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 25, 2011

Predicatio Veritatis

“TO THE WEAK I BECAME weak," says St. Paul, "that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all." (1 Cor. 9:22) This approach, superficially similar to accomodationism (mentioned in the prior post), is more subtle. It engages the immoralist (i.e., the one ignorant or adverse to the natural law theory and its objectively-based morality) selectively. It does not grant him those assumptions, desires, views that are incompatible with an understanding of the moral realm as objectively grounded in the nature of things. Rather, it selectively identifies those aspects of the opponent's belief system which allow him some purchase or grasp from which he can begin to draw, to persuade, to change his opponent's mind through argument. These things people know or intuit necessarily. They are those things that, in Budziszewski's words, humans cannot not know. These are what Budziszewski has identified as the "Four Witnesses" that usually provide the points of agreement that will allow us an approach to almost anyone. These are: deep conscience, design in general, human design in particular, and natural causes.* The tactic behind the grand strategy is this: "One begins with what people know or intuit already and one builds on it." Budziszewski (2003), 204. In a sense, this is what real education is: to educe from someone (Latin: educare) the consequences of what he already knows.

It is, of course, a difficult task. If the opponent has a vested interest in a position--if he is blinded by passion, if he is emotionally or financially vested in a position, if he cannot confront the guilt that would come from the admission of wrong, if he is proud and unwilling to admit error, and so forth--no amount of reasonable persuasion may change his course. But there is, short of a miracle of supernatural grace (and the Spirit blows where it will), no other approach to such a man. There is, however, the possibility of natural grace. And reason may, on occasion, bear fruit.

In approaching this area, Budziszewski makes some interesting comments. First, he addresses the classical view that one can show how any morality outside of a natural law theory can be shown either to be based upon false presuppositions or self-evident principles or false conclusions from those presuppositions or self-evident propositions. If the opponent relies on false presuppositions or denies self-evident principles (say he denies the principle of excluded middle or non-contradiction), then the falsehood, incoherency, or ultimate absurdity of that position can be shown. If the presuppositions the opponent holds are true, then presumably the inconsistency or fallacies of logic between those presuppositions and his final conclusions can be shown. The assumption behind this position is, of course, that any moral world view or moral Weltanschaung that is built on something other than the nature of things (i.e., reality) is inconsistent or absurd, and hence readily capable of being shown false.

Reality is like a tub full of floating corks

There are those that believe that such an approach is unavailable to fallen man, that his reason is so darkened that--though the natural law be true--one cannot persuade him, given his darkened reason, his total depravity which affects even most fundamental thought, making practical reason, reason in the area of the fundamental of morals a vain, worthless undertaking. When it comes to presuppositions, reason is simply unavailable as "fallen man is constitutionally incapable of admitting the obvious." Reason only goes so far, these persons believe, and no farther. Reason is unavailable to "challenge these deepest assumptions," the deepest assumptions of man are ultimately unchallengeable by reason.

Budziszewski rejects such a approach. He acknowledges that moral reality presents an endemic, chronic problem for fallen man, but he insists that, deep down, people are bothered by any incoherency (latent or patent) if they have adopted a false understanding of morality.

But Budziszewski also rejects the opposite extreme, what he calls the presuppositional approach. The presuppositional approach (which is an extreme version of the classical approach) perceives the problem of approach as follows:
The idea is that the moment [the immoralist] realizes the conflict among his assumptions, he is in crisis; he must either try to hold onto his worldview, knowing that it is incoherent, or embrace another one which will inevitably have the same problem. When every intellectual refuge has been destroyed, one by one, then finally he may be able to embrace a sane view of morality reality."
Budziszewski (2003), 206. The approach is one where we progressively peel the opponents' false and inconsistent views, like one may peel the layers of an onion, and, at the end of all the peeling, the opponent will have no refuge but to admit moral reality.

But this extreme presuppositional approach is incoherent also in Budziszewski's view, since it presupposes something in man that is not true: that he is a rational being without any impediment whatsoever. Though reason may not be totally corrupt as a result of the fall, it did not come out totally unscathed. It may be, Budziszewski suggests, that a false world view may not necessarily be inconsistent. "[N]othing," he states, "prevents a set of assumptions from being false and yet mutually compatible." Budziszewski (2003), 206. In other words, the puzzle may be wrong, but the pieces may fit together. More insidious may be the further observation by Budziszewski that the fact that one may show absurdity in the fundamental presuppositions of an opponent may have no meaning to the opponent if the opponent believes that reality is absurd. In fact, among moderns, that may be the majority view: "Nothing is more common among postmodern folk than to deny it [the coherency of the world]." There are those among us, along with the flat earthers, who deny--alas--the principle of non-contradiction and the principle that good ought to be done and evil avoided. How do we approach these people, as it seems they are foreclosed to us under the presuppositionalist approach since they reject its presuppositions?**

Budziszewski suggests that even these can be reached through the classical approach. He acknowledges the difficulty using an interesting image:

[R]eality poses a constant problem for fallen man. He wants to acknowledge some of the truth which presses in on him, but taken together it points too strongly to other truth which he resists with all his might. In the end, he must deny so many obvious things that the work is just too much. He is like a man in a bathtub surrounded by dozens of corks, trying to hold them down at once.

Budziszewski (2003), 206-07. The corks cannot be kept all down, and, invariably the corks of reality, held down by some false or incoherent theory will pop up. And all men are--deep down, even if they don't acknowledge it--bothered by such incoherency. Most frequently, the cork that bobs up is the principle of non-contradiction: something cannot both be and not be in the same manner and sense. A cannot be both true, and not true. A and not-A cannot both be true. That's the cork that most frequently bobs up.

In terms of practical tactics, Budziszewski addresses the problem of the "public relations of wrong," namely the immoralists' habitual tactics of "doubling the script," "seducing paraconscience," and "cannibalizing conscience."*** He addresses some countermeasures to such tactics:
  1. Doubling the script is essentially the problem of speaking with a forked tounge: saying one thing in public, another in private. The simple solution here is to "out" the advocate. The abortion advocate may, in public, talk of "rights," but in private speak of the fetus as an unjust aggressor, which, of course is a foolish position. The advocate of homosexual marriage may publicly deny the connection between homosexuality and pedophilia, but this public relations cover may be blown by citing to less-circulated literature where the opposite is maintained. When someone with CAIR insists that Islam means peace, it can be countered by statements that Islam does not mean peace, but submission, and that the Qur'an and ahadith proclaim war against non-Muslims as normative.

  2. Seduction of paraconscience is the taking advantage of those remnants of socially-inculcated virtue and twisting it to the advantage of the immoralist. So, for example, the sense of fairness and equality with which Americans are inculcated or the appreciation of the gains made in the civil rights movements of the 1960s can be seized as an emotional basis for false positions (say, homosexual "marriage" rights). The countermeasure to this tactic is to "woo it [the paraconscience] back." To the notion of false compassion, show true compassion. To the notion of false equality, show what real equality is about.

  3. Cannibalizing the conscience is the tendency for false moralities to seize on one moral truth, at the expense of another, or it may be the seizing of one truth and insidiously falsifying or distorting it: it is a heresy of conscience. The countermeasure for cannibalization of conscience depends upon whether we are dealing with one who is honestly confused or one who is not so honestly confused. "The first desideratum is to recognize when the other player is bluffing, when he [is] not really confused but only playing at confusion." Budziszewski (2003), 212.
  1. If one is dealing with a person who is honestly confused, then generally focusing on the neglected moral principles is sufficient to counter the tactic of cannibalizing the conscience. The sincerely, innocently confused person simply needs "a solution to his problems."

  2. If one is dealing with a person who is not honestly confused, in other words with "one who is deceived [and] does not wish to be undeceived," the tactic must be different. Budziszewski (2003), 211. What the willfully confused person needs is for "someone to call his bluff."
    One needs to see through him, and do it in such a way that even if only briefly, he sees through himself. Just for a moment his smokescreen has been blown away; caught by surprise, he has seen his reflection in the mirror. If he sees it once, there is always a chance that he will see it again. he will not forget the fleeting image. It will get under his skin. Perhaps some day when he is at the lowest ebb, there will be a breakthrough. Yet even if he does not see through himself, the audience may see through him, so even in this case his bluff should be called.
    Budziszewski (2003), 212. When, and in what manner, to call someone's bluff is "an art," one without "fixed procedure," something gained not from books, but from experience.
Under such guidance, we ought to get to work, busy among our fellows to woo them from the immoralist positions which draw men back into the darkness of a moral cave, and bring them out to where there is light. Once in the light, grace may build upon nature, and justice and mercy may then kiss.

*These have been addressed in prior postings. See De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Conscientia Profunda (deep conscience), De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Consilium Divino (design in general), De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Terribiliter Magnificasti Me (human design), and De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Consequentia Naturalis (natural consequences).
**Budziszewski observes that it may be that presuppositionalist arguments do work, but that it works accidentally, as it were, on the "flotsam of natural law," on corks other than the principle of non-contradiction that the opponent recognizes as true. There is a role, therefore, for a "moderate pressupositionalism" that works for those who have retained sufficient amount of traditional morality to be approached this way. Budziszewski (2003), 207. "Pursued to the exclusion of other variations, it would be most unwise; but it is sometimes useful in talking with people who are deep behind the brickwork of denial."
***See: Relatio Publici de Nefas Moralis: Descensus Profundus (doubling the script), Relatio Publici de Nefas Moralis: Haeresis et Quasiconscientia (seduction of paraconscience and cannibalizing conscience)

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