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Posts Tagged ‘Natural Law’

The Answer is in C. S. Lewis

Posted by M. C. on April 26, 2022

It is this that Lewis explores – the loss of a Natural Law ethic and the costs associated with this – and this is why Natural Law is the key to resolving the meaning crisis.  It is the fabric that has been destroyed because man has been working on a different strand.

Posted by bionic mosquito 

This “meaning crisis” conversation will eventually come to a natural law ethic, or it will never resolve.

As noted in my opening post on this matter, I am wanting to more fully and directly make this connection – the connection of the meaning crisis to the violation of a natural law ethic, and why restoring the natural law ethic is the only solution to the meaning crisis.

Again, while I call the previous post my opening post, in reality it is what I have been working through for a few years, but have decided I now need to try to pull it together in a concise form.

It has been a month since I published that opening post, “Nature, According to Our Purpose.”  Almost from the time I published it, I have kept getting pulled to C. S. Lewis’s book, the Abolition of Man.  The more I have thought about it, the more I have come to conclude that the answer to my dilemma is all in this book.  Lewis wrote of the problem and solution almost eighty years ago.

I have written about this book in the past.  My previous posts can be found here:

What I believed would be the case, and as I have started to re-read the book has turned out to be true, is that my thought has developed significantly since the time I wrote these earlier posts almost three years ago.  There are many parts that didn’t catch my attention the first time that now seem tremendously relevant.  So, I can’t take a shortcut and just say “read these old posts for the answer.”  Parts of it will be there, to be sure.  But I don’t think it ties together the way I hope it will today.

So, why The Abolition of Man?  Why do I believe the entire answer will be found in this short (less-than-forty-page) book?  Lewis quickly summarizes why we, as human beings, require objective values if we are to live as human beings. 

Now, consider that last sentence carefully: we require objective values if we are to live as human beings.  If he is right, then the clear implication is that if we do not have and hold to objective values, we cannot live as human beings. 

Hence, if we cannot live as human beings, our lives have lost meaning as human beings.  We can live as something else, but not as human beings.  Would this not result in a crisis of meaning, to live as something other than what we are – to not live as we are meant to live?

Lewis covers all of this.  Now, he begins with an example that seems quite quaint to our ears; a seemingly small little slight, an almost unnoticeable ounce of meaning stripped from a large inventory of stock.  It will be worth beginning by examining how far we have fallen since the time he wrote these words – from a small little gap in maintaining objective values to the chasm we now live with today (and we know the limits of widening this gap have not yet been reached).

See the rest here

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Introduction to Natural Law | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on December 1, 2021

Start with Chapter 3 & 4, then tackle 1 & 2 if you are of a mind to.

Murray N. Rothbard

This article is excerpted from the first 5 chapters of The Ethics of Liberty. Audio versions of these chapters, read by Jeff Riggenbach, are available for download.

1. Natural Law and Reason

(Listen to MP3)

Among intellectuals who consider themselves “scientific,” the phrase “the nature of man” is apt to have the effect of a red flag on a bull. “Man has no nature!” is the modern rallying cry and typical of the sentiment of political philosophers today was the assertion of a distinguished political theorist some years ago before a meeting of the American Political Science Association that “man’s nature” is a purely theological concept that must be dismissed from any scientific discussion.1

In the controversy over man’s nature, and over the broader and more controversial concept of “natural law,” both sides have repeatedly proclaimed that natural law and theology are inextricably intertwined. As a result, many champions of natural law, in scientific or philosophic circles, have gravely weakened their case by implying that rational, philosophical methods alone cannot establish such law: that theological faith is necessary to maintain the concept. On the other hand, the opponents of natural law have gleefully agreed; since faith in the supernatural is deemed necessary to belief in natural law, the latter concept must be tossed out of scientific, secular discourse, and be consigned to the arcane sphere of the divine studies. In consequence, the idea of a natural law founded on reason and rational inquiry has been virtually lost.2

The believer in a rationally established natural law must, then, face the hostility of both camps: the one group sensing in this position an antagonism toward religion; and the other group suspecting that God and mysticism are being slipped in by the back door. To the first group, it must be said that they are reflecting an extreme Augustinian position which held that faith rather than reason was the only legitimate tool for investigating man’s nature and man’s proper ends. In short, in this fideist tradition, theology had completely displaced philosophy.3 The Thomist tradition, on the contrary, was precisely the opposite: vindicating the independence of philosophy from theology, and proclaiming the ability of man’s reason to understand and arrive at the laws, physical and ethical, of the natural order, if belief in a systematic order of natural laws open to discovery by man’s reason is per se anti-religious, then anti-religious also were St. Thomas and the later Scholastics, as well as the devout Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius. The statement that there is an order of natural law, in short, leaves open the problem of whether or not God has created that order; and the assertion of the viability of man’s reason to discover the natural order leaves open the question of whether or not that reason was given to man by God. The assertion of an order of natural laws discoverable by reason is, by itself, neither pro- nor anti-religious.4

Because this position is startling to most people today, let us investigate this Thomistic position a little further. The statement of absolute independence of natural law from the question of the existence of God was implicit rather than flatly asserted in St. Thomas himself; but like so many implications of Thomism, it was brought forth by Suarez and the other brilliant Spanish Scholastics of the late sixteenth century. The Jesuit Suarez pointed out that many Scholastics had taken the position that the natural law of ethics, the law of what is good and bad for man, does not depend upon God’s will. Indeed, some of the Scholastics had gone so far as to say that:

even though God did not exist, or did not make use of His reason, or did not judge rightly of things, if there is in man such a dictate of right reason to guide him, it would have had the same nature of law as it now has.5

Or, as a modern Thomist philosopher declares:

If the word “natural’ means anything at all, it refers to the nature of a man, and when used with “law,” “natural” must refer to an ordering that is manifested in the inclinations of a man’s nature and to nothing else. Hence, taken in itself, there is nothing religious or theological in the “Natural Law” of Aquinas.6

Dutch Protestant jurist Hugo Grotius declared, in his De Iure Belli ac Pacis (1625):

What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God.

And again:

Measureless as is the power of God, nevertheless it can be said that there are certain things over which that power does not extend…. Just as even God cannot cause that two times two should not make four, so He cannot cause that which is intrinsically evil be not evil.7

D’Entrèves concludes that:

[Grotius’s] definition of natural law has nothing revolutionary. When he maintains that natural law is that body of rules which Man is able to discover by the use of his reason, he does nothing but restate the Scholastic notion of a rational foundation of ethics. Indeed, his aim is rather to restore that notion which had been shaken by the extreme Augustinianism of certain Protestant currents of thought. When he declares that these rules are valid in themselves, independently of the fact that God willed them, he repeats an assertion which had already been made by some of the schoolmen.8

Grotius’s aim, d’Entrèves adds, “was to construct a system of laws which would carry conviction in an age in which theological controversy was gradually losing the power to do so.” Grotius and his juristic successors—Pufendorf, Burlamaqui, and Vattel—proceeded to elaborate this independent body of natural laws in a purely secular context, in accordance with their own particular interests, which were not, in contrast to the Schoolmen, primarily theological.9 Indeed, even the eighteenth-century rationalists, in many ways dedicated enemies of the Scholastics, were profoundly influenced in their very rationalism by the Scholastic tradition.10

Thus, let there be no mistake: in the Thomistic tradition, natural law is ethical as well as physical law; and the instrument by which man apprehends such law is his reason—not faith, or intuition, or grace, revelation, or anything else.11 In the contemporary atmosphere of sharp dichotomy between natural law and reason—and especially amid the irrationalist sentiments of “conservative” thought—this cannot be underscored too often. Hence, St. Thomas Aquinas, in the words of the eminent historian of philosophy Father Copleston, “emphasized the place and function of reason in moral conduct. He [Aquinas] shared with Aristotle the view that it is the possession of reason which distinguished man from the animals” and which “enables him to act deliberately in view of the consciously apprehended end and raises him above the level of purely instinctive behavior.”12

See the rest here

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bionic mosquito: Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory Today

Posted by M. C. on November 9, 2021

There is only one path possible for the return to some level of sanity, let alone liberty.  It is for the Christian Church and Christian leaders to properly lead in accord with the Scripture and Natural Law.  This is the narrative that sustained the West for centuries; it is the narrative – the only narrative in the history of the world – that gave us something approaching a healthy individual liberty.

…Critical Theory has come to dominate the academic world.

The Red Trojan Horse: A Concise Analysis of Cultural Marxism, by Alasdair Elder

This is the second of two posts on this book by Elder.  In the first, I covered the chapters in which he examined the history of Cultural Marxism and Critical Theory.  In this post, I will review his comments on the current situation and his proposed solution.

NB: I use the term Cultural Marxism because this is how Elder labels the situation.  I think it is more accurately described as Cultural Gramsci-ism.

Just as Classical Marxism considers that everyone has been fooled by capitalism, Cultural Marxism considers everyone has been fooled by the patriarchy.  Race, gender, sexual orientation, even religion – all are fair game as tools to crush traditional cultural and ethical bounds.

The tactic is always the same: identify a privileged oppressive group; this leads to identifying the underprivileged oppressed group; the oppressive group is then tagged with at least one pathology – an “ism” or a phobia; a victim narrative is established; finally, a feedback loop is established – constant reinforcement of the victim narrative.

This mechanism can be seen in feminism, multiculturalism, transgenderism, etc.   Sound arguments are never presented or addressed; bullying and labeling are the preferred tools.  Per Anita Sarkeesian, “Everything is racist, everything is sexist, everything is homophobic, and you have to point it all out.”

Hypocrisies abound, but these are irrelevant.  Pointing these out is also irrelevant.  Doing so merely demonstrates your phobia, your “ism.”  What is left for the Cultural Marxists is to be for nothing and against everything – ultimately leading to a radical individualism.

This is an individualism, not of responsibility and self-governance, but an individualism of complete isolation, resulting in such a nihilism that the societal fabric is destroyed, and all that is left of the culture is a void.  Total dependence on the state (communism) is all that is left.

This can be seen in many examples.  The nationalization of childhood (it takes a village).  Family life is dull, restrictive, oppressive.  Education is removed, replaced by schooling.  Memorization of facts (if that) instead of developing the ability to use reason in order to think critically. 

Feminism is another, used, finally, as a lever to destroy family – again, leaving children in the hands of the state.  Identity politics, offering power to every “identity” except straight white males.

Elder offers a nice overview of the economics of Cultural Marxism, although I would describe this as the economics of a state willing to leverage the destruction of a culture in order to maximize control.  Monetary and fiscal policy controlled by state actors and bankers, not by individuals acting in a market.  Fiat money, giving the control over the key commodity in a division of labor economy to a small group of central planners.

Elder does offer a chapter on the subject of religion and Cultural Marxism:

It was with very good reason that the progenitors of Cultural Marxism, particularly Georg Lukács and Antonio Gramsci, manifested such a vitriolic loathing for Christian culture. …it is impossible to deny that Christian values have formed the bedrock of Western Civilization.

Unfortunately, as will be seen shortly, Elder does nothing more with this reality. 

It was this cultural tradition that had to be destroyed; Freud’s views on Christianity as a psychologically unhealthy oppressive force would be quite useful for this purpose.

Elder points to the counterculture of the 1960s – the abandonment of traditional sexual mores, the promotion of mysticism and psychedelic “woo.”  As an aside, I recently heard, in a podcast by Tom Holland, a very interesting thought: someday, the 1960s will be seen as a historical turning point much as we today see Luther’s nailing of the ninety-five theses and the Reformation. 

Holland might be right, although I don’t think the effects will be as long lasting.  As violent, maybe; but there is no staying power in continuous deconstruction.

Returning to Elder: the enemy which he spends a good amount of effort on is Islam.  He spends far more time in this chapter on Islam than he does on Christianity.

I don’t know that Islam is any more of an “enemy” than the dozen other tools used by those who want to destroy Western Civilization.  In any case, it is a tool, it isn’t the craftsman. 

He makes an interesting point, and one that points out why continuous deconstruction will consume itself.  As more Muslims come to the West, what will come of transgender rights (and you may fill in any other of the shibboleths of the critical theorists)? 

My thought: deconstruction as a means cannot be satisfied merely with the communism as its end.  Deconstruction is not merely a means; it is the end, the purpose.  It will not be satisfied, as if to say “here, we have reached our goal.” 

There is no goal to reach, because every “achievement” only leads to a new hierarchy that must be deconstructed.  This will be the undoing of this era, but, again, it may be a painful experience for many of us between now and then

In the final chapter, entitled “The Cultural Battlefield,” Elder comes to his solution, or his method of combat.  I must say, it is a disappointing chapter.  After being clear that the Cultural Marxists have won the battle of the narrative, he focusses exclusively on the strategy of fighting with facts.  In speaking of the SJWs as useful idiots:

SJWs usually believe their lies because they are ignorant of any rational arguments to the contrary.

This really is an unbelievable statement.  They either know the arguments but don’t care, or they are screaming whenever someone tries to make a rational argument.  Elder earlier noted that sound arguments are never addressed.

…check the facts and examine statistics, which will always show such [Cultural Marxist] narratives to be false.

Wrong again.  Steven Pinker has made a career of facts and statistics.  He has lost the argument.  Facts and statistics don’t give meaning to life.  People don’t live in a world of facts and statistics; people live in a story, a narrative.  The most powerful story wins.  The West has lost its narrative, not its facts.

Elder is focused on winning one at a time by facts, yet the universities are turning out thousands a year on the other side.

To successfully combat an SJW, the red-pilled rebel must understand the programming, which controls the SJW in question…

Programming doesn’t get altered by facts; it gets altered by a change in the program.  The program is a narrative.  It acts on the facts presented to it in accord with the narrative with which it has been programmed.  Present the same facts to two different programs and you will get two different results.


After spending the entire book discussing how the means of the Cultural Marxists is exercised through the destruction of culture, Elder sees as the solution not some consideration about culture, but a presentation of facts.  It is an unfortunate conclusion. 

You can’t beat programming with facts.  Two individuals with two different “programs” will look at the same facts and come to different conclusion.  This is so obvious on its face; it is almost embarrassing to have to say it.

There is only one path possible for the return to some level of sanity, let alone liberty.  It is for the Christian Church and Christian leaders to properly lead in accord with the Scripture and Natural Law.  This is the narrative that sustained the West for centuries; it is the narrative – the only narrative in the history of the world – that gave us something approaching a healthy individual liberty.

Posted by bionic mosquito at 12:03 AM

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bionic mosquito: Why They Hate Natural Law

Posted by M. C. on July 19, 2021

“Natural law does stand in stark opposition to racism because God breathed into man – all men and all women.  Yes, this specific form and meaning of equality can be known and discovered by believer and non-believer alike.”

“That would be pretty much all of the children of our modern libertine society and those who gladly use them in order to further consolidate wealth, power and control.  Which pretty much describes the left in the West today, which includes the Democrat party and most of the Republican party.  All of these would be against natural law, because it would bring an end to their game.”

A friend sent me an essay by John Daniel Davidson, entitled “Calling Natural Law ‘White Nationalism’ Is Racist, Period.”  For the background behind the purpose of Davidson’s essay:

An innocuous comment from Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney, suggesting we need to teach natural law in public schools, prompted Matthew J. Peterson to reply that it’s not enough to ban critical race theory, we need to replace it with natural law. This in turn inspired Yale University philosophy professor Jason Stanley to aver (in a since-deleted tweet) that natural law is “a dogwhistle to white Christian Nationalism.”

What followed, as described by Davidson, was…

…a string of outraged tweets about natural law, mostly from people who don’t seem to know what natural law is, confusing it for social Darwinism or some such.

It is clear that many people do not understand natural law.  I suspect this is by design, an intentional effort via public education, mass media, and government policy developed to supply a compliant and malleable population, one that is left with a superficial understanding of liberty – the same liberty held by the lion in the zoo.

But what about the idea that natural law is confused with Social Darwinism?

Social Darwinists held that the life of humans in society was a struggle for existence ruled by “survival of the fittest,” a phrase proposed by the British philosopher and scientist Herbert Spencer.

I will suggest…if man does not have as his telos, his purpose – in fact, his highest purpose – as love, Social Darwinism is quite natural.  Instead of natural law, we get the law of nature – similar words, very different meaning: survival of the fittest.  But natural law grounded in and refined through Christianity holds no such view.  Love is man’s purpose, his telos.  Survival of the fittest does not fit into a worldview that is guided by a natural law ethic.

Returning to Davidson, and writing about Professor Stanley:

He should also know that suggesting, as Peterson did, that an education grounded in natural law is infinitely superior to one grounded in critical race theory isn’t some kind of racist dogwhistle.

If we want to live as human beings, it is true.  Of course, who is any longer surprised about the quality and substance of the professors at the top universities in the country?  The long march through the institutions didn’t take very long after all.

Indeed, he should know that natural law stands in stark opposition to racism of any kind, because it posits that all human beings, regardless of their race or any other characteristic, have inherent rights, which can be discovered and applied through reason. Those rights arise from the fact of their humanity, not their race or religion.

Yes…and no.  Natural law does stand in stark opposition to racism because God breathed into man – all men and all women.  Yes, this specific form and meaning of equality can be known and discovered by believer and non-believer alike.

But, no: natural law should not be confused with natural rights.  Natural law is an ethic, describing how one should behave and act; natural rights are behaviors that one can demand from another.  Natural law demands that I act charitably, however no one has a natural right to force me to do so.

My natural rights are limited to my body and my property.  Don’t hit first, don’t take my stuff.  The non-aggression principle.  This isn’t just me saying it; Thomas Aquinas deals with this in question 96 in the Summa: The power of human law.  In Article 2, he asks “Whether it belongs to the human law to repress all vices?”  He answers:

Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

Human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.  In other words, don’t hit first, don’t take my stuff.  Thomas continues:

The natural law is a participation in us of the eternal law: while human law falls short of the eternal law.

Look, I know what I am about to write is doctrinally unsound, but give me a little leeway… God tried it the “law” way, dictating hundreds of laws and commands to try to shape a virtuous people.  It didn’t work for God, so why would it work for us?  Instead, He tried a different way, summing all the commandments into two: love God, love your neighbor.  Love being the ultimate telos for human beings.  The force of law doesn’t bring on virtue; aiming at virtue is the only way one might approach becoming a virtuous person. 

Continuing with Thomas:

Now Augustine says (De Lib. Arb. i, 5): “The law which is framed for the government of states, allows and leaves unpunished many things that are punished by Divine providence. Nor, if this law does not attempt to do everything, is this a reason why it should be blamed for what it does.” Wherefore, too, human law does not prohibit everything that is forbidden by the natural law.

Natural law: acting according to one’s nature, with love as man’s highest purpose; human law: don’t hit first, don’t take my stuff.

Returning, again, to Davidson:

As Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas once said, “Those who deny natural law cannot get me out of slavery.”

Of course, he is right.  Without natural law, we have Social Darwinism.  Superior and inferior, based on race, eugenics, might makes right, survival of the fittest.

[Professor Stanley] might even know that one of the foremost proponents of natural law today is Francis Arinze, a Nigerian cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. If natural law has anything to do with white Christian nationalism, no one has apparently told Cardinal Arinze.

This reminds me…the loud and obnoxious Stephen A. Smith got into hot water twice this week: first, for criticizing Shohei Ohtani for not being able to speak English, and second, for making fun of the names of the Nigerian basketball players that just beat the team from the United States.  Had a white ESPN personality done either of these things…sayonara, bro’.  Instead, just another day at the racist, virtue-signaling mothership of sports broadcasting.

Returning to Davidson’s essay…what does this have to do with why they hate natural law?  Well, Davidson was focused on one point addressed by natural law – critical race theory.  I started thinking about other issues also addressed by natural law, and replied this way to the friend who sent me the link to the piece:

Natural law speaks not only against critical race theory, but also against gender fluidity, marital confusion, child mutilation, abortion, egalitarianism of all varieties, forced human lab experiments, compulsory public education (indoctrination), overseas war, central banking (the source of the only kind of usury worth condemning), taxation (at least to the extent taxes are used to fund any of the above, which is probably 90% of taxes), and monopoly governance institutions.

In other words, it is pretty much against the reigning culture, economics, and politics of modern Western society.

Natural law, when developed through the Christian lens (the only lens through which it ever gained full form) also offers the opportunity for meaning.

An ethical regime that comports with natural law and a law regime that comports with natural rights, giving each individual room and cover to find proper liberty and use it to fulfill his telos.  This is what gives man meaning.

So, I ask you: who could be against natural law?  To ask the question is to answer it.

That would be pretty much all of the children of our modern libertine society and those who gladly use them in order to further consolidate wealth, power and control.  Which pretty much describes the left in the West today, which includes the Democrat party and most of the Republican party.  All of these would be against natural law, because it would bring an end to their game.

And that’s why they hate it.

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Classical Natural Law and Libertarian Theory | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on July 8, 2021

I love philosophy up to the point where I start treading it. Lottieri

Carlo Lottieri

If libertarianism wishes to give up modern political categories, it has to think about law in a different way. Murray N. Rothbard, the most important exponent of the radical libertarian school, is right when he rejects the historicism and relativism of legal realism and when—for the same reasons—he criticizes Hayek and Leoni.

But unfortunately, he does not really grasp the function of the evolution into classic natural law. Furthermore, his idea of building a libertarian code is completely inconsistent with his frequent references to the Greek and Christian legal heritage.1

In For a New Liberty, Rothbard points out that the history of a changing and evolving law can be useful in order to find just rules: “since we have a body of common law principles to draw on, however, the task of reason in correcting and amending the common law would be far easier than trying to construct a body of systematic legal principles de novo out of the thin air.”2

But the relationship between common law and natural law must be seen differently. Common law is not only an interesting tool for discovering natural law: it has its specific role. Positive law needs to interact with natural law principles, but even the latter cannot be considered as self-sufficient.

Moreover, in his defense of rationality, Rothbard does not realize that law cannot be entirely read into the praxeological framework, which is axiomatic and deductive. The division of theory and history puts some disciplines into opposition with others, but above all it makes a distinction within any single field of study.

Economics, for instance, is a theoretical science if considered as political economics, but a historical and empiric activity if it analyzes what happened in the past.3 This is also true for legal studies, because they have a theoretical part but, at the same time, include many other aspects which, on the contrary, are historical and cannot be examined using logical and a priori methods.

See the rest here


Carlo LottieriCarlo Lottieri is an Italian political philosopher with the University of Siena and Istituto Bruno Leoni whose main interests are in contemporary libertarian thought. Most recently he edited an anthology of writings by Bruno Leoni.

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bionic mosquito: The Priestly Caste

Posted by M. C. on February 23, 2021

What happens when this priestly class figures out that humans need an artificial god to worship, to go along with the artificial intelligence that have created? Something above the priest – not hidden, but to be known?

Jonathan Pageau had a conversation with Dr. Paula Boddington, who has done work in the field of developing a code of ethics for artificial intelligence.  A few excerpts….


We are the Priests

Of the Temples of Syrinx

Our great computers

Fill the hallowed hall

Artificial intelligence is creating a new priestly class.  AI – the making of a body that can host intelligence.  This is the work of God…or the gods.  We sacrifice to that creator-god, we trust it – Google, Facebook, the algorithm, etc.  It is the leaders, the tech elites, of these entities that are the new priestly caste; the will of the god manifests itself through them – these priests.

The priestly caste informs the people, telling them to look at the god – look to the statue, look to the AI.  AI is giving power to this priestly group.  The culture war is a war for what comes up first in a search on google. 

What happens when this priestly class figures out that humans need an artificial god to worship, to go along with the artificial intelligence that have created?  Something above the priest – not hidden, but to be known?


We’ve taken care of everything

The words you read

The songs you sing

The pictures that give pleasure

To your eye

How is it that tech companies are bringing about the Kafka state – the insane, bureaucratic, communist, totalitarian state; you don’t even know who to talk to, there is no human on the other end of the line, you don’t know how to appeal.  They game the system by making all of the rules opaque.

I have been thinking about this recently.  Are the tech companies more powerful than state governments?  On the one hand, it seems the answer is yes.  Except that the state can, at any time, crush the tech companies – break these up, destroy the wealth of the founders, etc.

The power remains with the state.  The state uses these tech companies.  Bribes are paid, via central banking largesse, driving up the net worth of the tech elites; these elites know the game.  The stand at attention, knowing that at any moment the multi-billions, tens-of-billions, and even hundreds of billions could be gone tomorrow if they decide not to play the game.


One for all and all for one

Work together

Common sons

Never need to wonder

How or why

Boddington: Intelligence is the capacity to reach your goals – that intelligence is just instrumental, utilitarian.  It is just used to maximize or increase happiness.  It fits into an Enlightenment ideal of reason – we are making progress, a Steven Pinker type view.

Pageau: I actually don’t mind that way of seeing intelligence – the capacity to reach your goals.  It’s just that there are higher goals and there are lower goals.  The materialist, Steven Pinker world is after the lower goals – the world of whims and desires, pleasures and pain.  Whereas virtue and the good, in the Christian or Platonic sense, is actually the goal – the goal of reality. 

Which brings me back to the end, purpose, or telos for man.  What are we made for?  If our entire purpose is to achieve material gain and superficial pleasure, we have arrived.  There is no meaning crisis if we have achieved a life that gives us meaning.  But this isn’t the case.

There are the higher virtues – faith, hope, and love.  Love: fulfillment through other-regarding action; beatitudo.  Intelligence – more precisely, wisdom, is the capacity of using reason to achieve these goals. 


Yes, we know

It’s nothing new

It’s just a waste of time

We have no need for ancient ways

Our world is doing fine

I can’t help but think of C.S. Lewis’s book, The Abolition of Man.  Man has spent the last four hundred years working to conquer nature.  I would have been pretty happy if we just stopped at air conditioning.  But the progress (toward what end…we shall see) is continuing. 

From Lewis:

They [the Conditioners – the elite] are not men at all.  Stepping outside the Tao [Natural Law], they have stepped into the void.  Nor are their subjects [us] necessarily unhappy men.  They are not men at all: they are artefacts.  Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

The end that we are progressing toward is the abolition of man.


I can’t believe you’re saying

These things just can’t be true

Our world could use this beauty

Just think what we might do

What stops this progress?  Nuclear Armageddon is one possibility.  Destroying man’s will through the destruction of meaning is another.  Maybe success by artificial intelligence ethics experts like Dr. Boddington is another.

I hope it is not either of the first two (although each one currently holds a very strong position), and I am certain it will not be the third.  There is only one possibility: we return to the focus on the higher values, and recognize that there is a source of these higher values, a source above man, higher than man, untouchable by man. 

Again, from Lewis:

… [the Tao, natural law] is not one among a series of possible systems of value.  It is the sole source of all value judgements.  If it is rejected, all value is rejected.

The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in.

A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

Or, as Murray Rothbard notes:

…the natural law provides the only sure ground for a continuing critique of governmental laws and decrees.

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bionic mosquito: What of Rights?

Posted by M. C. on September 11, 2020

To have properly ordered rights, there must be a shared understanding of what is good. It still remains, as Murray Rothbard offered, that the foundation of natural law offers the only means by which such questions can be answered, therefore it is only through a foundation of natural law that we can defend individual liberty.

What of Rights?

When Rights Go Wrong, Fr. Dominic Legge, O.P. (audio)

Regarding the seeming failure of liberalism, Fr. Legge begins with a reference to Patrick Deneen’s book, Why Liberalism Failed: a major cause is the Enlightenment’s focus on autonomy and the rights of the individual. “Is the Enlightenment idea of liberty the core theoretical problem for liberalism today?”

Regular readers here have walked with me while I have developed my views. Fundamentally, an underlying cultural foundation (and, in my opinion, a specific cultural foundation) is necessary in order for liberty as promised in the Enlightenment to hold. Yet the Enlightenment, while offering that promise of liberty, at the same time offered that the cultural foundation was not fundamental.

Fr. Legge offers his perspective, well-preceding the Enlightenment: we must grasp the true nature between law, justice, and individual rights and the common good. He begins with Thomas Aquinas and the reality that man is born into a social environment. We have the possibility of conflicts horizontally (between individuals), and vertically (between an individual and the common good). I know the phrase “common good” is troubling for many libertarians; just sit tight.

Beginning with Aquinas, he offers that justice is according to God’s plan; God’s will is secondary to this – He acts according to the order He conceived. Therefore, law is not an expression of God’s will, but of God’s reasoned plan. Hence, law is an expression of reason – even for God.

I know there is this question: can God act contrary to this reason? For Aquinas the answer is no, and anyway, why would He – or, more specifically, why would He have to do so? God was quite capable of creating an order that would not require Him to act in a manner that was contradictory or arbitrary when compared to this order.

Aquinas’s definition of law is offered:

An ordination of reason for the common good, made by one with authority and promulgated.

Proper human justice takes this into account, along with the right ordering in human acts – both horizontally and vertically. For this, there are three key elements: first, an ordering; second, according to reason, third, to the good. The key issue when it comes to the downfall of the liberal order since the is this question of “good.” What is the “good”? This will come later.

With this, Fr. Legge is ready to take up the question of rights: does Aquinas have a theory of individual rights? It is often thought, incorrectly, that he does not. But it is through Thomas where an issue often raised against the Enlightenment – the explosion of individual so-called rights – can be addressed.

Aquinas does speak of objective rights, ius, that an individual can assert. The Latin word can translate into rights, the just thing, fair, or what is right. The ius is the object, or measure, of justice. Have I rendered what is due to you? Conversely, I am due something from you – this ius. And here, we can find a conception of a right – a right that can be enforced against others.

Aquinas does not conceive of these rights as an abstraction from the teleological order. I take this to mean (and it is consistent with my earlier work on this), that just because natural law dictates an act, it does not mean that another person can require me, by law, to perform that act.

So, if these rights are not an abstraction from the teleological order, then where are these from? Rights are a function of justice, directed toward the common good. And it is here where things went wrong – accelerated in the Enlightenment, but not born there.

To examine this, he starts with two other Catholics: one a Franciscan and one a Jesuit, who offer very different accounts of individual rights – “because they lost sight of the truth…” (after which the room erupts in laughter at this inside-Catholic-baseball humor from this Dominican) “…that justice, law, and ius all depend on, or are facts of, a wise and reasoned order of individuals to the good.”

He points to William of Occam, the fourteenth century Franciscan nominalist, as the primary culprit on this score. Occam rooted law, not in God’s reason or intellect, but in God’s will. Law ceased to be something that ordered us to the good, but became nothing more than God’s command.


He then points to Francisco Suárez, a seventeenth century Jesuit. While an opponent of Occam and often praising Aquinas, he would change definitions to the extent that the concepts presented by Aquinas were lost. I will admit, this portion was a bit way too far inside-Catholic-baseball for me – the nuance of agreement vs. disagreement with Aquinas was not drawn out in a manner that I could well comprehend.

So how does this lead to the crisis of liberalism today? The shift in the law and common good, beginning in Occam and completed in Suarez, left us a theory of law fundamentally different than Aquinas’s in two ways: first, a loss of the recognition that law is an ordination of reason to the common good, instead becoming an imposition of an obligation by the will of a superior; second, a loss of the sense that rights are a feature of the over-arching teleological order to the good in which the rational creature is placed, instead dependent on the moral power of the creature without reference to that order.

In other words: law has become a function of will – and this, with the death of God, became the will of the strong man; second, the larger context in which I live can in no way be allowed to infringe on my individual rights. For example, looting is just me expressing my rights. (Four months ago, I would have written that walking into any restroom I like is just me expressing my rights. Oh, what happened to those good old days….)

The Enlightenment magnified this, but this change wasn’t born in the Enlightenment. Instead of an objective good, we now have the good as defined by the strongest earthly superior. We now claim rights without a firm foundation of what is good, allowing for a never-ending proliferation of rights-claims.

Even God is not free to make such arbitrary choices. He created the ordered world, subject to reason – His reason, therefore why would He ever contradict this? This is an ordering to the good – an objective, not arbitrary good; it is a good subject to reason, not to the possibility of an ever-changing will.

So much for the past. Now what? What should be done? There is no going back to an idealized past. Yet, we must understand what we need to recover. In my own words: we don’t go back to the past; we must return to the center. There is a center, relative to which we are sometimes closer and sometimes farther. It isn’t going back to the past, but returning to the center.

What is due to another, the ius, depends on the over-arching teleological order; this order regards persons, living in communities. There is no autonomous individual: we come into the world as a child of a mother and father, in a community, with relationships with many others along many spectrums. This is the natural condition of the individual.

Hence, rights are not arbitrarily chosen. Rights affirm what is required if persons are to be properly ordered to each other. Which brings us back to the issue of the common good. Does the common good infringe on the rights of the individual? Not in a Thomistic understanding.

The common good is the good which can be shared by many without diminishment to any individual. A simple example offered by Fr. Legge is the joy that many can take at the victory of a sports team. A broader example I offer is that of a well-functioning market. It is difficult to deny that such markets are a common good, and certain rights are required to protect and defend this common good – for example, rights in person and property. Well-functioning markets clearly do not infringe on the rights of any individual; in fact, such markets are a good for the individual. The idea of ius, what is right, will defend this common good.

Fr. Legge offers other common goods: justice, truth, and peace. Here again, the achievement of these does not diminish any individual’s liberty. These enhance individual liberty. Paraphrasing Aristotle: the city exists not merely that men might live, but that they might live well.

All of these rights, born from a teleological understanding of the good, are ignored or even crushed today. The common good rights of person, property, justice, truth and peace are all attacked daily, both by government and by many that the government enables.

Further, law that defends the just right of the citizen is quite different than pork-barrel spending. There is no common good in this, as such actions cannot be shared without diminishment toward some at the favor of others. One can think of many of the so-called rights claimed by those majoring in grievance studies in university in the same way: these claims are not for the common good, as they cannot be shared without diminishment to some individuals.


At its foundation, the disagreement is about what is good. It is this disagreement that results in varying rights claims, and much of this discussion centers on rights claims not for the common good but at the cost of the common good.

I know that the idea of natural law causes grief for many, ranging from those who find the idea of an objective good abhorrent, to those who claim to find no basis for it in the Bible. To the former, I suggest that there is no other path to liberty; to the latter, I offer this.

To have properly ordered rights, there must be a shared understanding of what is good. It still remains, as Murray Rothbard offered, that the foundation of natural law offers the only means by which such questions can be answered, therefore it is only through a foundation of natural law that we can defend individual liberty.

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bionic mosquito: What of Natural Rights?

Posted by M. C. on June 25, 2020

At the same time, society today is taking a bastardized version of natural law and turning this into natural rights through human law. By law, others have a right to claim from me food if hungry, a home if without shelter, and clothes if cold.

Critics such as these are attacking a strawman, while the state is enacting exactly that which they fear – a theocracy, but based on a deformed concept of what it means to be a human being.

What of Natural Rights?

I have written extensively on the necessity of natural law as the foundation for a society grounded in liberty. What of natural rights? How are the two related?

Murray Rothbard addresses this question in chapter four of his book, The Ethics of Liberty, pointing to John Locke:

From the Lockean emphasis on the individual as the unit of action, as the entity who thinks, feels, chooses, and acts, stemmed his conception of natural law in politics as establishing the natural rights of each individual.

It is in a grounding of natural rights that the American experiment began, and it is the examination of natural rights that is the purpose of the remainder of Rothbard’s book:

It is this tradition of natural-rights libertarianism upon which the present volume attempts to build.

This distinction of natural law and natural rights has caused confusion for many – certainly me. For example, how can Rothbard open the first three chapters of this book describing the necessity of natural law to liberty and then spend the bulk of the book focusing only on the libertarian analysis of property rights? What of the “moral” stuff inherent in natural law? That’s what I want to get at here.

To begin, while it is true (as Rothbard suggests) that many of the earlier scholars of natural law placed emphasis on the king or state as opposed to the individual, Locke was not the first to demonstrate a distinction between natural law and natural rights. One could find this distinction in Aquinas (emphasis added):

Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.

So, while natural law described how humans ought to act toward others (and, in my opinion, describes the type of behavior necessary if one is to expect any form of sustainable liberty on this earth), natural rights describe how others (society) ought to act toward the individual rights-holder.

It is this area of natural rights where Rothbard spends the bulk of his time in this book, all-the-while not discounting his strong statements in the opening chapters regarding the necessity of natural law toward liberty. The individual has a natural right to life and property. While natural law demands certain moral behaviors beyond this, I as an individual have no natural right to force others to behave toward me in such respects.

For a simple example, natural law is grounded in other-regarding action – call it the Golden Rule for simplicity. Yet I have no natural right to demand that others treat me in a loving manner – to feed me if hungry, to shelter me if homeless, or to clothe me if cold.

Natural law describes proper moral behavior – and, in my opinion, the behavior necessary if society is to sustain the natural rights in human law of life and property.


I do have a natural right to demand that others respect my property and my physical body: don’t hit first; don’t take my stuff. And it is here where human law plays a role – as touched on by Aquinas, further developed in Locke, and expanded upon significantly by Rothbard.

But none of these had the gumption to turn all of natural law into natural rights (and, therefore, human law). I have a right to my property and my physical body. Beyond this – whatever natural law demands – I have no right to claim, in human law, other actions. I have no right to demand that others treat me in a loving manner.


I find it quite interesting that one of the strong pushbacks against natural law is the idea that proponents of natural law wish to arrive at a theocracy. Yet it is clear, as early as Aquinas, that this was never the purpose.

At the same time, society today is taking a bastardized version of natural law and turning this into natural rights through human law. By law, others have a right to claim from me food if hungry, a home if without shelter, and clothes if cold.

Critics such as these are attacking a strawman, while the state is enacting exactly that which they fear – a theocracy, but based on a deformed concept of what it means to be a human being.

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bionic mosquito: Natural Law and Anarcho-Capitalism

Posted by M. C. on June 6, 2020

The purpose of this paper is to give an analysis and explication of the notion of a natural order of human affairs, which is logically independent of any metaphysical or theological system.

In this paper, Frank van Dun (FvD) offers an examination of Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism and its presupposition of a natural order – based on natural law and natural rights.

In short, anarcho-capitalism, in its Rothbardian form, stands or falls with its supposition that there is a natural order – a natural law – of the human world and that each human person has a place in that order that is delimited by his or her natural rights.

It is important that van Dun clarifies that he is dealing with a Rothbardian order, as others base their anarcho-capitalism or libertarianism on foundations other than natural law. Rothbard’s version is not driven by views on efficiency, but on views of human beings as human beings.

It is important, therefore to examine just what is meant by natural law – at least as van Dun sees it. As he notes, “‘Natural law’ is a controversial concept.” One reason it is controversial is that it is often connected to the metaphysical, or otherwise connected to a particular theology. While one cannot escape Aquinas when discussing natural law, this certainly does not make it a Catholic convention – or invention.

However, the fact that some theories of natural law are metaphysical or theological does not mean that natural law is something metaphysical or theological. A theory of mice and men can be metaphysical but the metaphysics is in the theory, not in the mice and not in the men.

FvD then dives into a very important point – one that I have often made, yet still find misunderstood. Natural law legal theory and natural law ethical theory need not be identical. Such thinking results in an unnecessary either / or situation:

…either all natural laws are mere moral admonitions or all of them are legally enforceable requirements. That ambiguity has plagued the interpretation of natural law theories ever since Thomas Aquinas identified natural law and reason.

Natural law: either suggestions for ethical behavior or a system by which to implement a theocracy. But neither extreme is necessary, and in any case not at all intended by Aquinas. Forgive the very long cite, but this is a tremendously important point:

…Thomas clearly distinguished between mere sins (that merit disapproval and repentance) and injustices (that merit ‘action in justice’ and redress). He also distinguished between vices of the sort no virtuous man would engage in and vices that threaten the existence of ‘society’ (not this or that particular society but ‘human society’ as a general form of conviviality or symbiosis): murder, arson, theft, fraud, robbery, assault and other crimes against persons and property. (Summa Theologica, IaIIae, question 96, art.2 (concl). Only with respect to injustice and especially crime can the coercive power of ‘human law’ intervene. In short, while all virtues are necessarily lawful (sanctioned by the rational appreciation of their agreement with divine providence), and all vices are consequently unlawful, only a few vices of a particular sort should be made illegal. ‘Legislating morality’ was not on Thomas’ agenda.

FvD uses the terms “unlawful” and “illegal” to make the distinction. Unlawful being a violation of natural law; illegal being a violation that gets you thrown in prison (or justifies violence in response).

This is consistent with my point that the non-aggression principle fits quite well as a theory of punishment, but not as a theory of ethics. Violations of the natural law that are also aggressions against person or property are subject to the “coercive power of human law.” Non-aggressive violations of the natural law are not, in my opinion, subject to this same coercive power.

I will leave aside, as it is rough around the edges and will be dictated by local custom as much as any other factor, the specific application of the word “aggression.” I don’t think the edges of this term are identifiable by evermore purifying attempts at applying libertarian theory. Human beings don’t work that way. Different societies will figure this out in a way that works for them.

FvD next looks at a comparison of natural law and artificial law. Whether in physics, biology, or chemistry, science attempts to identify the natural order of things. It is no different when working to identify the natural order of persons. This order exists, waiting to be discovered, based on the characteristics of human beings as human beings.


This as opposed to artificial law: “An artificial law is an order of artificial things. Here we shall consider it only as an order of artificial persons.” FvD offers as an example, the artificial person known as a “citizen.” States and corporations also qualify. These are defined by the relevant artificial law.

To find out about natural persons, go live among them; to find out about citizens, consult a lawyer!

A breakdown in artificial law happens when people refuse to play by the rules. This could be because they refuse to do so (including for reasons that the rules violate natural law) or when the rules are overly complex and ever-changing. A breakdown of natural law happens when people do not heed the distinction of one person from another. (Egalitarianism in all its forms, run amok.)

What of any obligation for a person to respect the natural law? This, van Dun suggests, is an open question requiring serious thought:

What a natural person can do does not translate into what he may do. What such a person ought to do does not translate into what he must do.

How I see this: A natural person can punch someone in the nose for no good reason; it does not follow that he may do this. A natural person ought not live in a drunken stupor; yet this says nothing about what he must do regarding the consumption of alcohol.

Such an is-ought question is not an issue at all for artificial persons and artificial law. Here, the law is whatever the law is, and the person is whatever the law makes him to be. This is positivism, and it is clear why positivism is anathema to anarcho-capitalists – and many libertarians. Positivism ignores, and even denies, the idea of natural law.


In this paper, van Dun is not attempting to justify natural law, only to examine it and its relationship to anarcho-capitalism. He concludes:

Anarcho-capitalism rests on the notion of natural law as an order of natural persons rather than a binding set of rules or commands. As a normative theory, it holds not only that we have good reasons to respect the natural order but also that we have no right not to respect it.

Building liberty on any other foundation is flawed; it is not sustainable. Only this foundation of natural law takes human beings as they are, not as someone wishes them to be.

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Embracing Reality – by Robert Ringer

Posted by M. C. on September 21, 2018

I further believe that one of the most important steps in a person’s personal growth is to become adept at transcending his world of delusions.  This is not an easy task, due in no small part to the fact that we are surrounded by delusions each and every day.

by Robert Ringer

As the lying, corruption, and craziness continue unabated in Washington, it’s a reminder of just how important it is to one’s sanity to embrace reality.  Reality is synonymous with truth, but, as Baltasar Gracian, the insightful and pragmatic 17thcentury Jesuit priest, cautioned, “Truth is abhorred by the masses.”

Instead of loving truth, most people try to make true that which they love, which is a self-delusive practice that virtually guarantees frustration and failure.  Thus, most people live in an unreal world, a world they create in their own minds based on the way they would like it to be rather than the way it actually is.  They seem to have adopted the philosophy of Ashleigh Brilliant, who once remarked, “I have abandoned my search for truth and am now looking for a good fantasy.”

It is absolutely essential that a person intellectually and emotionally recognizes that reality isn’t the way he wishes things to be or the way they appear to be, but the way they actually are.  The individual who is not able to make this distinction finds it virtually impossible to make decisions that lead to positive results.     

Which brings me to principles.  A principle is synonymous with a law of nature, as opposed to a law of man.  Most manmade laws are nothing more than legalized aggression against the sovereignty of peaceful individuals and rarely bear any relationship to Natural Law, reality, or morality… Read the rest of this entry »

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