Having a little extra time this Sunday, I’ve taken Edward Feser’s thinking from his post The Socialist State as an Occasionalist God and added a few links to dictionary definitions of the terms to help myself understand his reasoning (perhaps I’ll be accused of ‘Jesus-smuggling’).
As a layman predisposed to philosophical skepticism, I’m sympathetic to the idea of well, examining ideas with skepticism. I wouldn’t call myself a believer, really. I tend to see myself as walking around the edges of secular humanism, liberal idealism and American pragmatism. Additionally, I’m trying to put the current American political landscape into some context, as well as the unfolding logic found within much Romantic, Modern, & Postmodern schools of thought.
I prefer conservation and slow change as regards many current legal and social battles (closer to Constitutionalism), but am a pretty live-and-let-live guy.
Here’s Feser logic as best as I’ve understood it in about an hour or so (I’m bound to get some things wrong).
Feser borrows from this paper:
The linked parts are what I’ve filled in, coming directly from dictionary definitions, and the rest comes from Feser’s post. I basically just swapped out ‘God’ for ‘The State’ to extend Feser’s analogy in the bottom portion:
Pantheism: Pantheism is the belief that reality is identical with divinity, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, transcendent god. Pantheist belief does not recognize a distinct personal God.
Occasionalism: God alone has causal efficacy, and the apparent causal power of created things is illusory.
Concurrentism: God not only conserves things in existence, but also must concur or cooperate with their activity if they are to have any efficacy.
Conservationism: Created things not only have causal power, but exercise it completely independently of God.
Atheism: Atheism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities.
Now Feser applies these concepts to certain political orders (more or less, swapping out ((God(s))) for ((The State)) or ((God)) for ((Modern Concepts of Political Order)), to extend his analogy.
Totalitarian Socialism: The belief that reality is identical with Statism, or that all-things compose an all-encompassing, transcendent State. Totalitarian socialist belief would not recognize a distinct personal State.
Occasionalism (Socialism): The State alone has causal efficacy, and the apparent causal power of created things is illusory.
Concurrentism (Natural Law): The State not only conserves things in existence, but also must concur or cooperate with (individuals’, things’?) activity if it is to have any efficacy.
Conservationism (Libertarianism): Created things (individuals?) not only have causal power, but exercise it completely independently of The State.
Anarcho-Capitalism: Anarcho-capitalism is, in the broadest sense, an absence of belief in the existence of States. Less broadly, anarcho-capitalism is a rejection of the belief that any States exist. In an even narrower sense, anarcho-capitalism is specifically the position that there are no States.
Let me know what I may have gotten wrong, or what you think Feser may be getting wrong.
Please be advised that what follows is a rat’s maze of gathered links and thoughts. Enter at your own risk.
I’ve always loved this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote (or my idea of the quote, anyways):
‘I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.’
This morning I had the thought that the minimalist/deflationist response might be:
Simon Blackburn, speaking at the University of Toronto, discusses the minimalist or deflationist view:
‘Along comes someone like Pilate, Pontius Pilate, and says something like: ‘What is truth?’ and everybody goes sort of dizzy, and you look to the philosopher to provide a suitably abstract and highfalutin answer. The minimalist says you shouldn’t answer Pilate, or rather, if you answer Pilate, you answer should take the form of a question…which is “What are you interested in?’
So basically, you throw the question ‘What is truth?’ back until the person who’s interlocuting you… gives you an example and says ‘Well, I’m interested in whether penguins fly’ and you say ‘Okay well the truth there…the truth would consist in penguins flying…’
…that’s very disappointing:’
Blackburn on Richard Rorty here.
From Kelley Ross, who takes a step back from moral relativism and good ‘ol American Pragmatism:
‘It is characteristic of all forms of relativism that they wish to preserve for themselves the very principles that they seek to deny to others. Thus, relativism basically presents itself as a true doctrine, which means that it will logically exclude its opposites (absolutism or objectivism), but what it actually says is that no doctrines can logically exclude their opposites. It wants for itself the very thing (objectivity) that it denies exists. Logically this is called “self-referential inconsistency,” which means that you are inconsistent when it comes to considering what you are actually doing yourself. More familiarly, that is called wanting to “have your cake and eat it too.” Someone who advocates relativism, then, may just have a problem recognizing how their doctrine applies to themselves’
And on Richard Rorty:
‘Pragmatism is really just a kind of relativism; and, as with Protagoras’s own strategy, it is a smoke screen for the questions that ultimately must be asked about what it means that something is “better,” or now that something “works.” Something “works,” indeed, if it gets us what we want — or what Richard Rorty wants. But why should we want that? Again, the smoke screen puts off the fatal moment when we have to consider what is true about what is actually good, desirable, worthy, beneficial, etc. All these responses are diversions that attempt to obscure and prevent the examination of the assumptions that stand behind the views of people like Rorty. It is easier to believe what you believe if it is never even called into question, and that is just as true of academic philosophers like Rorty as it is for anybody else. Being intelligent or well educated does not mean that you are necessarily more aware of yourself, what you do, or the implications of what you believe. That is why the Delphic Precept, “Know Thyself” (Gnôthi seautón) is just as important now as ever.’
This Wendell Berry quote, from on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”, has stayed with me:
‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’
Please do keep in mind Wendell Berry is NOT going to buy a computer.
Hmmm….he’s a little out there, but Alexander Stoddart’s a classicist, working in a medium with less immediacy but long pedigree:
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Thanks to a reader.
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