Monday, August 30, 2004

4dW4R3 is t3h SUXX!

A little hacker lingo to express my frustration with Adware and technical support. Little Sister's computer lost all network connectivity on Thursday. I make the hour's drive to her apartment on Saturday, go out to an early dinner with her, and spend six hours trying to get the thing working. A brief sign of hope when the network is back after a system restore. Then while running AdAware the system goes into auto-shutdown mode and reboots. I run adaware again, system goes into auto-shutdown again. Set up Adaware to come on before everything else as the system is counting down to reboot. Adaware runs after reboot. Finds something like 320 instances of adware. Poor little sister is so trusting. She didn't even think anything was really out of the ordinary when five ads popped up as soon as she opened Internet Explorer.

So I zap adware like mad. Then after Adaware closes: NO NETWORK CONNECTIVITY! System restore can't see far back enough to restore the network, either. It's 10:00 pm, I call it a night and take her computer home with me. Finally found the solution last night:

Problem: The computer has lost network connectivity.

Symptom: When entering ipconfig /renew at the command prompt, one receives the message "An operation was attempted on something that is not a socket"

Diagnosis: Adware or another program has inserted another layer between the user and the TCP/IP Winsock system. If the installation or removal of the software is bug-prone, network connectivity can be lost.

Solution: Download WinsockXPFix.exe from the internet on another machine and run it on the broken machine, after backing up said machine's registry as a precaution. Network connectivity will be restored.

Both Comcast and Dell technical support didn't realize the problem after they were told about the wierd ipconfig error message. I'm sending them e-mails informing them of the problem and the solution.

As for little sister? She's going to be running Adaware very often from now on. And maybe Opera instead of Internet Explorer, too.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

A Little Something on Game Theory

From Newsweek, a description of economic behavioral studies and what they have to do with game theory:

For all its intellectual power and its empirical success as a creator of wealth, free-market economics rests on a fallacy, which economists have politely agreed among themselves to overlook. This is the belief that people apply rational calculations to economic decisions, ruling their lives by economic models. Of course, economists know that the world doesn't actually work this way; if it did, you wouldn't need a financial adviser to remind you to save for retirement. But until recently the anomalies were chalked up to the pernicious influence of emotions, emanations from the primitive regions of the brain, a kind of mental noise interfering with the pure, rational expression of economic self-interest.

This looks promising. Could economists be rediscovering how culture, and not only emotion, plays a role in checking economic self-interest? Alas, as reported by the article, not really:

The new paradigm sweeping the field, under the rubric of "behavioral economics," holds that studying what people actually do is at least as valuable as deriving equations for what they should do. And when you look at human behavior, you discover, as Camerer and his collaborator George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon have written, that "the Platonic metaphor of the mind as a charioteer driving twin horses of reason and emotion is on the right track?except that cognition is a smart pony, and emotion a big elephant." The fMRI machine enables researchers in the emerging field of neuro-economics to investigate the interplay of fear, anger, greed and altruism that are activated each time we touch that most intimate of our possessions, our wallets.

Altruism, in this case a stand-in for the virtue of charity, is lumped in with emotions and vices that are called emotions.

Economists have many ways of demonstrating the irrationality of their favorite experimental animal, Homo sapiens. One is the "ultimatum game," which involves two subjects?researchers generally recruit undergraduates, but if you're doing this at home, feel free to use your own kids. Subject A gets 10 dollar bills. He can choose to give any number of them to subject B, who can accept or reject the offer. If she accepts, they split the money as A proposed; if she rejects A's offer, both get nothing. As predicted by the theories of mathematician John Nash (subject of the movie "A Beautiful Mind"), A makes the most money by offering one dollar to B, keeping nine for himself, and B should accept it, because one dollar is better than none.

But if you ignore the equations and focus on how people actually behave, you see something different, says Jonathan D. Cohen, director of the Center for the Study of Brain, Mind and Behavior at Princeton. People playing B who receive only one or two dollars overwhelmingly reject the offer. Economists have no better explanation than simple spite over feeling shortchanged. This becomes clear when people play the same game against a computer. They tend to accept whatever they're offered, because why feel insulted by a machine? By the same token, most normal people playing A offer something close to an even split, averaging about $4. The only category of people who consistently play as game theory dictates, offering the minimum possible amount, are those who don't take into account the feelings of the other player. They are autistics.

Well, we're back to "feelings, nothing but feelings" again. Would I "feel insulted" if I were only offered a dollar when my would-be benefactor has a largesse of $10? Perhaps. I would more be concerned with the state of his soul, however, a charitable concern that emotivists will simply lump in with anger, hate, and fear. Offering the bare minimum necessary to make a buck isn't the way to habituate oneself to the charitable life. Such stinginess belies a disregard for one's fellow man, but even more, for one's own salvation.

And speaking of disregard for one's fellows, I wonder why these scientists haven't gone the Dawkins/Randian route and described every action as self-interested? By a certain definition of self-interest, it's in everyone's interest to have everyone else, strangers included, be cheerful givers. In a cultural climate of hospitality, everyone will have somebody to lean on when they need a hand. Personal habits displayed in game-theory games are likely reflective of habits in the game of life, after all, and perhaps that intuition is what provokes "insulted feelings" and a refusal to play little games with someone who will likely abandon you on the stage of the world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

A Chilean Scholar of Natural Law

"osolestro," a Chilean acquaintance of mine from an internet forum we both frequented a few years back, informs me of a Chilean scholar of natural law, Joaquin Garcia Huidobro. One of his works is "LA TRADICION ARISTOTELICA DEL DERECHO NATURAL Y SU RECEPCION HISTORICA," not yet in English.

Pentacostal Telford Work on Postmodern Christianity

The gate back to modernity is wide (though it is closing), but it leads to hell. As I watched a couple of leading postmodern evangelicals squirm under questioning at a recent Wheaton Theology conference, I realized that evangelicals have invested so much of our apologetics in Enlightenment structures that once we return to embracing theological tradition we have no leverage against classically Catholic and Orthodox notions of it. We have traded convictions of holy tradition like justification by grace through faith for convictions of individual autonomy and universal reason. That's not Protestant; that's modern. A considerable share of "conservative" enthusiasm for modernity and suspicion of postmodernity is coming not from faithfulness to Christian tradition, but from obedience to the demands of modernity. Being an opponent of that particular ideolatry makes me a vocal proponent of postmodern Christianity. (more)

Via Eve Tushnet

On The New Pantagruel forums, I speculated that the secular pomo derision of religion as "a social construct" is a reaction to Christian apologists who frame their arguments in neo-Cartesian rationalist form. Since the social construction of reason is emphasized as a counter to Cartesianism, would-be postmodernists think they can refute all religion in the same way they counter Descartes.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Queen Bathilde, Emancipatrix

The history of Queen Bathilde, revealing how slavery was restricted in Dark Age France. via Quidnuncs, the defunct blog of Austin Bramwell, heir apparent to National Review, and of his then-fiance, now-wife, Sarah, who works in Governor Owens' press office. via The Philadelphia Society.

Work in Progress: Claes G. Ryn's America the Virtuous

(Since I never got around to blogging my notes on Strauss's _Natural Right and History_, and I think Ryn's work even more worthy of being blogged than Strauss, this will be an unfinished review until I get it done, hopefully before the book is due back at the library)

In his recent book America the Virtuous Catholic University professor Claes G. Ryn makes the alarming case that for many of the ideals held by traditional
Americans, there's a revolutionary interpretation of that ideal. Consciously or not, the new revolutionaries, whom Ryn calls neo-Jacobins, are using new meanings cloaked in old terms to achieve their goals. The old ideals Ryn mentions are those like virtue, democracy, liberty, and the free market. For example, Virtue for Old
America(to use Rumsfeld's taxonomy) meant things like humility, self-restraint, and love of neighbor. For "New America," virtue means things like loving the oppressed of the world(without ever doing too much about the lonely poor guy down the block), believing that the principles of democratic capitalism will save them, and
supporting sending the US State Department and DOD all over the world to spread belief in abstract American principles.

Further, Old America thought democracy meant constitutional, decentralized government and loyalty to all the little platoons of life, like family, church, the rotary club, and the town hall--all of which helped cultivate the virtues necessary for living freely. New America thinks of democracy as "plebiscitary," the expression of atomized and decultured individuals who care about their rights, the
Federal government as defender of those rights, and not much else. They also think democracy the best form of government under any circumstances, regardless of the "unwritten constitution" of the people who have to live and govern under that democracy.

Here's an analysis of how the "free market" can be interpreted in a revolutionary way, from Ryn's chapter titled "Jacobin Capitalism":

"It should be carefully noted that there is a sense in which a free market would become a reality only if the movement of goods and services were wholly unrestricted, unfettered not only by "external," legal, or institutional checks but by "inner" restraints, such as the inhibitions and tastes of civilized persons.
A Rousseauistic, Jacobin desire to destroy traditional moral and cultural restraints and corresponding sociopolitical structures can thus be said to aid in the creation of a truly free market. It is not far-fetched but entirely consistent to be a moral, intellectual, and cultural radical and a strong proponent of the free market--by a
certain definition of "free market."" (p. 147)

This reveals a whole new meaning to the slogan of the libertarian magazine Reason, "Free minds and free markets." And in fact the motivation for a particular implementation of the free market is precisely to unleash "gales of creative destruction," clearing away the accumulated detrius of culture. This is a rather Marxist understanding of capitalism, and I worry that this is precisely the
capitalism that many ex-Trotskyite neocons are working hard to advocate and to implement around the world, having by and large successfully implemented it here at home.

Ryn's work also made me more conscious of the debate surrounding exactly what America is. He makes the case that the rebellion which separated the American Colonies from British rule was in fact a "War of Independence" and not really revolutionary at all. He claims that the war was arguably counterrevolutionary, and insists on calling those who established the Federal government "Framers" and not "Founders." He doesn't explicitly say why, but his word choice is presumably because "founders" has the connotation of making something new, and in Ryn's view the states' governments pretty much continued on as they used to do. Moreover, the
American Constitution itself is more a continuation, rather than a break with, the Anglo-Saxon and European legal tradition.

Disability Rights as a club against Religious Freedom?

Cacciaguida reflects on the possibility.

Abortions Illegal in the First Trimester?

From AfterAbortion and cross-posted at FR:

New Research Allows States to Regulate or Ban First Trimester Abortions
Springfield, IL (July 26, 2004) -- A recently published law review article suggests that a ban on abortion, even in the first trimester, may now be allowed under the legal standards established in the Supreme Court's landmark Roe v Wade decision. The team of authors, including medical researchers, physicians, and an attorney, argue that this shift in practice, arising from new medical evidence of abortion's risks, will not require a change in constitutional law.

The Supreme Court specifically grants that states have a "compelling interest" in regulating or banning abortion to protect women's health when the risk of death associated with abortion exceeds the risk of death associated with childbirth. When Roe was decided in 1973, it was commonly believed that mortality rates associated with abortion in the first trimester were lower than the mortality rate associated with birth. States were therefore allowed to regulate abortion to protect women's health only after the first trimester.

In the last seven years, however, four major epidemiological studies have shown that abortion is actually associated with higher rates of death compared to childbirth. (More)

Assuming that the epidemiological studies are solid studies, and not simply compilations of post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies, studies of the American post-abortion mortality rate are probably unattainable. I remember Eleanor Clift being really mad at John Ashcroft on the McLaughlin Group for attempting to collect records of abortions(at the time, if I recall correctly, because of concerns statutory rapists and sex abusers were "getting rid of the evidence"). Though "a common belief" was enough to install legal abortion in all 50 states, it might take more than four foreign studies to give this argument political wheels.

Also, by framing the argument solely in terms of the health of the mother, one risks losing sight of the human rights of the unwanted unborn. (By the way, the amicus curiae brief in Roe v. Wade insisting on the alleged priority of the health of the mother in the history of American and English law was signed by scholars whose own research contradicted that allegation. See John Finnis, Shameless Acts in Colorado: Abuse of scholarship in constitutional cases.)

What's more, the idea that abortions are prohibitable only out of "concern for the health of the mother" still leaves the possibility that "safer" techniques of abortion will render any laws obsolete, or that a vague definition of health as mental well-being will continue to legitimize legalized abortion.

Further, I fear the "mystery clause" of Planned Parenthood v. Casey ("the passage that ate the rule of law") renders the qualifications of Roe redundant.

Another problem is that the GOP might never run with this information. Roe v. Wade has proven such a useful wedge issue for them, the GOP strategists might take the Machiavellian route and say "Let's keep committing to appoint judges to overturn Roe, that'll keep the vote harvest high for another decade!"

Still, this will make a useful debating point. A congresscritter could really get nailed in a dialogue like this:

A: "Do you support Roe v. Wade?"

B: "Yes, Abortion shoulld be Safe, Legal, and Rare"

A: "So you think if an abortion procedure is unsafe, it should be banned?"

B: "Of course."

A: "Then what about these studies indicating all abortion procedures are more dangerous than childbirth--which would mean we could ban all abortions under Roe?"

B: "Their findings are dubious, and not American studies, regardless."

A: "So do you support scientific research into the safety of American abortions?"

B: "No, because it's a personal issue. Such research will require the invasion of womens' private medical records."

A: "So if it's really a personal issue and not a public health issue, then why do you and your campaign supporters at NARAL claim that ensuring reproductive health requires federal funding for elective abortions?"

Article via E-pression via The Faded Sun, who notes that if the mortality rate really is higher for women who have abortions, then legalized abortion is also a method of getting rid of "unwanted" women.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Lost and Found in the Ephemeral Internet: Authors Most Frequently Cited by the Framers

Somewhere on the web is a putative ranking of authors most cited by the Founding Fathers. I found it before. Alas, I can't find it now. It may be related to another article, which keeps popping up in the sources for the web pages that do come up:

Charles S. Hyneman and Donald Lutz, "The Relative Influence of European Political Writers on Late Eighteenth-Century American Political Thought," American Political Science Review 189 (1984).

The reason for my search is a quest to verify Claes Ryn's suggestion that Locke's influence on early American thought has been exaggerated because progressive advocates have found him congenial for their programs. Paul Cella wrote an essay arguing that Locke's influence is overblown for the American Spectator

UPDATE: Thanks to "Tailgunner Joe" at FreeRepublic, here's the page: Authors Most Frequently Cited by the Founders of the United States. I seem to remember a different ranking, one on a yellow background. As I suspected, it's from the Hyneman-Lutz article. St. Paul comes out on top at 9%, Montesquieu second with 8.3%, Blackstone at 7.9%, all far ahead of John Locke at #4 with 2.9%. Rounding out the top five is Hume with 2.7%.

To my suprise, Aristotle does not make it onto the list, while Plato does. I'd like to see the whole article on which these decontextualized results are based.

Monday, August 16, 2004

So *that's* Why Christendom had anti-heresy laws!

Anabaptists declare Muenster the New Jerusalem, turn it into New Hell. Via The Japery.

The Authoritarian Secularism of John Stuart Mill

I am constantly coming across new information that I should have been taught in college. For instance, my class covering European history from the French Revolution to World War I conveniently elided the atrocities of the Jacobins and the popular royalist uprising in the Vendee--despite the course being taught at a Jesuit university, with the fleur-de-lis everywhere. Such elisions were also common in how most of the original texts were taught. We were instructed in Plato's Republic without Aristotle's Politics, Rousseau's Social Contract without Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Alexander Hamilton's system of checks and balances without any thought at all given to the theory of the mixed constitution.

So I am not surprised when I come across enlightening interpretations and critiques of texts that would have been so helpful in classroom discussion, had I only known about them. Such an example is this riveting essay(in PDF format) by Georgetown's George W. Carey on John Stuart Mill's religious propensities and antipathies. It turns out that Mill was not a typical indifferentist British subject, but in fact believed in a version of Comte's "religion" of postivism. His writings, therefore, are truly to be read as fundamentally subversive of "that old-time religion." The contradictions within his corpus are but the inconsistencies of a propagandist who wishes to overturn gradually the order of things, without revealing his true sympathies in public.

In a paragraph that might make even the most stalwart Objectivist reassess his disdain for "altruistic" Christianity, we see Mill criticize Christendom for not being altruistic enough:

His most basic criticism of Christianity—one that fit in very well with his “strategic” plans for promoting the ascendency of his Religion of Humanity—was what he took to be its inherent selfishness. In Mill’s view, [Linda] Raeder writes[in _John Stuart Mill and the Religion of Humanity_], “Christian ethics, whose conception of divinely administered rewards and punishments, as well as its emphasis on personal salvation, taints moral action by encouraging self-interested behavior
or outright selfishness.” This selfishness, moreover, ran counter to the very goal he sought, namely, a society in which altruism, fueled by “social feeling,” would flourish. Indeed, she observes, he perceived a basic “moral dichotomy between the evil of the selfish (associated with Christianity) and the good of the social (associated with the Religion of Humanity).”

And here's Mill noting his explicit, though indirect, attack on regnant Christianity in Britain:

Raeder, it is important to understand, is not engaging in “secret reading”; she takes pains to document her charge throughout, using Mill’s own words. Her task in this regard is not at all difficult because Mill is quite open in his correspondence with Comte on this matter. On one occasion, he writes, “Today, I believe, one ought to keep total silence on the question of religion when writing for an English audience, though indirectly one may strike any blow one wishes at religious beliefs.” On another, “You are doubtless aware that here [in England] an author who should openly admit to antireligious or even antichristian opinions, would compromise not only his social position, which I feel myself capable of sacrificing to a sufficiently high objective, but also, and this would be more serious, his chance of being read.” Mill goes so far as to inform Comte not to take his treatment of “philosophical issues” in his soon to be published Logic at face value because he was “forced” to make “concessions . . . to the prevailing attitudes of my country.” In discussing the prudence of publishing one of Comte’s pamphlets in England, he again cautions: “The time has not yet come when we in England shall be able to direct open attacks on theology, including Christian theology, without compromising our cause.” The pamphlet’s message, he concludes, “would turn away a great number of minds from positivism.”

And we see a foreshadowing of the humanitarian welfare-warfare state:
Mill even attributed the belief in life after death to the widespread recognition of the injustice of this world. For him, this irreconcilability was self-evident; it was the basis for most of his thrusts against traditional religion. It also justified massive human intervention, guided by a moral framework of distinctly human origins, to remedy the wrongs.

Claes G. Ryn, in his America the Virtuous(extensive post on Ryn hopefully coming soon), has alerted me to the unpleasant fact that for most putatively conservative ideals there are revolutionary interpretations thereof. Free speech is one ideal that, though it can be supported by conservative arguments, can also be supported by the most radical of agitators. Here's evidence that Mill speaks of freedom of discussion in the revolutionary sense:

While Raeder deals extensively with other arguments in Utilitarianism that bear upon Mill’s design, enough has been said to indicate that On Liberty must be interpreted anew. To understand one of its major purposes, Raeder believes, we would do well to recur to Saint-Simon’s belief that “liberty of discussion [is] an indispensable element of the transitional stage, essential for the destruction
of old beliefs and the engendering of new truths of the organic age aborning.” Along with Hamburger, Raeder sees Mill employing Saint-Simon’s tactic in On Liberty by advocating “the absolute freedom of discussion that would prove fatal to the preservation of traditional religious belief.” She also sees, particularly
in Mill’s criticisms of Christianity that abound, a veiled effort to advance his Religion of Humanity. Viewed from this perspective, the frequently noted inconsistencies in Mill’s argument vanish. For instance, Raeder observes, Mill championed “a general freedom not, as it appears and is generally thought, from the restraints of all social conventions, but merely from convention and custom derived
from traditional religion.” In this regard, and as we might expect from our knowledge of his ultimate goal, Raeder calls attention to the fact that he “was far from averse to employing the social sanction of public opinion in suppressing what he regarded as socially undesirable (‘selfish’) behavior and encouraging what he regarded as its opposite (‘altruism’).”

And Professor Carey notes the impact that Mill's fellow travelers have had in America:

Leaving to one side what Mill’s impact has been, it seems clear that the United States has, since the emergence of Progressivism, followed the path Mill marked out. Our politics has been thoroughly secularized; we now have, as Raeder puts it, “a centralized government charged with godlike power and duties and the thoroughgoing politicization of social life. Modern government has replaced God as the object of petition and the bestower of blessings.” The collective good and service for humanity have taken on all the force of “religious” obligations for the modern American liberal.

Mill's altruism, of course, has failed to materialize. His altruism is but a walking shadow of Christian love, and his works have only promoted the rise of a distant, impersonal governmental bureaucracy that cannot love at all.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

David Schindler on John Courtney Murray and Religious Freedom

Via the Cardinal Ratzinger Fan Club, we find a link to David Schindler's essay from the Winter 1994 issue of Communio, Religious Freedom, Truth & American Liberalism: Another Look at John Courtney Murray. He examines the most influential Catholic defender of the American Experiment, the Rev. John Courtney Murray, SJ. His thesis:
My contention is that liberalism just so far draws us into a con game: inviting us to dialogue within the (putatively) open and pluralistic market of religions, all the while that it has already, hiddenly, filled the terms of that dialogue with a liberal theory of religion. The liberal appeal to religious pluralism hides its own "monism"; the liberal appeal to religious freedom hides its own definite truth about the nature of religion. My proposal is that Murray, despite his intentions to the contrary, has disposed Catholics to share in this paradox of liberalism. The disposition has been created by two of his central theses: that the religion clauses of the First Amendment are "articles of peace" and that religious freedom is best understood for purposes of political order first in its negative meaning, as an immunity from coercion, and thus first as a formal notion empty of positive religious content.

The essay is chock full of insight. Here's a brief mention of the difference between Continental and Anglican separationism:
Continental liberalism understood the separation of church and state to imply the irrelevance of religion to the public order; Anglo-Saxon liberalism, on the other hand, distinguished between two kinds of societies, the church and the civil order, in a way that left intact the Catholic insistence on the public significance and necessity of religion.

Reminiscent of G.K. Chesterton's dictum that all political disagreements are essentially theological, Schindler persuasively argues that the separation between State and Church in itself is not an example of government neutrality on theological questions, but presupposes certain premises of Western Christendom. In a passage that has telling implications for our attempt to install liberal democracy in Iraq, Schindler writes:
But the matter is not so simple as this seems to indicate, for Murray's position here in fact leads to a dilemma. If really tied to a theological dualism, then his "articles of peace" interpretation already implies "articles of faith": it already and in principle favors those religious worldviews which subscribe to such dualism. If, on the contrary, his "articles of peace" interpretation really means to remain such, then Murray must detach it from his own theological dualism (i.e., from any definite theological content). Similarly with respect to Murray's primary definition of religious freedom: one cannot claim that such a definition is strictly formal-juridical ("freedom from"), while at the same time insisting that such a definition carries some implication of positive openness to God and the transcendent order ("freedom for"). Formal agnosticism in and of itself does not carry any positive implication of theism. Either the juridical definition remains purely formal, in which case one cannot rightfully claim that it implies positive openness to God; or the juridical definition does carry the implication of positive openness to God, in which case it does not remain purely formal.

This charge of equivocation on Murray's part might be judged trivial, were it not the case that American liberalism has traded on just such an equivocation. Liberalism characteristically insists that it is merely offering a formal-juridical freedom to all religions, while at the same time it (tacitly) mediates its appeal to freedom via a definite theoretical (if typically unconscious) dualism. The non-triviality of this maneuvre becomes especially clear when we note its implications with respect to any non-Western (or non-liberalized) religion—with respect to any country where a traditional (or non-dualistic) worldview still predominates. In countries, for example, where certain forms of Orthodoxy, Islam, Judaism, Native American-Indian, or African religion still prevail, an invitation to adopt the juridical notion of religious freedom amounts to nothing less than an invitation to adopt the theological dualism of liberalism—albeit, again, only in the name of a purely formal commitment to the principle of freedom.

Relative to the non-trivial nature of Murray's equivocation, then, my first point is that it is in any case important to be accurate in one's description of what one is doing; and what Murray's liberalism does in effect is invite other countries to adopt a religious freedom, not which leaves a traditional religion intact but which on the contrary requires transformation of that religion: requires that it subscribe to an alternative religious truth. In exporting something like's Murray's sense of America's *novus ordo seclorum*, what one is doing is just that: exporting a new *order*, which always already carries an alternative religious worldview. Failure to be clear about this implies nothing less than the paradox of imparting a truth about freedom unconsciously and blindly—and just so far *unfreely*.

Schindler's section titled Secularism: America's practical atheism is especially troubling, for it is very on-target:

Note again the theoretical implications of Murray's primitive conception of religious freedom as an immunity from (coercion by the state), or again of the religious clauses of the First Amendment as absent of any definite-positive content of religion (religious truth). As we have seen, this conception of religious freedom as a matter of principle grants primacy to the negative rather than to the positive in man's relation to God. In so doing, it effectively replaces an understanding of the human act as constitutively oriented to God with an understanding of the human act as not constitutively oriented to God: "indifference" to God is placed (logically) before positive relation to God. Such a maneuver by implication changes the first and most proper meaning of religion: religion, insofar as its positive content is concerned, is now something which by definition is yet to be "added" to human nature.

[...]The distinctive claim of America, according to Murray, lies in its affirmation of the human act as juridically neutral toward, hence formally empty of, God. The human act in its basic structure, for purposes of the constitutional ordering of society, is understood to be silent about God (cf. "articles of peace"). But this means that, when theists go on to fill this silence with speech, they must now do so precisely by way of *addition* and in their capacity as *private* members of society. Non-theists, in contrast, have merely to *leave* the state's formally-conceived human act *as it is*, namely, in the primitive emptiness which has already been accorded *official-public* status. Worldviews that favor silence about God in the affairs of the earthly or temporal order therefore always retain an *official-public* theoretical advantage over worldviews that favor speech about God.

Murray's project thus seems to lead to a privatization of religion. By this, I do not mean that Murray himself endorses privatization: clearly he does not. I mean, with Bradley, only that Murray's position contains an equivocation: affirming premises ("articles of peace") that entail privatization while otherwise defending the contrary. Recognition of nature's constitutive relation to God, in the way sketched here, clarifies the properly theoretical ground for the reservations recorded by Bradley.

Relative to Murray's distinction between liberalisms, then, my intention is not, at least not in the first instance, to call into question the legitimacy of the contrast Murray draws between nineteenth-century Europe's overt closure to God and the American Founding's apparent openness to God. The point is rather the more qualified one that America's peculiar (openness to) theism, in the ambiguous sense in which Murray interprets it, remains, for all of its explicit intention to the contrary, still consistent with a certain "a-theism." In place of the overt and aggressive atheism of Europe, America in fact (again, assuming Murray's interpretation) officially affirms a covert and more passive a-theism, the peculiarity of which lies precisely in its ability to coexist with, indeed, to dwell within, a certain intention of theism.

To clarify this paradoxical assertion, we can usefully recall the argument developed by Will Herberg, in his classic _Protestant Catholic Jew_,[20] regarding what he termed the "American Way of Life." Herberg defines the "American Way of Life" most succinctly as "secularized Puritanism" (81). According to him, religion and secularism in America have a peculiar way of turning into each other. Protestant-Puritanism, for example, and secularism both accept some significant sense of God's separation from the affairs of this world. To be sure, they do so for opposite reasons. Puritans intend to subordinate all of their earthly life to the transcendent God; but, precisely to secure God's transcendence to protect, as it were, against premature eschatology—, they are nonetheless prompted to draw a clean line between the earthly ("natural") and the heavenly ("supernatural") realms, thus breaking these two realms into separate fragments. The sincere *religious intention* of the Puritans is thus undercut by a logic of God's transcendence, which, however unwittingly and paradoxically, can rightly be seen to coincide with a *logic of secularism*—which, for opposite reasons and with opposite intentions, also keeps God distant from "worldly" affairs.

According to Herberg, in sum, America's dualism is such that the order proper to this world remains logically a-theistic. Here is where Puritanism, Deism, and secularism can all come together, albeit out of vastly different motivations: what they all share is a conception of God as first distant and hence separate from the world.

Murray's position, in my opinion, does not provide any principled protection against secularism or atheism of the sort described by Herberg; on the contrary, it provides an exact theoretical foundation for the latter. Murray's interpretation of the religion clauses as articles of peace, and his understanding of religious freedom as first a freedom *from*, under-gird a sense of God's transcendence of this world, or again a sense of a dualism between earthly and heavenly realms, that leads logically to Herberg's "American Way of Life."

Regarding the current situation in America, then, public opinion polls seem to indicate a strong continuing presence of religion in American life: over ninety percent of Americans say they believe in God, a decisive majority believe in the Bible as the inspired word of God, and so on. But similar evidence of religiosity was indicated by the empirical data of Herberg's time (the mid-fifties). Indeed, the purpose of his book was to explain just how this apparently widespread religiosity could nonetheless coexist with what were indications also of massive secularism (consumerism, materialism, and the like). His explanation is clear: religiosity and secularism in America share an inner logic or framework of reality, such that religion is disposed as a matter of principle to invert into secularism. Religion and secularism thus coexist, and indeed can grow directly rather than inversely in proportion to one another, because they are largely but different sides of the same coin.[21--a very provocative footnote -kjj]

Herberg thus differs from those today who, appealing to empirical studies, insist, in a Murrayite vein, that America remains "incorrigibly religious." To be sure, those who thus defend the thesis of America's continuing religiosity, at least those on the Right, typically acknowledge, as Herberg did, a growing secularism in the culture manifest, for example, in abortion and moral relativism. But, contrary to Herberg, they do so all the while restricting this secularism to a certain group within the culture. The majority of Americans remains religious; it is what is termed the "new knowledge class"—the educational elite which dominates the media and the academy and the court—that has become increasingly aggressively secular. The presence of secularism in this influential elite creates the impression of a prevailing secularism all out of proportion to what actually exists in the mainstream culture.

But note how those who thus "regionalize" the phenomenon of secularism in contemporary America follow the assumptions of Murray. These thinkers follow Murray in making a simple contrast between European secularism and American religiosity, without differentiating further, a la Herberg, how American religiosity itself tends of its nature toward inversion into secularism. When faced with the undeniable growth of a more overt and aggressive secularism in contemporary America, they consequently have no choice but to restrict secularism largely to a distinct (influential) group within society; or otherwise to claim that this secularism stems from moral and political pressures emergent only in recent decades. In either case, these thinkers, following Murray, interpret secularism in America to be largely an aberration relative to the founding principles of the country. My argument, in contrast, influenced by Herberg, is that secularism in America is logically linked to the founding principles of America, if and insofar as Murray's "articles of peace" and formal-negative notion of religious freedom correctly interpret those principles.

Schindler follows with an acute theological analysis of the political consequences that follow, depending on how one interprets the nature-grace distinction. He concludes his charisological section thusly:
The apparently subtle difference between de Lubac and Murray on the relation between the secular and sacred thus leads in the end to two different conceptions of the civilization towards which Christians should be working: one, a civilization wherein citizenship is to be suffused with sanctity; the other, a civilization wherein sanctity is always something to be (privately/hiddenly) added to citizenship.

And indeed his conclusion to the whole piece is a welcome request for open and honest theological disagreement:

In short, what we need to do is to invite all parties in America to bring their religious theories into the clear light of day, including especially the liberal party which would claim a religious freedom without a religious theory. This is the necessary condition for beginning a truly ecumenical dialogue among all faiths, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, secular, and all others, Eastern and Western.[44] Only a dialogue of this sort can make possible a legitimate, as distinct from hiddenly liberal, kind of pluralism: make possible, in other words, the kind of pluralism which permits all parties to be open and honest about their deepest convictions, and in this already begins to realize genuine community.

Christianity is more important to democracy than is democracy to Christianity

So writes one of the Brothers Judd in this review of Robert Kraynak's _Christian Faith and Modern Democracy: God and Politics in the Fallen World. I've been waiting for some time for David Schindler's _Heart of the World, Heart of the Church_ to be available at the local academic library. Perhaps this will be just as good a book, from the same school of "Postmodern Augustinian Thomists." Note the very informative author info link in the sidebar.

Friday, August 13, 2004

What's Wrong with Quentin Tarantino

Relapsed Catholic links to an article that reveals exactly what's wrong with Mr. Tarantino and his films:
Tarantino is clearly a gifted artist. The dialogue, the technique, the artistry of Pulp Fiction are often brilliant. So what might account for his distortions of religion, nihilism, and existentialism? Distortion of the Bible is understandable (if artistically culpable) given his a priori rejection of transcendence. But why would Tarantino distort philosophies with which he is in obvious sympathy? I think the most plausible answer is in accepting his sense of the existential while speculating that Tarantino's lack of apparent 'consciousness' is due to the reality that he has never suffered."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Questions for Liberals

both Classical and Modern, from Jim Kalb.

One of the platitudes

..about liberal democracy is that it allows peaceful change of public political policy. Via the free press, we can attack our leaders and persuade our fellow citizens of the truth of our political ideas and the falsehood of others' positions. This platitude is qualified by the necessity to have dedicated and moderately well-funded fellow-travelers. Thanks to McCain-Feingold, this platitude needs even further qualification. Fox News reports: Anti-Abortion Ads Will Be Illegal. And of course, which politician is among those under attack? Sen. Russ Feingold, the very co-sponsor of the bill that limits attacks on him.

Thoughts on Oxymoronic International Conservatism

from Paul Cella at Good points, all. I do worry that Mr. Cella falls into that oh-so-constraining habit of "binary thinking," however. The implication of his piece is that one is either an internationalist or a nationalist. Of course, there is at least one other possibility: localist. Of course, local concerns like self-regulation and self-government are more easily protected by the nation-state than by any world-state, so any localist tends to have more affinity for the former than the latter. Nonetheless, localism is certainly not nationalism.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Articles Various and Sundry

A Democratic & Republican Religion, putatively on the commodification of religion in American life, but not really.

Redefining Marriage Away by two Princeton professors, Robert P. George(the renowned natural law theorist and bioethicist) and David L. Tubbs, of whom I've never heard before.

Also, The New Pantagruel 1.3 has just been released. I'm worried that my initial affection for it resembles my initial, but not enduring, attraction to the punchy(though not nearly as scholarly) New Oxford Review. I let my NOR subscription lapse after perhaps two years of subscribing because its constant bitching got old fast. May The New Pantagruel not suffer the same fate.

Friday, August 06, 2004

My Comments at Southern Appeal

Can somebody clarify something for me?

If making pornography is legal, and prostitution is not, then why haven't prostitutes simply started filming their business dealings and selling videos? As far as I'm concerned, a porn star, male or female, is just a better paid, better publicized prostitute. Much like our politicians.

On A Mixed Constitution

I've been trying to track down whether the American Constitution was inspired by the theory of the mixed constitution. I've read claims stating that the separation of powers results from accepting Newtonian mechanics as the model for government, but never quite fully believed them. I always thought the original American Constitution functioned more like a mixture of monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic elements, each serving to offset the other. Now I have found some hard evidence to back up my intuition.

First, a paper by a student who examines the influence of Polybius on the separation of powers doctrine found in Madison's works, like Federalist 10.

Second, a paper titled The Mixed Constitution and the Common Law which is even more detailed than the aforementioned text, tracing the influence of the mixed constitution from the decline of absolute monarchy through the American War of Independence. It indicates that Montesquieu was indeed of a mechanistic bent. However, he was undeniably influenced by Polybius, the originator of the idea of the mixed regime, as was Madison.

So now let's consider the American system of government as a mixed constitution. The president obviously corresponds to a monarch, the House of Representatives and Senate corresponds to the democratic elements. But what of the aristocracy? Perhaps before the 17th Amendment, which mandated the popular election of senators, rather than indirect election by the state legislatures, the Senate could indeed have been considered the aristocratic portion of the government. Now, it seems, the judiciary branch is the closest we have to an aristocratic order in the government. Of course, the independent judiciary is a development based not on the classical theory of the mixed regime, but on English attempts to develop that tradition further and provide additional checks on government for the securing of liberty.

But wait--that word "liberty"--isn't that a change from classical mixed government, which sought to secure the common good? I suppose it is, unless we are astute enough so as to define liberty as a common good. Which, all things considered, is a very good move.
A Sad Section of a Story by Auberon Waugh on the decline of English Catholicism.

(Link was broken. Thanks to Apologia's Bill Luse for alerting me.)

Even More Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

First, Excerpts from EvK-L's Liberty Or Equality depicting the voting patterns of Germans during the rise of Nazism. Catholics come off pretty good. I wonder if he also shows how many Catholics voted for the Communists, who after all were the Nazi party's main opposition. In _Leftism Revisited_ we read how a depressingly high percentage of German voters voted for one or the other of the totalitarian parties.

Second, A PDF-format article on the cultural background of libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises, which is very instructive on Central European culture and history. Here's just one example:

"And since all [Polish] noblemen were equals, they could not be ruled by majorities. In the parliament, the Sejm, the oposition of a single man--the Liberum Veto--annulled any legal proposition."

Strictly speaking, this is quite true. If a set of men are equals, the one-man one-vote system cannot respect this equality, while a one-man, one-veto system does. Imagine such a system operating in the putatively egalitarian United States!

I'm tempted... lambast this talk about the unequalled Orestes Brownson given to the Unitarian Society of New Brunswick, for not mentioning that Brownson eventually left Unitarianism and converted to Catholicism. Instead, I'll be content that it may simply pique the interest of a few to peruse the life of Brownson, and perhaps end up where he did.

Soloviev's A Tale of the Antichrist

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Military Contractors, a Bad Idea Restored?

Reichsritter comments at LF:

The U.S. appears to be returning to the eighteenth century practice of hiring civilian contractors to provide support services for the front-line troops. The reason armies stopped doing this is precisely because civilian contractors can be unreliable, inconsistent, and dishonest, and -- as you pointed out -- they have no compelling interest to stick around while they are being shot at.

Conversely, since the truckdrivers are not part of their unit, nor are the trucks the property of the U.S. Army, the escort has no compelling reason to stick around either.

More and more, the U.S. army is beginning to resemble a modern version of the army of Louis XV -- brutality towards civilians (even allied) civilians), a large percentage of foreigners in its ranks, the extensive use of "subsidy troops" (i.e., mercenaries), the remoteness of its regimental level officers, the assignment of high command to political appointees.

I can't believe the professionals don't see this.

A web page title I never expected to see together Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs Von Balthasar

Secularism as a State Religion

"Western cultures are losing sight of the critical distinction between a non-confessional state and a secularist state."

-Phillip Trower, at Christendom Awake

Precisely. I've said the same thing myself, only using "non-sectarian" instead of "non-confessional." "Non-confessional" seems to me a better term, especially in an American context where "non-sectarian" meant in the past non-Catholic, non-denominational Protestantism. See the history of the Blaine amendments.

Of course nowadays the courts have interpreted the phrase "non-sectarian" as meaning secular, which helps precipitate the mess we have today.