Monday, May 30, 2005

Good Words from people smarter than I.

Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver. University of Chicago Press. 1948.

From the introduction: Like Macbeth, Western man made an evil decision, which has become the efficient and final cause of other evil decisions. Have we forgotten our encounter with the witches on the heath? It occurred in the late fourteenth century, and what the witches said to the protagonist of this drama was that man could realize himself more fully if he would onnly abandon his belief in the existence of transcendentals. The powers of darkness were working subtly, as always, and they couched this proposition in the seemingly innocent form of an attack upon universals. The defeat of logical realism in the great medieval debate was the crucial event in the history of Western culture; from this flowed those acts which issue now in modern decadence.


It is easy to be blind to the significance of a change because it is remote in time and abstract in character. Those who have not discovered that world view is the most important thing about a man, as about the men composing a culture, should consider the train of circumstances which have with perfect logic proceeded from this. The denial of universals carries with it the denial of everything transcending experience. The denial of everything transcending experience means inevitably-though ways are found to hedge on this-the denial of truth. With the denial of objective truth there is no escape from the relativism of "man the measure of all things." The witches spokee with the habitual equivocation of oracles when they told man that by this easy choice he might realize himself more fully, for they were actually initiating a course which cuts one off from reality. Thus began the "abomination of desolation" appearing today as a feeling of alienation from fixed truth.

" 'tis so strange,
That, though the truth of it stands off as gross
As black and white, me eye will scarcely see it." -Act II, scene 2, Henry V

From her August 12, 2000 speech to The Institute for Justice, "Fifty Ways to Lose Your Freedom, Janice Rogers Brown quoted Harold McKinnon from a conference of Ninth Circuit judges in San Francisco in 1946. He said:

For if there is no higher law, there is no basis for saying that any man-made law is unjust ...; and in such case, the ultimate reason for things, as Justice Holmes himself conceded, is force. If there is no natural law, there are no natural rights; and if there are no natural rights, the Bill of Rights is a delusion, and everything which a man possesses -- his life, his liberty and his property -- are held by sufferance of government, and in that case it is inevitable that government will some day find it expedient to take away what is held by a title such as that. And if there are no eternal truths, if everything changes, everything, then we may not complain when the standard of citizenship changes from freedom to servility and when democracy relapses into tyranny.

Although speaking about the power to tax, in Federalist #31, Alexander Hamilton said about first principles:

IN DISQUISITIONS of every kind, there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend. These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind. Where it produces not this effect, it must proceed either from some defect or disorder in the organs of perception, or from the influence of some strong interest, or passion, or prejudice.

And at the end of the same paragraph, about common sense, this:

And there are other truths in the two latter sciences which, if they cannot pretend to rank in the class of axioms, are yet such direct inferences from them, and so obvious in themselves, and so agreeable to the natural and unsophisticated dictates of common-sense, that they challenge the assent of a sound and unbiased mind, with a degree of force and conviction almost equally irresistible. (Smooth: "latter two" are ethics & politics.)

These paragraphs have been stored too long on my edit page. I realize I can add little. One either believes in higher truth, First Things, transcendant realities or not. The pathways laid before us, choosing one or the other, conscious or not, diverge immediately. Choose this day whom you will serve is the scriptural expression.

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