the next four postings, beginning with the first such witness in this posting, namely the witness of "deep conscience."

Budzeszewski distinguishes between conscience in general and conscience as an"interior witness to the foundational principles of moral law." The latter is what St. Thomas called synderesis, although it also included "everyday moral rules which are both known to everyone, but which, strictly speaking, are derived." Budziszewski (2003), 79. The "deep conscience" therefore includes the most fundamental of all principles (synderesis, strictly so called) and those principles immediately derived from the foundational principles (the "belt of synderesis"). It consequently includes such self-evident principles as good ought to be done and evil avoided, gratuitous harm ought to be avoided, one ought to be fair, one ought to do unto others as one would want done to oneself (the "Golden Rule"), and so forth. It includes basic values recognized as good: friendship, life, reason, knowledge, etc. But it also includes those immediately derived principles based upon those foundational principles such as one should not murder, one should not lie, and one should not commit adultery. In Budziszewski's nomenclature, "Deep conscience, then, includes both synderesis and the belt of synderesis." Budzeszewski (2003), 79.

The other part of conscience, which Budzeszewski calls "surface conscience," is conscious moral belief, derived from syllogistic reasoning, and one which reaches into the"upper stories of moral law," that is, it is several steps removed from the self-evident principles found in "Deep Conscience." Surface Conscience is distinguishable from Deep Conscience because it can be erroneous, it can be warped, it can be squelched, it can be perverted. It includes what St. Thomas would have called the determinations or determinationes of the natural moral law. The Deep Conscience, on the other hand, is unerasable. It is that which we cannot not know. "[D]eep conscience cannot be erased, cannot be mistaken, and is the same in every human being." Budzeszewski (2003), 80. It can, unfortunately, be suppressed. "The only way to tamper with it is self-deception."

Budziszewski identifies nine ways in which Surface Conscience can be foiled.
  1. insufficient experience
  2. insufficient skill
  3. slot
  4. corrupt custom
  5. passion
  6. fear
  7. wishful thinking
  8. depraved ideology
  9. malice
Deep conscience is the "tell-tale heart" of man. It is what feeds the furies of conscience,who will not be tamed. It is the "hound of heaven" that chased Raskolinikov in Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment following his murder of the pawnbroker Alyona Ivanovna, though he insisted that as a great man he was free from the ties of the moral law that bound his lessers. Above all, Deep Conscience is not feelings, it is "knowledge," a rational part of man, an intellectual feltness, as it were, which "darkly asserts itself," if one has the temerity to disclaim its existence, "regardless of the state of feelings."

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