Saturday, May 28, 2005

Forbidding Falsity, Outlawing Objective Judgment

Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., Professor of Political Philosophy at Georgetown University tackles the leftist First Church of St. Dowd (Secular), finding it irrational and tautological:
Today, the only popularly acknowledged public "heretics" are those who think that there is such a thing as truth and that we can come close to explaining what it is. The only "heretics," in other words, are the orthodox who think that truth is the truth in all ages and is the basis of our freedom. The prevailing opinion, one might say, the culture, maintains that there can be no truth, so that any claim that there is or might be is itself upsetting to the polity. It is to be looked upon as dangerous. To hold the truth, even that there be a truth, has become a "fanatical" position. Sanity is pictured as insane.

Needless to say, the view that it is true that nothing is true – that all, in other words, is relative – is itself a contradictory dogma whose truth we wonder about. . .

Is the effort to state what heresy is itself "heretical?" Clearly not. It is the other side of the burden and delight of truth. To have a "church" which does not claim to know what the truth is, or in which all truth is up for grabs, or which does not make any effort to reject what is not true, is to have not a Church but the modern world. These are the lines of battle. It is, I suspect, heresy to doubt it.
Father Schall also rates dogmatic secularism useless, because it lacks the language to distinguish good from evil or even success from failure:
When Thomas Aquinas asserted the spiritual liberty of man," Chesterton remarked, again in Heretics, "he created all the bad novels in the circulating libraries" (p. 144). By the same token, he created all the heresies found in the popular and academic press. It is not the function of the Church to "suppress" heresies, any more than it is to clear the bad novels out of the public libraries. But it is its function to know and proclaim the difference between what is heretical and what is true, just as it is not the function of the critics, while letting both exist, to call lousy novels great.
Post-modern thinking is chock-full of contradictions. Though wrapped in seemingly sophisticated analysis, post-modernism actually frustrates formal logic: If everything's relative, nothing's relevant. If judgment is disfavored, choice is impossible. If falsification and objectivity are irrelevant to outcome, persuasion and compromise are impossible.

For all their verbal fireworks, post-modern secularists are poor debaters. Smugly certain of outcome -- America's minorities face pervasive discrimination; gay partners deserve the "bennies" of heterosexuals; the environmental sky is falling -- they proffer overbroad answers, twist everything into a constitutional dispute, and shun actual data. As a result, they transgress equal protection (affirmative action) in order to save it, federalize gay marriage instead of tinkering with Social Security and military pensions, and continue to cry wolf despite 35 years of dramatic reductions in pollution. And, like a religion, post-modernism has its own sins and heretics.

Still, new-age secularism doesn't precisely mimic Judeo-Christian faiths. By evading falsification, outlawing objectivity and forbidding judgment, post-modernism passed-up one aspect of old-time religion. But it's nothing to proud of, says Father Schall:
The crisis of our time would be much greater if the Church, as so many of its critics and not a few of its sophisticated members seem to desire, abdicated its function of pursuing and judging the truth of things, including the divine and human things handed down to it to keep present before our eyes and minds wherever we be, whenever we be.
(via True Grit)

No comments: