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An article last week contained a warning against despair in the present crisis and a reminder of what could be accomplished given unity of will. We do not pretend that there is unity to-day in England or in Europe. In fact there is conflict not on policies but on essential things. There is also confusion which is more dangerous; for it causes men to take action against evil without knowledge of what is good. It becomes important therefore that those who have perceived the causes of the collapse of the industrial system, who recognise the first beginnings of that collapse and were able thus to prophesy it, should now devote themselves with every energy at their command to the restoration of safety and sanity; to ignore counsels of despair while seeking and propagating counsels, if not of perfection at least of well-being.

We know that the way to cure the ills of our civilisation is to bring about a real conception of liberty, to restore the dignity of man and the independence of the family, properly safeguarded by the distribution of property. Wealth and power have become the possession of the few, the State has limped authority belonging rightly to the family and the craftsman has been reduced to the level of a serf. But two difficulties must be overcome before the cure can be applied. One is that liberty cannot be established by a minority powerless in politics; the other that an increasing number of people seems willing to sacrifice their liberty and the liberty of their families for some nominal sort of economic security.

It has taken many years for the false system in which we live to develop to the point at which it became topheavy and collapsed. It may take many more years to make good the damage. Rome was not rebuilt in a day. If by some lucky stroke, it became possible to legislate in this country and on the Continent for the protection of the small craftsman, the ownership of property by the average member of the community and the return of responsibility to the family, the possibility might soon be realised of yet another collapse. Then there would follow an attempt to make men free by force in more complex circumstances than those in which the American slaves were freed. And the attempt might easily fail. But on that we need not speculate. The industrialized countries, because of the effects of industrialism, are unlikely to witness any sudden return to normality by Government action. There is more likelihood of slow but steady recovery continued perhaps for generations, through the efforts of individuals in practical work and in the exertion of whatever influence they can have on their neighbours.

The second difficulty to which we have referred is thus closely allied to the first, while suggesting more easily a course of action. For if the troubles of to-day are due to the divorce of the people from the land and from their rights, the remedy for those troubles must wait upon the spread of understanding. A man so desperately ill that he cannot be cured without an operation may have been so affected by a nervous breakdown that he cannot withstand the shock of an operation. His position is in some measure analogous to that of a nation which has accepted an artificial mode of life and has lost desire for recovery. In the one case the doctors must deal with the nervous breakdown and then operate. In the other the minds of men must change before they can improve their habits.

No good purpose can be served by minimising, certainly not by ignoring this condition, which is largely responsible for the helplessness of so-called leaders and the success of subversive teachers. Those who want to find the way to victory must therefore be patient as well as determined, must preach perhaps a little more actively than they engage personally in normal work.

Injustices must be removed, bad systems changed, human values made effective once more in their right order. But these things cannot be done so long as the men and women of the nation are ignorant, apathetic, even antagonistic to what they ought to cherish. You cannot combat Communism with certainty of its defeat if the people themselves do not recognize instinctively why Communism is wrong. You cannot prevent the spread of Socialism if its faults are not clearly apparent. You cannot replace Capitalism easily, if the majority of those around you do not see the principal reasons why Capitalism has failed.

To change the conditions in which we have been placed and in which we are likely to be placed, it will be necessary therefore to change people’s minds; to convince them that liberty is worth having, that man has a dignity to preserve, that work with the hands is honourable and of use to the mind, that a man should have a real home and protect it. The task, alas, is not an easy one. It calls for argument, writing, personal sacrifices, petty annoyances, little sign, no doubt, of progress to achievement. But if we ourselves do not see the result others will. And the possibility remains to be considered that the shock of recent disasters has made people more receptive of right ideas, or has brought more clearly to their minds those principles which they have not completely abandoned but have partially forgotten and to which they have shown themselves instinctively ready to react in times of crisis.

As many as can do so will return now to the land or to craftsmanship, attempt to provide for themselves and their families without reliance on powerful, financially-minded masters, secure ownership over small property and give allegiance as they owe it in right order. They are the pioneers to be assisted, encouraged, imitated. And they can play a further part, by making known to everyone ready to listen to them, the reasons that have impelled them to work independently, on the prevailing system. Others still tied to the system may look forward to eventual liberty of action, while carrying on the most important work of propaganda. They may imagine at times that they are under the leadership of Mrs. Partington, but they will realise if the collapse of this civilisation is slower than the frightened politicians seem to think, what great results can follow individual achievements or attempts. If throughout the country, small groups of determined people succeed, not through agitation but by precept and example, in forming a better system within the collapsing one, the change from abnormality to normality may be made without grave disturbance. But those groups will have to be determined, though not heedless of strategy, and strong in example. To wait, inactive, for the final crash to happen, or to act blindly or recklessly, would be to postpone recovery until we had been forced to endure the worst forms of servitude or anarchy.

 

About the author: G.K. Chesterton

 

G.K. Chesterton was born in Kensington, London on May 29, 1874. Chesterton was one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote thousands of essays for the London newspapers on virtually every subject imaginable. He was the author of over one hundred books and wrote contributions for more than 200 more. His writings cover history, philosophy, literary criticism, political and social theories, and Christian apologetics. In addition, he wrote poetry, plays, novels, biographies and even popular detective fiction. Chesterton was as prophetic as he was profound, foreseeing such historical developments as the rise and fall of both Nazism and Communism, and the cultural chaos wrought by modernism.

 

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42 Comments

  1. I came to this site following a link provided in a piece simul posted as Naked Capitalism; The “Libertarian Future” thing. I loved it (if thats the right word) because it laid out in the Libertarians own words what kind of world they imagine for all of us. Im interested in Distributism and Catholic Moral teaching, although i know little about it. I see that “the familly” is mentioned quite often and obviously plays an important role. After centuries of “do nothing” capitalism “the familly” in Western culture has been quite severely damaged (enough reason, even if there werent 1000 more, to do away with capitalism). How does Distributism help the masses of damaged, psycologically and economically dislocated victims of capitalism?.

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  3. Anyone?…. I plan to read some of the recommended work by Chesterton, if the answer is there, great. I would like to hear from some commenters at this site as well. Ive seen a few comments from readers who (ostensibly) identify, at least partly, with the ideas promoted at this web site along this line :”its not Capitalism thats the problem, its corporatism”.. Oh ok. Whoops. I see all lot of effort being spent trying to reassure readers Distributists “arent Marxists”. Which i find sort of off the point, considering that Western Civilization is not collapsing under the rotten, dead weight of an oppresive Marxist Regime; a decaying, amoral, intellectually spent,end – stage Capitalism is the deadly problem we face.

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  7. Marcus, check out the enclosure movements in England, as well as von Mises’ commentaries in Human Action, pp. 619ff. They are very illuminating. Spengler at Asia Times On Line used the same logic as John Locke did vis a vis the Indians – “use it or lose it”. But this is just an equation of morality with power over Nature. See Richard Weaver’s essay in Ideas Have Consequences.
    http://www.gornahoor.net/?p=3486#more-3486
    I read the site you pinged from – also illuminating. The confusion is over what is meant by “government”. They see clearly that authority is what draws power (rather than power conferring authority), but don’t seem to understand that they are operating with an instrumentalist view of Science as knowledge and power.

  8. Chesterton is prescient as usual:

    “You cannot replace Capitalism easily, if the majority of those around you do not see the principal reasons why Capitalism has failed.”

    Capitlaism has failed because it rejected the Catholic Church’s infallible anathematization of usury.

    Sit back and watch, if you like.

    The end game is upon us.

  9. @ Rick

    No i cant imagine any situation where Capitalism is easily replaced. My feeling is that “it” will hit the self destruct botton before that happens. Ive always intuitively understood the Reformation as a very oppportunistic event in European history which allowed the rise of the capitalist class. There were deeply rooted problems with the old order which encouraged that to happen. I cant imagine the world going on as it is though for too much longer. The constant drive for “growth” will hit a natural barrier
    and then we will live in a world more like the one Distributism describes or a brutally enforced class heirarchy. But that wont happen overnight, or even in a few years.

  10. Marcus: Capitalism (usury-based financial swindling protected by law) is now hitting precisely the “self destruct bottom”. The crisis in banks in 2008 has become a crisis in sovereign nations in 2011.

    The “limits to growth” arguments are all essentially Malthusian, and all suffer from the same logical fallacy inherent in Malthus’ “proof” that we all starved to death, as a mathematical certainty, several centuries ago.

    That fallacy resides precisely in the Malthusian negation of the human capacity to discover valid principles of nature, which yield an exponential increase in the power of the species to survive.

    The “Green Revolution” is an example.

    There are many others.

    “Growth” is not the problem.

    Usury and its associated forms of financial film-flammery are the problem.

  11. Well, i would say that the idea of a Growth Barrier, is a Mathusian one, (there are other models than Malthus) and the Response of Classical economics is, that as-yet undiscovered technology will save us. Personally I dont believe in undiscovered technology. It also ignores the question, of why. Why is “growth” always desirable, and at what point would other good things, which must be sacrificed for growth, become more important.

  12. “Personally I dont believe in undiscovered technology.”

    >> Well, you certainly must believe in the power of the human intellect to discover technology, since we all would have starved to death centuries ago, per Malthus, without it.

    If we examine the increases in population density and life expectancy of the human species over recorded history, we see that the human species does not exist within the constraining limitations of other populations of species.

    There is something fundamentally different about us.

    The Bible calls it “the image and likeness of God”.

    Its empirical basis is found in the ever-increasing, exponential increase in the power of the human species to survive in ever greater population densities, with ever-greater lifespans, in direct contradiction to all “limits to growth” hypotheses (and all of them, as I said, will be found to be based upon Malthusian fallacies).

    “Why is “growth” always desirable, and at what point would other good things, which must be sacrificed for growth, become more important.”

    >> “Be fruitful, and multiply, and subdue the Earth”.

    Thus saith the Lord.

  13. The limits to growth are logical. The earth is finite, an earthbound economy cannot therefore grow for ever. And if you want to start talking about space colonisation, then to the vague talk of Malthusianism can be replied vague talk about the deeply unChristian principles of the usual futurist, drooling technophile sorts. Your talk about human capacity discovering valid principles of nature, does have certain questionable assumptions like the Baconian vision as knowledge of power and the conquest of nature. I do not know what the solution is, but scepticism about exponential growth makes a lot of sense, to me, from a traditional Christian perspective.

  14. The limits to growth are not logical, since all arguments for such limits have been falsified empirically, by the exponential increase of the power of the human species to survive in the face of claimed “finite resources”. One can prefer vague talk of finite resources, or one can prefer vague talk of future discoveries. Only one of these corresponds to empirical fact, and it is the latter. The reason is found in the demonstrated capacity of the human intellect to increase its knowledge of valid universal principles operative in nature, and to employ these principles to exponentially increase its power to survive in the cosmos.

    Since it is this latter process which is consistent with empirical evidence, it ought to be the basis of any Christian worldview, and in fact has been the basis of the Christian worldview, from the beginning:

    ” Be fruitful, and multiply, and subdue the earth.”

  15. I see, and I really dont have any response to the Theological argument your making, other than that, in some vague way, i probablly agree. Im not sure the growth or why growth? conversation is really helpful at this point. My concern is that these arguments are all within the purview of Classical, Liberal economics which I believe have failed in a big, big way. I think Distributists would agree with me there or am I mistaken? The “ideal” model of a kind of return to an agrarian culture, (but this time without serfs) to me is a very attractive idea, but what would prevent us from returning to this very same problem of such gross accumulations of property in the hands of a relative few. Im not sure how banning usury would prevent this, If the unequal accumulation of wealth is not considered a basic moral problem. Before usury there was blunt force trauma, which some people will have no hesitation in reaching for if other means of aquisition are denied to them. Is the Distributist society a “might makes right” society? I wouldnt think so, but im looking for hopeful ideas here

  16. Rick; Your argument doesn’t make sense. Just because past growth has been exponential, does not falsify the logical limits to growth on earth. The growth since 1600 has been based upon philosophical and practical perspectives which are distinctly anti-traditional Christianity. It is the Baconian imperative, Cartesianism, positivism and mechanism, just to name a few, which has unleashed this growth. You should really examine the history of ideas and thought. Not only are most of these against the medieval, traditional Christian perspective, but they have brought with them a great decline from the focus on transcendent, sacred knowledge of the Middle Ages, with the distraction of the knowledge of the material and the quantitative. I do not know if it is possible to really combine the positives of the modern perspective on knowledge and technology with a traditional Christian perspective, but I do know that an unquestioning acceptance of the modern perspective brings with its all these errors, from individualism to empiricism.

    You can quote one verse from Genesis all you like, it not the case that from the earliest times that Christians or Jews have thought like Francis Bacon or Rene Descartes or Locke, and they’d have thought such perspectives were ludicrous and scandalous.

  17. Wessexman I have to agree. The point at which half of Christiandom went schismatic is also widely agreed upon as the historical starting point of the capitalist order and everything that accompanies it – including positivism and the hateful materialism which so severely afflicts the present. I have noticed this problem with quoting Scripture, its always a passage which seems to support an argument the quoter is attempting to make. What about the time Jesus say’s “That it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingsom of Heaven”.. its not as if Jesus were walking along the shores of the sea of Galillee and said that, right out of the blue. We’re given the full context in the Bible. Yet, as if to go on proving it in perpetuity, that quote is most often ignored by the wealthy and comfortable. Jesus, (GOD himself made incarnate),told the rich man to not only become poor at once, but to distribute his entire fortune out among the poor and suffering. He(the maker and sustainer of the universe “who will judge the living and the dead”) did NOT say, go and give some small amount of treasure, an amount small enough that you wont miss it, to a poor person you feel is worthy of you, then come follow me. He (The Lord your GOD) said cough it up, all of it, then come follow me.

  18. One only has to ask did any of the great figures of Christianity before 1600 have remotely the sort of perspective that Rick’s depends on. Do we find St.Clement of Alexandria or the Angelic Doctor giving us a premonition of the thought of Newton or of Kant? If such knowledge of the quantifiable and material were so important, if practical technology was so central, surely we would expect it to be revealed to Abraham or Moses or David? Surely we would expect Christ to have added to the beatitudes with practical tips on combustion engines and nanotechnology, interspersed with blessings for the positivists and technocrats.

  19. Marcus: Any return to “agrarian society” involves the miserable death of billions, if by “agrarian society” we mean a society which surrenders the God-given command to be fruitful, to multiply, and to subdue the Earth, and replaces it with a man-made command to “respect the limits to growth”.

    Wasserman: The fact that every argument for limits to growth has been falsified, by precisely the characteristically human process of discovery, renders *your* argument illogical; that is, we must reject the entire witness of human history in order to accept it. There is nothing “materialist” in God’s command to “be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the Earth”. It is a spiritual common, given so as to foster within humanity its characteristically spiritual identity, its “image and likeness of God”; that is, the power to understand, ever-less imperfectly, the Wisdom by which God has created the cosmos, and made it subject to man in his spiritual application of his spiritual faculties to discover the principles of the Wisdom.

    The discoveries of principle by man begin far earlier than the 16th century, and will far outlast any temporary setback imposed by the unfortunate decision by humanity to reject God’s proscription against usury.

    Indeed, it is still possible that the usurers will be overthrown, and humanity’s economic activities re-established upon Christian grounds, and the flourishing of scientific discovery will then be as remarkable as at any time in history previously, where Christian commitment to “be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the Earth” has triumphed over the “limits to growth” Malthusians.

  20. You haven’t really responded to my points Rick. Either the Earth is finite or it is infinite(and to give you a pointer it isn’t the latter), so there are by definitions limits to what can be gained from it.

    The principles by which God created the universe extend from the most sublime, immaterial and qualitative to the most quantitative and physical. In the past, before the rise of modernity humans tended to neglect the material and quantitative knowledge, and it was spiritual and intellectual knowledge which was pursued. Modernity turned this on its head, spiritual and qualitative knowledge has been almost totally cast out and the quantitative and physical came to dominate the whole domain of knowledge. Modern science and modern technology are intertwined with positivism, Cartesianism and all such errors. You have not in any sense answered any of these points, nor why, if quantitative and physical knowledge were so important, by the Patriarchs and Prophets, and Christ himself, did not take much time to reveal it.

    I’m not saying there is no worth to modern discovery, nor that the lust for knowledge of the material and physical, and the development of highly artificial and desacralised technology and institutions, must displace knowledge of the sacred and a persuasive, spiritual perspective, as seen at the height of Christendom. But unquestioning and unexamined acceptance of modern ideas of knowledge, technology and growth is misguided.

  21. W: You haven’t really responded to my points Rick.

    >> If that is the case, then let me be very sure to respond to each of them, in turn.

    W: Either the Earth is finite or it is infinite(and to give you a pointer it isn’t the latter)

    >> Neither is humanity infinite (and to give you a pointer, neither is humanity limited to the Earth).

    W: so there are by definitions limits to what can be gained from it.

    >> What is true by definition, is that humanity is neither infinite, nor is it limited to the Earth. Therefore I believe I have adequately addressed your point here.

  22. And the command to go forth and multiply, whose highest meaning, according to Dante’s scheme of the four layers of meaning in Scripture, is no doubt anagogical and spiritual, is no justification to forsake the spiritual, immaterial and qualitative for the quantitative, corporeal and physical alone. One simply has to take the whole spirit of Scripture to see that this is not God’s way, as marked out in it. Indeed that verse comes during a highly spiritual and symbolic, not quantitative or physical, account of creation.

  23. W: The principles by which God created the universe extend from the most sublime, immaterial and qualitative to the most quantitative and physical.

    >> The former are accessible through Revelation, the latter through operational science. The Christian word view is unique in embracing both.

    W: In the past, before the rise of modernity humans tended to neglect the material and quantitative knowledge, and it was spiritual and intellectual knowledge which was pursued.

    >> False. Only a truly profound ignorance of the development of humanity’s knowledge of universal principles could be responsible for the advancement of such an hypothesis. Any individual who cares to examine the development of astronomy, geometry, mechanics, architecture, and art will be immediately rescued from its profound falsehood.

    W: Modernity turned this on its head, spiritual and qualitative knowledge has been almost totally cast out and the quantitative and physical came to dominate the whole domain of knowledge.

    >> Yes, well, the Church has much to answer for in that regard, since She has repeatedly stepped back from confrontation with materialist science since l’affaire Galileo. The good news is, that science itself has now reached the end of its rope, and cannot, from within its own legitimate operational domain, answer its own observations, whether at the infinitesimal extreme of particle physics, or at the opposite extreme of cosmology.

    Science is now forced to make a profound decision: either arrogate to itself the techniques of metaphysics and theology, or else admit that it cannot provide a comprehensive description of *even physical reality* without recourse to higher domains of knowledge.

    In either case, the age of the materialist is over, as far as scientific method is concerned.

    W: Modern science and modern technology are intertwined with positivism, Cartesianism and all such errors.

    >> No. Technology is worldview neutral- that is to say, the cel phone works whether Wasserman or a Hindu dials it. The theoretical basis of technology is of course at issue, but that is precisely the problem against which materialist science is presently uncomfortably squeezed between a rock and a hard place.

    W: You have not in any sense answered any of these points,

    >> I have now answered all of them.

    W:nor why, if quantitative and physical knowledge were so important, by the Patriarchs and Prophets, and Christ himself, did not take much time to reveal it.

    >> But they did. Throughout the Scriptures, God repeatedly assures us that “it is the glory of God to hide a matter, and the glory of a king to search it out”.

    Merely because a given individual harbors a terrible, Malthusian gloom concerning the glories proper to God and man, is no reason anyone else ought to do so.

  24. Well on the space colonisation issue many points can be made. Firstly Genesis, which you love to quote, strongly symbolises and implies man’s corporeal and to a degree spiritual roots to the earth. Secondly it seems highly unlikely, and to take a level of technological development, and change in mindset replete with disadvantages. Thirdly it is the kind of thing pursued by futurists, technophiles and other highly dubious individuals.

  25. W:And the command to go forth and multiply, whose highest meaning, according to Dante’s scheme of the four layers of meaning in Scripture, is no doubt anagogical and spiritual,

    >> “No doubt”? LOL! The basis for all the senses of Scripture are based upon the literal (CCC#116 “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”83)

    Clearly Adam and Eve did not share your anagogic and spiritual interpretation here, and thank God for that- otherwise we would;t be here :-)

    W: is no justification to forsake the spiritual, immaterial and qualitative for the quantitative, corporeal and physical alone.

    >> Quite true. Such “either/or” approaches are profoundly uncatholic. You would profitably apply this truth to your own tendency to create a dichotomy between the Truths of revelation, and the legitimate truths of science, which, after all, proceed from the same Source.

    W:One simply has to take the whole spirit of Scripture to see that this is not God’s way, as marked out in it.

    >> Indeed. God requires of us a physical and a spiritual obedience. It is the Malthusian and the materialist on the one side, and the Manichaean gnostic on the other, who insist upon a division of the two.

    W: Indeed that verse comes during a highly spiritual and symbolic, not quantitative or physical, account of creation.

    >> The account of creation is quite easy to defend upon literal grounds, and has been so defended by the vast majority of Fathers, Doctors, and Saints. I invite you to attempt a scientific disproof of it. I would welcome the opportunity to talk the other side of the question.

  26. Can I ask you why you keep calling me Wasserman?

    It is incorrect to say that the non-material side of reality is only accessible by revelation and science can only deal with the material. Such is an astounding statement, highly at odds with traditional Christian perspectives, whether Platonic, Aristotelian or Mystical.

    Anyone who examines the early modern rise of science, as Roman Catholic philosophers of science has like Jean Borella and Wolfgang Smith, will immediately see the dubious philosophical and spiritual perspectives, like nominalism, humanism, positivism and so forth, inherent in this development.

    Accurately technology is not neutral. Not only are philosophical, cultural and social considerations behind the development of particular pieces of technology, as pointed out by the likes of Lewis Mumford, but socially, culturally and spiritually we interact with technology. It helps to shape our relationship to the world, to each other and to ourselves.

    Scripture simply is not preoccupied much with the most quantitative and material side of reality. There is no parable of Christ on the theory of relativity or how to travel to other planets. Are you actually saying that verse refers to God hiding aspects of natural, quantitative science? And what do you mean by universal principles?

  27. Space colonization is not necessary in order for humanity to harvest raw materials from space, Wasserman.

    Neither is there found anywhere in Scripture a proscription against humanity colonizing the rest of God’s creation.

  28. Can I ask you why you keep calling me Wasserman?

    >> Sorry. Weak glasses.

    It is incorrect to say that the non-material side of reality is only accessible by revelation and science can only deal with the material. Such is an astounding statement, highly at odds with traditional Christian perspectives, whether Platonic, Aristotelian or Mystical.

    >> OK. Then those aspects of reality which are not material cannot be accessed by operational science, and must be accessed by higher domains of knowledge.


    W: Anyone who examines the early modern rise of science, as Roman Catholic philosophers of science has like Jean Borella and Wolfgang Smith, will immediately see the dubious philosophical and spiritual perspectives, like nominalism, humanism, positivism and so forth, inherent in this development.

    >> None of which have the slightest impact upon operational science, which is worldview neutral (the phone works for atheists and believers alike). When science extends its methods to domains beyond the operational/material, then we have a problem. The Church pointed this out to Galileo, but then lost Her nerve in the face of what seemed at the time to be irrefutable scientific demonstration (all of which were subsequently falsified). The shoe is now on the other foot: science is at the end of its rope, and can no longer derive a consistent theory to explain observations at either the infinitesimal or cosmological extremes.


    Accurately technology is not neutral.

    >> Yes, it is. Technology works, or it doesn’t. If it does, it does not require the user to subscribe to any given worldview. If it doesn’t, no amount of adhesion to a given worldview will make it work.

    W:Not only are philosophical, cultural and social considerations behind the development of particular pieces of technology, as pointed out by the likes of Lewis Mumford, but socially, culturally and spiritually we interact with technology. It helps to shape our relationship to the world, to each other and to ourselves.

    >> None of this has the slightest bearing on the worldview-neutrality of technology. Example: all of physics was derived based on the assumption that light propagated through a medium. Special Relativity insisted that it didn’t. Lightbulbs continue to serenely propagate light under either worldview.

    W: Scripture simply is not preoccupied much with the most quantitative and material side of reality.

    >> That is quite reasonable, considering that the most important duty of man is the salvation of his soul. Scripture does not neglect, however, the perfectly compatible duty to “be fruitful and multiply, and subdue the Earth”. Again, W, it is a “both/and”, not an “either/or”.

    W: There is no parable of Christ on the theory of relativity or how to travel to other planets.

    >> Neither is there a parable on the evil of abortion or the goodness of praying the rosary. I would assume you would not jump from this to the hysterically unwarranted conclusion that Christ opposes pro-life ministry, or praying the Rosary.

    W:Are you actually saying that verse refers to God hiding aspects of natural, quantitative science?

    >> Of course. All knowledge, including knowledge of universal physical principles, is the result of man searching out the hidden things of God, since God is unquestionably the Author of all truth, whether scientific, philosophical, metaphysical, or theological.

    W: And what do you mean by universal principles?

    >> Principles experimentally demonstrated to be operative in all cases and instances. For example, the spherical propagation of forces, such that they fall off as the square of the distance between sources.

  29. Dante’s four layers of meaning, which were generally shared in traditional Christianity, were literal, allegorical, moral and anagogic. I do not eschew the literal, but the anagogic is the most important and should colour any too narrow and rigid a reading of the literal meaning, particularly when done from first principles quite alien to traditional Christian or Judaism.

    As I have repeatedly said, I do not say it is impossible to incorporate much of the modern perspectives on science and technology into a traditional Christian framework. However it behooves us to examine the assumptions of these perspectives, as you have not. We should also remember that this dichotomy is an historical fact, the decline and errors of the modern world are intertwined with those of its science and technology. It makes little sense to ignore this history, nor is it necessary for a traditional Christian to see any easy practical solution.

    The spiritual truths are not just truths of revelation. They were developed metaphysically, philosophically, theology and mystically by the Church, by the Fathers, by mystics like St.Symeon the New Theologian or St.Francis of Assisi and the Schoolmen. To understand levels of reality beyond the corporeal and physical is not possible only through Scripture.

    I do not repudiate matter or the material side of life, far from it. We do however need to keep the correct priorities and develop the different aspects of life proportionately. Historically this has not been possible under the modern mentality, and there are reasons to think that in general it would take a far less robust pursuit of the material and quantitative side of knowledge and life, for a society in general to achieve a decent harmony. Let’s not forget, that despite the legitimacy of material knowledge and development, Saints, mystics and Christian sages have not swelled on this side of existence; they have no tried for a complete symmetry of knowledge and activity. This suggests that there is a legitimacy not to take efforts to incorporate material science and technology too far.

    I do not know much detail about modern physics’ account of the beginnings of the universe, beyond what most educated Westerners do. But I do know there are differences between it and Genesis, and that Genesis is clearly more anagogic and spiritual than to be treated like a theory of modern science. It seems strange for you to now pursue a slightly incongruous attitude towards the ‘discoveries’ of modern science.

  30. W:I do not eschew the literal, but the anagogic is the most important

    >> False. Did you not see my earlier citation?

    CCC#116 “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: “All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.”83

    I see nothing else in your post above which requires a response.

  31. Oops, just one more thing:

    W:I do not know much detail about modern physics’ account of the beginnings of the universe, beyond what most educated Westerners do. But I do know there are differences between it and Genesis,

    >> There is not a single experiment of operational science which contradicts a syllable of Genesis. The differences between Genesis and the modern scientific creation myth reside strictly in metaphysical preferences and assumptions.

    Science cannot make its creation myth work in any event, without adopting metaphysical concepts such as “inflation”, “dark matter”, “dark energy”, and “multiverses”- not one of which has ever been the subject of an experimental demonstration.

  32. Looking at your last post before mine it seems the difference about the main point about science is technology is based on divergences on how important philosophical assumptions are to the context of even the most empirical and operative aspects of modern science and technology, and also a difference in the levels of pessimism or optimism about how a significant pursuit of ever-increasing material knowledge and technology can accompany a healthy, spiritual culture and knowledge.

    In one sense you are correct about the neutrality of science, if you consider it only in the isolated you have. But this doesn’t make my points about the non-neutrality of its development, interactions and effects any less true.

    The rest of your post depends upon the relative priority of material knowledge, and the effect of its pursuit as well as man’s ability to pursue it robustly and others kind of knowledge.

    Your view of universal principles seems quite different to those of traditional Christian philosophers. Indeed you seem to have given a rough definition of positivism.

  33. You cannot enter into the higher meanings of Scripture without going through the literal meaning, but the anagogic meaning deals with, indeed expresses, higher spiritual realities and hence it most important. Take the Temple Veil tearing, it is impossible for this to have an anagogic meaning without it having an literal one, there must be such words for instance, but the break between the esoteric and exoteric that the tear symbolises is more important than the particular, corporeal act.

    You haven’t really still responded to my basic points.

  34. My dear Wassexman, a universal physical principle is precisely what it has been recognized to be by every natural philosopher from Plato through Max Planck.

    It is that which has been experimentally demonstrated to be universally operative in every case.

    Examples include the spherical propagation of forces, as above. Others include, for example, the fact that non-living chemical processes are racemic, while biological chemical processes are not. It is a universal physical principle of nature, that living chemical processes are distinguished precisely by the fact that they produce only right-handed sugars and left-handed amino acids.

    These principles are quite important, and come to us directly from God Himself, Who Is their Direct Author.

  35. Wassexman, I have responded to all of your points, and I wish you well unless you have something new and interesting to add.

  36. You seem to have gone from talking about universal principles to universal physical principles. You seem just to be talking about physical facts. I disagree about the importance of knowing many of those like you mentioned (how many souls will they save?), but I don’t disagree if in what you mean by your idiosyncratic phrase. I would say the principles that really matter are the levels of reality, the truth and structure of the soul and Intellect, the principles of essence and substance and the truth of real qualities.

  37. You have not responded to the basic points about the negative assumptions that colour even the more empirical and operational sides of modern science and technology. Nor to the necessity and ability of man to try and pursue the modern level of development of quantitative and physical science and technology and a proper spiritual and sacred knowledge and culture. Nor that the Scripture is particularly interested in our developing this science in the ways moderns have. Nor that technology, or at least individual pieces of technology, is neutral in its development, interactions and effects.

  38. I mean those are principles aside from ones taken from revelation and Church teaching, of course.

  39. Since Capitalism is a zero sum game (i.e. only winning or losing is of any relevance), growth (or “winning”) is deemed to be essential. But the human perspective rightly questions the “why” of inexorable growth, and, as it turns out, the answer has to do with the motivations of those to whom the benefits of capitalism accrue -i.e. those who are able to capture the benefits of productivity. The emergence of new industries does occur due to technological advancement and productivity increase, but the emergence never occurs rapidly enough to defray the social and economic costs of dispossession and disenfranchisement, costs which are not calculated in neo-liberal economics. The question of why human life should be permitted to be constantly uprooted and transformed by technology and productivity is never asked, because capitalism presupposes this to be the opportunity cost of wealth generation. Also Presupposed is that that question of wealth generation for whom is verboten, that is, wealth is of equal social value in all hands. Essentially, the very idea of “society” is banished in neo-liberal economics, as a reification. The prospect of employment in a capitalist economy is a flaw which the exercise of scientific management works to eliminate. Or more directly, the ideal theoretical number of employees for any capitalist enterprise is zero. Job generation, that is, the engine of presumed wealth generation for anyone other than an “owner” is deemed a product of inefficiency whose presence is tolerated due to the current inability to escalate productivity gains quickly enough to obviate such jobs. This is why I have long felt that it is not the business of capitalism to generate wealth generally in the population, but for a specific class of people, entry into which is barred by the cost of entry. Distributism seeks to make all men owners, and that is a basic goal of Kinism, whose economics of family-based entrepreneurship and “mutualized” self-reliance is akin to Distributism. But the only path to that place is through the destruction of usury, which would mean the destruction of the U.S. economy as we know it, and a period of hardship unlike any we’ve seen in a generation.

  40. Why do you have to ruin good analysis with silly racial stuff? The racial and eugenics agenda is influenced by similar modern errors to the ones I brought up with Rick. No one in pre-modern civilisations thought about race in the terms of 19th century, scientistic , racial theories.

  41. It is your opinion that it is silly, an opinion I don’t happen to share. You cannot simply select pieces of a worldview that you like and discard the rest. The simple fact of the matter is that localism, and all that it implies, a return of rights to the family, both, mean that the immemorial unities of culture and kin will return, whether you want them to or not. Heterogeneity is a product of modernity, that is, the economic forces that uproot men. As a Distributist, I’m surprised you don’t yet understand this, irrespective of you knee jerk and thoroughly programmed reaction to all things “ethnic.”

  42. I read your site and found numerous references to scientistic, racial ideas. You even talk about the evils of racial intermarriage. It is the opinion of traditional Christian thought that the sort of scientistic assumptions supporting racialist thought is silly. What you are implying is that it is the material lump of DNA that is the overwhelmingly important aspect in cultural and social thought. There is no precedent for this in pre-modern Christianity.

    The history Medieval Christendom seems to suggest that a shared culture and limits to national feeling are perfectly acceptable. That said I certainly do support localism and regional and even national identity and see the nation state as usually the better form of government at this time. Hence one of the many reasons I as an Englishmen despise the European Union. However any legitimacy for national and ethnic identity has little to do with scientistic theories of race.