The Transcendentals

The doctrine of the transcendentals is amazing, and most Christians don’t know it. As Thomas Aquinas put it in the Summa theologiae I, q. 16, a. 3:

As ‘good’ has the ratio of the desirable, so the ‘true’ has an order to knowledge. Now everything is knowable insofar as it has being. For this reason it is said in the third book of De Anima that ‘the soul is in a sense all things,’ through the senses and the intellect. And therefore, as good is convertible with being, so is the true. But as good adds to being the notion of desirable, so the true adds a relation to the intellect.

This means that God is Good, True, and Real, because these things are convertible to each other. Truth is Goodness. Reality is True. In God, who is One, and perfectly unified, these aspects are all the same. We merely perceive them as distinct.

This idea matters quite a lot. This idea contains within it the ideas that:

  • Reality is good. “God saw that it was good.” This created world has intrinsic value. It is better that there is something than that there be nothing.
  • Truth is good. The first thing the devil did was lie, and pervert the Truth.
  • Truth is reality. A lie is is thus a distortion of reality.

Lies are a direct attack on the Good, from the direction of truth, just like murder is a direct attack on the Good, from the direction of life (which is a key part of reality.) To ignore reality, or to distort it is fundamentally, intrinsically bad.

 

Advertisements
Standard

If you love me

Keep my commands.

Love is an act of the will; to will the good of the other with no thought for the egotistical self.

To love God is to follow Him in His great plan through obedience to His commands.

What are God’s commands? I seem to recall Ten of them:

I am the LORD your God:
you shall not have strange Gods before me.

To follow this first of the 10 great commandments is probably the hardest. This means truly treating God as our last end. We should not allow ourselves to usurp His place. We should not allow the things of this world to usurp His place. “Eat of the fruit and you will be like God” was the temptation right from the beginning. Usurping God’s place is our first sin, Pride, and it is as natural to fallen humans as breathing. We constantly look out for ourselves, when we are not what really matters. God is first, the uncaused cause of all things and He deserves to be treated as such.

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

This follows on a much more practical level the first command. If we truly see God as the center of our lives, the purpose of our existence, the God before whom we have no others; then we shall certainly treat his name with reverence, not flippancy.

Remember to keep holy the LORD’S Day.

Go to Mass. It is not optional. Sacrifice is central to Christianity–Christ himself was the ultimate sacrifice. We should not fear to sacrifice our time to the Lord.

Honor your father and your mother.

This is probably the simplest to understand and apply. But I think it extends analogically to all authority. If we want to obey God’s commands, we should also obey those He has placed in authority over us.

You shall not kill.

Typically interpreted as a prohibition of murder rather than all killing, this command of the Lord’s serves to highlight the fundamental sanctity of life. If God created all things, we should hesitate to destroy his creation, even in the cases where it is necessary. God is Life Itself, and killing destroys life. How can a murderer say he loves God?

You shall not commit adultery.

Right relationship is impossible without honesty. Adultery is at the same time a betrayal, a lie, and violation against chastity. Remembering Jesus’s take on this commandment, we should be careful to not even lust in our hearts, for that is a kind of adultery.

You shall not steal.

Why shouldn’t I just take what I want when I want it? The correct answer to this question builds civilization. The false answer leads to anarchy and tyranny. This is an application of the golden rule. A thief seeks to cheat reality and avoid the curse of Adam. All men must work for their bread. If men think they can steal, they will not work. If men do not work, there will be nothing to steal. Stealing is self-defeating.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Lies are literally the tools of the devil. From the very beginning when Satan tricked Eve, deceit was the method. We act based on information. False information leads to bad actions. Lies are false information. Lying directly causes bad actions.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

Beyond just the lust at play here, I think this command also points to social standing. We see great men and their lovely wives and are naturally tempted to covet. But this we shall not do, if we seek to honor God.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

Beyond just the greed at play here, I think this command also points to material power. We see wealthy men and their wonderful homes and are naturally tempted to covet. But, no.

Standard

Equal Equality

In my interminable discussions on equality (or the lack thereof), there has been a frequent conflation of natural equality and legal equality on the part of those who wrongly claim that “all men are created equal.”

Legal equality is man-made. In a society which allows slavery, some may be born a slave, and therefore are legally unequal.

Natural equality is (supposedly) God-made. The existence of this form of equality is the justification for doing away with all formal class-distinctions at birth and treating all men as equal before the law.

In modern America we have formal, legal equality. In 1700s Britain, they did not. This formal-legal equality is present sometimes and not present at others.

The “natural equality” is unchanging. Either it exists everywhere and always, or it does not exist at all. If it exists, it makes laws that treat men of different classes differently before the law unjust. These men may not have legal-equality, but they ought to. If it does not exist, there is no basis for the claim that “all men should be treated equally before the law.”

In what sense are men naturally equal?

Obviously not physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually; the four individual characteristics of any man. Are men naturally social equals? Not really. All men are born into (some kind of) a family, and some families are naturally higher up the social hierarchy than others.

Mr. Wright, and other defenders of the status-quo take as a given this natural equality, and use it to argue in favor of the existence of legal equality. But I do not see any evidence for the existence of this natural equality. I will not assume it exists merely on their word. They must demonstrate why men are equal. In what sense?

The best answer anyone has yet given to my question is: “All men are created in the image of God.” Here we have a powerful argument that there is a minimum baseline of dignity due to all men. But to treat a shared minimum as proof of universal equality is a mistake. This minimum-baseline approach shows why something like slavery can be inherently evil, while something like monarchy or feudalism is not. Chattel slavery treats a man as an object, and not as a man, which is wrong. Bowing to the King treats one man as greater than another, which might be wrong in a particular instance, but might very well be right.

Standard

Equal

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Wrong. These truths are not self evident.

Definition of Equal:

  • Having the same quantity, measure, or value as another.
  • Having the same privileges, status, or rights: citizens equal before the law. 

All men are not created equal, in any specific meaningful sense of the word.

No measurable quantity related to people is uniform across all people. This is another way of saying no two people are physically equal. (Though twins may be very very similar)

No two people have the same value. Value is a tricky word, but the ultimate arbiter of value is God. He is eternal, and He judges rightly, so His opinion on what has value and what does not is final. God does not value all humans equally. My evidence:

“As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. “ – Romans 9:13

God valued Jacob more than Esau. Therefore at least one human was valued differently, which is enough to break the idea of “equality.” But we can even deduce the great diversity of loves God has for mankind based on the nature of love itself. Love is relational, and as such necessarily takes different forms in different relationships. Since every relationship is unique, all perfect love is unique, which means God loves us all unequally.

What about legal equality? Some countries may grant it in name, but no country grants it in practice. The word of an officer is always taken higher than the word of a peasant. Members of the government always have authority over their subjects. That is just what being in government means.

In no specific sense are all men created equal, unless equal is taken to mean only something vague and pleasant. But if equal is taken to describe some facet of reality, then unfortunately for the idolaters of equality, their idol is a false one, nowhere to be found on this earth, or (probably) in the next.

Standard

Why do we hate children?

Or, why do other cultures not hate children?

It seems like Americans in the Current Year are staunchly opposed to having children.

  • We are opposed to getting married early (which is necessary to have lots of legitimate children).
  • We are opposed to having children before attaining “financial security,” (which delays children).
  • We are strongly in favor of pornography (which blunts the desire for sex, which lowers the odds of producing children).
  • We are strongly in favor of using contraception (which prevents children).
  • We are in favor of abortion (which kills existing children).

Do I need to continue? No? I will anyway.

  • We are strongly in favor of spending enormous amounts of money on those children we do have (which lowers the incentive to have more children, since money is not infinite).
  • We legally require parents to be responsible for their children well past the age of maturity (which lowers the incentive to have children).
  • We are strongly in favor of personal entertainment, travel, and career success (which all are more difficult with children around, thus lowering the incentive to have children).
  • We are strongly opposed to children doing productive things, like jobs, or real education, or chores (which lowers the incentive to have children).
  • We are strongly opposed to female submission to men (which reduces women’s attractiveness, and reduces their attraction to men, which reduces sex occurrence, which reduces children).
  • We are strongly opposed to allowing children to roam (which requires more parental energy per child, which lowers the incentive to have children).
  • We no longer expect our children to care for us in our old age, but rather expect our retirement accounts to do it (which reduces the need for children).

This is a lot of values we hold, which conflict with or inhibit our ability to have children. Where did these desires come from? How could these desires be socially adaptive in any Darwinian sense? How can our society grow, or even survive if we are so adamantly anti-children? Are not children the future of any coherent, continuous society?

It’s easy to answer to why we hate children. “We have abandoned tradition.” “We depend on technology instead of humans.” “We are dealing with technology like contraception that we did not evolve for.” All these are true, as far as they go. However, the overriding cause, and most fundamental problem to the whole of society is our abandonment of Catholic Christianity as the motivating force of society.

But I fear that even a revival of Catholicism would not save us. We cannot rewind time and magically replace all the kids we skipped out on having for the last few decades.

Standard

Modernity and Tradition

Try to express any sort of admiration at all for traditional culture, particularly for the culture of Christendom. See how far you get. See how long before you are interrupted with a “yeah, but toilet paper and plumbing are nice,” or some platitude about “modern medicine.” (Never mind that Christendom created modern science and technology.) Nearly every single person living in the modern West sees the world today as a uniformly better world than the world of the past. They literally cannot understand why anyone would want a return to the things of old. Their faces glaze over, and their phones come out. Moderns almost physically cannot hear praise of the past in conjunction with criticism of the present. Why?

No one today denies that there are problems in the world. So why shouldn’t we be able to look to the past for cures to our modern ailments? The answer is simple: Moderns see the past as the ailment, and only progress can be the cure. Looking to the past for a cure is like looking to smoking as the cure for lung cancer. In this frame of chronological snobbery, it is truly ridiculous to express admiration for the past, and no such sentiment can be taken seriously.

But is this view of the world true? No. There are a great many ills of the present that did not exist in the past. There are a great many things we have lost in order to gain what little we have. As the Son of Man said:

What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

But that is essentially what modern civilization has done. We have achieved the greatest material comfort and security ever in all of history, and all it cost our civilization was its soul. Its purpose. We earned money at the expense of meaning. We have gained everything for the low, low price of eternity.

This should be obvious, but apparently it is not. No one today seems to realize that we have lost anything. Sure, there is a pervading air of nihilism and existential terror, but we assume that this is just part of being human, and that this problem is best dealt with by ignorance. Or, more accurately by distraction. We salve the cry of our souls with silly distractions. “What is the meaning of life?” our subconscious asks. “Shh, it doesn’t matter. Watch this cool movie though,” we answer.

Moderns see their society as the pinnacle of human achievement by changing the criteria for achievement to tilt in their favor. If you use the measuring stick of modernity, yes, we are the most modern. But are we the best? They cannot understand this question. To a modern, “best” just means richest or safest or freest. To the men of the past, “best” meant something very different. Thus these men were not the richest or safest or freest. But these men were better. Or at least capable of being better, because they knew of a “best” to strive for. We, have only our toys to amuse; they had tools to achieve.

This problem is, as the PUAs say, one of frame. Modernity frames reality as physical only. It lets the social and the spiritual rot, and then claims victory because it has the most toys. He who dies with the most toys does not actually win, though. The real frame is God. Any society without the vision of the Transcendent Logos at its heart is a society built on straw.

Beware the wolf who comes a’blowing.

Standard

Duty and Meaning

The underlying attitude of modern American culture is “You can’t tell me what to do,” or in it’s more punk rock formulation: “F*ck you, Dad.” Petulant? Yes. Self-indulgent? Certainly. But the important question is, does it make us happy? Does the mentality of “I do what I want” really bring lasting satisfaction? No. This attitude shirks duty in favor of radical individual freedom. But the price of this freedom is a pervasive lack of meaning.

Emptiness characterizes the state of our souls. We have internalized the message that no one can, or should, tell us what to do. As a result, we have been forced to decide for ourselves what is good, what is true, and what is beautiful. The optimistic thinkers of earlier ages envisioned this cultural revolution as one that would result in utopia. How could freedom be bad? Well, as a child of the age of freedom, I can assure you that it can be very bad indeed. By destroying the organic social duties of family, church, and state, we are left with a soulless void. We may have iPhones and tasty food, but it is all the worse, for we cannot enjoy even those things as anything other than momentary distractions from the ennui of our souls. By letting each of us decide for ourselves what is good, we as a culture have decided that nothing is really good. I cannot think of a society more confused as to what “the good life” really is. I cannot think of a society more unable to comprehend the truth. I cannot think of a society more enamored of ugliness. (Have you seen modern art?) The good, true, and beautiful things of this world have been shunted aside as each man vainly pursues his own whims.

Duty is what we lack. By taking on responsibility, we become more responsible. By taking on duties, we give up our freedom, but we find meaning. What is the most meaningful thing your parents did? Probably to have and raise you. But, every parent knows that children are a huge restriction on freedom. This is the trade off. Meaning and Duty, or Freedom and Emptiness. In more sane ages, people recognized the duties they were born into, and worked to live up to those obligations. In our insane age, we deny that we can be born into any obligations, and fritter away our lives on meaningless work or empty leisure.

What am I to do? What meaning can be found in a world that has lost its meaning? Search for duties to take up. To quote Jordan Peterson, “start with cleaning up your room.” Even if you live alone, you have a duty to respect yourself, and to respect your living space. But there are duties everywhere to be found for the one willing (and able) to shoulder them. Your church always needs volunteers for something. You are born with an obligation to your parents, so why not call them? Your friend needs help moving. If you are dating, work towards marriage, do not be content with coasting. Take on responsibility at work. Do something. For, in meeting the obligations others have set on you, in living up to the standards of your community, a modicum of meaning can be found.

Standard