You know, Brian, another of the things I learnt on the
weekend (I am not very familiar with Chesterton), is that
he always began a retort by focussing on where his adversary
was quite right. "I object to a quarrel because it
always interrupts an argument." I think I'll follow
I absolute agree that my last post categorised and simplified
and could infer, quite absurdly, that only two interests
influenced Vatican II and its aftermath. However, I am unwilling
to concede that this is innately "reactionary",
nor do I apologise for it.
The Concilium -- Communio dialogue persists in the ethereal
world of theoretical philosophy, which does not seek to
simplify, but rather refine our thinking of, the real world,
even "real" intellectual trends. This is not unique
to reactionary and conservative schools, but is universally
true of high intellectualism. Take the utopianism of anarchism,
or Marx's too-cute class warfare theory as examples from
the progressive (regressive?) left.
Of course, even these claims are simple and too general.
I don't mean to suggest that philosophy is dualist, separating
"Truth" from the truth. Marx makes many good points,
and similarly, I think the communio position is grounded
in historical reality.
I am just finishing my undergraduate degree in philosophy.
In the past few years I have especially drawn on Raimond
Gaita, author of Good and Evil and A Common Humanity. Gaita
is a great example of a deep and sincere secular humanist.
One of his stated aims in Common Humanity is to express
the ethical value of the human person without drawing on
religious language. Thus:
How can we justify our respect for
Nazi war criminals like Rommel? Many would sooner claim
he is a monster than a person like us. Gaita says we can
see Rommel's humanity by conceiving that someone with whom
we can identify -- perhaps his mother -- does love him.
He is infinitely precious to someone, which should inspire
us to show him the respect and just treatment all human
I don't want to dismiss the secular humanist project of
reconciling Christian ethics with our post-Christian (or
at least pluralist) age. These attempts can deepen the Christian's
understanding of Jesus' paradoxical commandment to love.
In this regard, Gaita's analysis is very helpful. But,
I really do believe that the project itself is doomed to
fail. It's all there in Augustine's City of God (which I
confess I haven't read). We can try to mimic God's city,
but since all good comes from him, we can't succeed. Simone
Weil recognised this. After years of political activism
in anarchist and communist circles, her mystical experiences
helped her realise that true justice is supernatural. A
just regime is born out of its member's participation in
divine love. There is no escaping the Pope's claim that
it is only in the Incarnation that man can recognise himself.
Of course, I do not wish to claim that within 20 years
we will live in some sort of Orwellian society with dashes
of Nietzshe and Hiterlism for good measure. I don't think
McIntyre thinks either. "Nihilism" can be adopted
in degrees. I do claim that positions like Singer's
will continue to multiply. There's no doubt in my mind:
the sanctity of life is under attack, and only a Christian
ethic can show us the value of the newborn child suffering
from spina bifida, causing tremendous grief for her parents,
and vainly struggling to draw each breath.
Brian, what is your understanding of modern culture? I
believe it is "post-Christian" in a very deep
sense. Its intellectual foundation is in the Enlightenment,
which was a violent rebellion against Christendom. This
sounds pessimistic, but I do not mean it to. There is hope
for the future, but no good can come from "baptising
contemporary culture". The Anti-Christ will not be