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In today’s post, we get back to a more “meaty” or “beefy” theme, namely logic and reasoning.
But first a review. Three important concepts:
God’s creation is comprised of the visibilium omnium, et invisibilium, i.e. all that is seen and unseen. Going one step forward, in the “unseen” bit are all the laws that govern the “seen” bit.
Next piece of the puzzle is the part about our Catholic Faith comes from two sources, namely: as known through “natural light of human reason from the things that are made” and as known through “divine revelation.”
And finally, God made man to “know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven”.
Today we will be speaking about the “God made man to know Him” bit.
On an aside, for a fuller explanation of the above, please see the post titled Discernment Guide for Dummies here.
And now to the subject matter at hand.
I came across a post at Louie Verrecchio’s AKA Catholic website, formerly the Harvesting the Fruits blog and written by a guest contributor, one Stephan Kokx. (see here) . Actually, it would be a good idea to visit Louie’s blog and read that post before continuing.
Right from the onset, Mr Kokx’s post got my attention. Here is how the post begins:
Quite a few years ago Ronald Reagan said something to the effect that at the heart of conservatism is libertarianism.
Having once fallen prey to the libertarian paradigm myself, I can attest to the fact that the progression out of that oversimplified and heretical worldview can be quite difficult.
Those whose knees remain stuck while genuflecting before the altar of liberty typically end up worshipping classical liberal economists like Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand as demigods.
Regular reader will immediately recognize why this post got my attention. Right out of the gates we have a glaring non sequitur and the “slippery slope” ( “one thing inevitably leads to another”) logical fallacy.
For newer readers, allow me to explain: just because President Reagan made a claim that “at the heart of conservatism is libertarianism”, it does not necessarily follow that conservatives will “fall prey to the libertarian paradigm” and that this will lead to “genuflecting before the altar of liberty typically end up worshipping classical liberal economists”.
That is not to say that it could not happen, with the obvious case in point being Mr. Kokx.
But what is important here is to understand the reason behind why someone like Mr Kokx would fall prey to a “libertarian paradigm”. And the reason IS NOT because it is an “oversimplified and heretical worldview”, but rather that Mr. Kokx’s was not able to put the works of these authors into a proper intellectual framework. And we know from the et invisibilium bit that EVERYTHING has a proper intellectual framework.
The logical fallacy that Mr. Kokx makes is one of Reductionism or “giving simple answers or slogans in response to complex questions, especially when appealing to less educated or unsophisticated audiences”. And here I am refering to less educated in the economic (social) sciences.
The manner in which Mr. Kokx introduces reductionism into his argument is by implying that the words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand stand alone and are outside of a wider context in which they were made. On an aside, this fallacy is very similar to “fundamentalism” which is characterized by a markedly “strict literalism” of what is being read. But I digress…
Yet in reality, the words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand were not meant to be understood as being all and ending all. The proper context in which they were made was on the battlefield of ideas. They represent a rational and logical riposte to the prevailing irrational (TRANSRATIONAL) and illogical economic, social and political “philosophy”, in reality IDEOLOGY of that point in time in which they were made.
If we want to put the above paragraph into our Catholic paradigm, one would say that:
The words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand were produced through the “natural light of human reason from the things that are made” in order to understand the et invisibilium bits in an attempt to know Him.
And whether they were cognizant of this fact or not is besides the point.
Why can I feel confident that my interpretation of the words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand is correct?
Because they were using a “positivistic” methodology. If you recall dear reader, in our post titled An Ideology In Disguise (see here) we explained how to distinguish between a “philosophy” and an “IDEOLOGY“. Once again, a “positive” methodology (philisophical -scientific), as opposed to a “normative” methodology (ideological) is one where:
In philosophy, normative statements make claims about how things should or ought to be, how to value them, which things are good or bad, and which actions are right or wrong. Normative claims are usually contrasted with positive (i.e. descriptive, explanatory, or constative) claims when describing types of theories, beliefs, or propositions. Positive statements are (purportedly-) factual statements that attempt to describe reality.
And it should be clear for all to see here that the words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand would easily fall in the category of factual statement that attempt to describe reality.
Which brings me back to Mr. Kokx. The problem that I have with not just him, but a wide range of “purported Traditional Catholics” is that they in essence do not differ much from the neo-cons or even the liberals. All three groups acknowledge that the source of our Faith comes from the “natural light of human reason from the things that are made”, i.e. natural law, more or less. But what they are doing in fact is paying it lip service to this pillar of our Faith. How else would you describe this passage: (emphasis added)
For instance, instead of preaching the politically incorrect truth that Christ, the prince of peace, is King of all nations and that even the United States must recognize this, “orthodox Vatican II Catholicism” says man has a natural right to reject Christ as King and that “Judeo-Christian” values and a general understanding of the natural law will bring about a lasting peace.
In this passage, Mr Kokx is correct when he claims that “a general” understanding of natural law will not bring about a lasting peace, yet what he doesn’t mention is that our Faith is based on the premise (philosophy) that at some point, our understanding of natural law will allow us to make a logical and rational claim to the self evident (for us Catholics) truth that Christ, the prince of peace, is King of all nations.
And closing this subject matter, when Mr Kokx and his kind put in place a reason based argument for why Christ, the prince of peace, is King of all nations, I am almost certain that some of the reasoning will be based on the words of Messer’s Reagan, Friedman and Misses Rand.
So get to work Mr. Kokx.