Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Heavenly Despot Exempt from Natural Law

Article 5. Whether the natural law can be changed? (…)

Objection 2. Further, the slaying of the innocent, adultery, and theft are against the natural law. But we find these things changed by God: as when God commanded Abraham to slay his innocent son (Genesis 22:2); and when he ordered the Jews to borrow and purloin the vessels of the Egyptians (Exodus 12:35); and when He commanded Osee to take to himself "a wife of fornications" (Hosea 1:2). Therefore the natural law can be changed. (…)

Reply to Objection 2. All men alike, both guilty and innocent, die the death of nature: which death of nature is inflicted by the power of God on account of original sin, according to 1 Samuel 2:6: "The Lord killeth and maketh alive." Consequently, by the command of God, death can be inflicted on any man, guilty or innocent, without any injustice whatever. In like manner adultery is intercourse with another's wife; who is allotted to him by the law emanating from God. Consequently intercourse with any woman, by the command of God, is neither adultery nor fornication. The same applies to theft, which is the taking of another's property. For whatever is taken by the command of God, to Whom all things belong, is not taken against the will of its owner, whereas it is in this that theft consists. Nor is it only in human things, that whatever is commanded by God is right; but also in natural things, whatever is done by God, is, in some way, natural, as stated in the I, 105, 6, ad 1. (…)

(Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas) 

I respect the Peripatetic part of Thomism but abhor its Christian part. The twisted logic of this argument would be similar if the Government were substituted for God. We have often heard that it is not theft when the Government does it (taxation), it is not murder when the Government does it (wars of aggression, executions of innocent people) and it is not fraud when the Government does it (paper money, the Fed). Thus, the logic of religious savagery and the logic of modern statism are pretty much the same. 


Reasonsjester said...

Your objections to Aquinas' Christian disposition on Natural Law brings up an interesting deep philosophical point, one that I would like to see you pursue, if given the time and motivation. What are the linkages between religion and the modern state (meaning post Louis XIV, but perhaps there is a better marking point) at the level of concepts? Does the sovereignty of the state stand as a proxy for the majesty of God? And God for the parent, at the psychosocial level?

Reaganx said...

I would argue that, if reason is abandoned, one seeks to invent a mystical entity that "does the thinking" for him and tells him what to do. It's quite clear that, just as God, the government is seen as a powerful magician capable of turning stone into bread. At the root of both phenomena is the rejection of the law of identity - i.e. the belief in magic, either explicit (as in religion) or implicit and hidden (as in statism).

Reasonsjester said...

It is ironic that the neomarxist Max Horkheimer argues that the paternal authority of the traditional family leads to "The Authoritarian Personality," which, being unable to resolve the Freudian conflict between loving and hating the father, worships a patriarchal God and the State instead. But it is not the traditional family that is the problem, or a Freudian complex being played out, in regards to the average citizen's obeisance to authority (both real and imaginary) in society, but rather the lack of critical thinking and rationality that leads to a poorly developed ego, and the immaturity that ensues from embracing the ethic of altruism. A man must be a man in full, having both his own spine with which to stand firmly on (correct) moral principles, and rational respect for the rights of other individuals. The conflict that is the child versus his father is merely a matter of growing up that every man must work through himself and overcome. It is not the "deep philosophy" that makes men worship the State, though the argument that it is a contributing factor to his worshiping God is more convincing, and perhaps more suitable to application to those societies not founded on rational-legal orders (I find the neomarxist argument that The Enlightenment is a kind of religious manifestation only half-correct and a bit wanting).