Saturday 1st November 2014

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

The Destruction Of Morality

August 14, 2014 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

We are witnessing today, particularly in the Western world, the wholesale destruction of moral values. It is not just that people have gone astray in the application of true principles, while still accepting the principles.
For instance, if I engage in some petty pilfering from my employer this doesn’t necessarily imply that I think stealing is moral. I may be sure that stealing is wrong, but kid myself that I’m not really stealing in this case — perhaps I tell myself the boss is underpaying me, so I’m entitled to make up the difference.
What we are confronted with in modern society is a radical rejection of basic moral principles. And these are rejected because the very nature of reality is questioned or denied. God’s existence, or at least His involvement, is dismissed: which means the world is left unexplained, with no fundamental reason why things should be this way rather than that. All is assumed to be due to blind evolution.
So fixed principles rooted in an intelligible natural order are dissolved into a flow of ever-changing phenomena. There is no such thing, for example, as human nature with fixed laws of behavior. It makes no sense, in this scenario, to speak of marriage as a permanent institution embedded in human nature, or to say that sexual pleasure is only morally good when conformed to an unchanging and unchangeable standard based in the very essence of man, or to insist that abortion or euthanasia is always morally wrong.
From this denial of fixed natures it follows that there may be many “genders,” not just male and female. (Notice that the word gender has largely supplanted the word sex. From being a grammatical term, comprising masculine, feminine, and neuter, it has became a substitute for the word sex. So the message is subtly conveyed that this is a matter of custom and convention. Even many realists with acute awareness of language manipulation have fallen into the trap of speaking in this way.)
With intelligibility abolished, rationality is replaced by feeling and fixity by flux. Tolerance becomes the keynote, for everyone has a right to choose as he pleases.
But then comes the paradox. If you oppose this alleged freedom, its proponents will denounce you for your intolerance. If you claim that homosexual acts are evil, you will be branded a homophobe. If you say the preborn baby has an inalienable right to life, you will be condemned as an enemy of women.
The causes of the present malaise are complex, but I want to glance at its erroneous philosophical underpinnings. The French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) had a vital part, although he certainly didn’t intend what followed. But his methodical skepticism, intended to be a tool in the rebuilding of philosophy from its foundations, resulted in widespread confusion among thinkers who lacked an understanding of the perennial philosophy endorsed by the Catholic Church. After Descartes things went from bad to worse.
A key figure was David Hume (1711-1776), who thought we can’t know anything beyond what our senses convey to us. When we form what we regard as universal principles, this is only because our experience hasn’t found any exceptions. We have no more insight into causes and effects than dogs or cats have.
Morality was seen by Hume as a matter of taste and sentiment, not something objective and independent of our feelings. He defined virtue as: “Whatever mental action or quality gives to a spectator the pleasing sentiment of approbation”(An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals, appendix one). He held the Epicurean belief that pleasure is the highest good. He states: “Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them” (A Treatise of Human Nature, book II, part 3, section 3).
Alleged proofs of God’s existence are invalid because our knowledge, for Hume, is confined to physical phenomena. He taught a pure phenomenalism: All we know is a stream of sensations and emotions and their further elaborations and combinations within us.
David Hume has had an enormous influence. So we find Bertrand Russell in the 20th century contending that “the difference between mind and matter is merely one of arrangement” (My Philosophical Development, p. 139).
In Europe in the 20th century, John-Paul Sartre fascinated many intellectuals with his atheistic existentialism. He argued that life has no meaning except such meaning as we choose to give it. There are no objective standards, no God from whom we can ask for help.
Today we have postmodernism, which exhibits a confusing variety of forms. In general it is skeptical about our capacity to attain truth. It denies that things have fixed natures and it asserts there are no firm grounds for saying we have a knowledge of the world.
Jacques Derrida, a leading figure in postmodernism, claims that words and ideas have meaning through their relation to other words and ideas, and these through relation to yet others, and the meanings are constantly shifting. We cannot attain a stable underlying reality upon which to ground our views.
The above paragraphs indicate briefly how false principles over the last few centuries have led to dangerous philosophies today. The effect has been to deprive the thinking of many people, especially the university educated, of any foundation in reality.
There’s no God; no objective meaning to the world (or if there is we can’t know it); no fixed moral principles; no permanent institutions such as marriage. All is assumed to be the result of blind evolution.
What is the solution? We must do our part to promote sanity, and an essential project here is the promotion of sound philosophy: the perennial philosophy whose greatest exponent is St Thomas Aquinas.
The very bankruptcy of so much modern thinking will surely bring a reaction — let us hope sooner rather than later. Similarly, as the deadly programs being pushed today are unmasked by their fruits, there is bound to be a revolt against them.
In the 18th century Immanuel Kant (who himself, despite his good intentions, shares some of the blame for the current confusion) was worried about the empiricism of Hume and the skepticism arising from it.
He wrote: “Whether with the terrible overthrow of the chief branches of knowledge, human reason will escape better, and will not rather become irrecoverably involved in this destruction of all knowledge, so that from the same principles a universal skepticism should follow (affecting, indeed, only the learned), this I will leave everyone to judge for himself” (Critique of Practical Reason, first part, book I, chapter 1, section 2).
Kant’s fears have been realized; and with the spread of education it affects all classes.

+    +    +

(John Young is a graduate of the Aquinas Academy in Sydney, Australia, and has taught philosophy in four seminaries. His book The Scope of Philosophy was published by Gracewing Publishers in England in 2010. He has been a frequent contributor to The Wanderer on theological issues since 1977.)

Share Button

Comment on this Article:

Cardinal says church under Pope Francis is a ‘rudderless ship’

VATICAN CITY (RNS) American Cardinal Raymond Burke, the feisty former archbishop of St. Louis who has emerged as the face of the opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda, likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder” in a…Continue Reading

Angola: Catholic Priest Refutes Criticism of Church Practices

Lubango — The Southern Huila province?s Lubango city emeritus archbishop, Zacarias Kamwenho, rejected as false the claim that Catholic Christians worship images. Speaking on Sunday in the Muxima Diocese, in Lubango, the archbishop explained that Catholic Christians worship God instead,…Continue Reading

Ave Maria School of Law Wins Its HHS Mandate Case in Federal Court

The Obama Administration has suffered another defeat in its quest to force Catholics and people of faith to pay for abortion-causing drugs, as required by the HHS Mandate. Today the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida came down…Continue Reading

Catholic Educators Appeal to Obama Administration for Relief from HHS Mandate

Today a coalition including The Cardinal Newman Society, leaders of Catholic schools and colleges, and the expert attorneys of the Alliance Defending Freedom told the Obama administration that its latest rule mandating insurance coverage for sterilization and contraception, including abortion-causing…Continue Reading

Toronto schools hosting ‘LGBTQ’ conference for students as young as 11

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) is hosting three student conferences within the span of eight days for the purpose of LGBTQ activism.  The conferences, which have been organized in collaboration with Jer’s Vision, will take place on October 28,…Continue Reading

The Synod and the Media: Culpable Naïveté or Shrewd Calculation?

Upon becoming director of media relations for the American bishops in late 1969, I quickly made a crucial discovery about my new employers. With just a handful of exceptions, the bishops were painfully naïve about the news business, yet convinced…Continue Reading

Chaldean Catholic patriarch suspends 10 priests, including 1 from El Cajon

SAN DIEGO – The head of the Chaldean Catholic Church has suspended 10 priests, including one from El Cajon. Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako issued a decree a month ago, demanding the priests return to Iraq or be suspended. Wednesday…Continue Reading

Retired Pope Says Interreligious Dialogue No Substitute For Mission

VATICAN CITY – Retired Pope Benedict XVI said dialogue with other religions is no substitute for spreading the Gospel to non-Christian cultures, and warned against relativistic ideas of religious truth as “lethal to faith.” He also said the true motivation…Continue Reading

California Forces Churches to Directly Fund Abortions, Churches Refuse to Comply

To the dismay of California’s people of faith, the California Department of Managed Health Care has reclassified abortion as a “basic health service” under the Affordable Care Act and ordered all insurance plans in the state to begin covering surgical…Continue Reading

Relax. God’s Still In Charge.

It’s an enormous challenge to maintain pristine doctrinal purity while at the same time respond to the experiential, personal, and difficult needs of married couples and families. Behind every arcane discussion of gradualism and natural law there are parents and…Continue Reading

Cardinal Burke: The “Relatio Synodi” Is “A Significant Improvement Over The Text Of The ‘Relatio Post Disceptationem'”

In a third short interview with CWR, conducted by e-mail late yesterday, Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, offers his impression of the Relatio Synodi, comments on reports that the Synod has…Continue Reading

Synod Final Document Reaffirms Church Teaching

The final document of the Extraordinary Synod was released Saturday as the Synod Fathers voted to approve all 62 paragraphs, but with three paragraphs not receiving the normally required two-thirds majority vote. The three paragraphs, which in the past would…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our new website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for over 145 years in our weekly print edition. Now we are introducing the online daily version of our print journal.


  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to subscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
 
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 145 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.

 
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

'From our friends at The Foundry'


Today . . .

Pope At Mass: Christian Life Is A Continuous Battle Against The Devil

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis described Christian life as a continuous battle being waged against Satan, the world and the passions of the flesh. His comments came during his homily at Mass celebrated on Thursday morning at the Santa Marta residence. He stressed that the devil exists and we must fight against him with the armour of truth. Pope Francis’s reflections…Continue Reading

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI Writes Personal Ordinariate Of Our Lady Of Walsingham

ben1

(Vatican Radio) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has sent a message to the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, which was established for former Anglicans in England in 2011.  The message was on the fifth anniversary of Pope Benedict’s apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, which was released on November 4th 2009. The Pope Emeritus was responding to a letter he received…Continue Reading

Pope At Audience: The Church Visible And Spiritual

pope650

(Vatican Radio)  “Often, we hear people say: the Church doesn’t do this …the Church doesn’t do that!’ ‘Tell me who is the Church? – ‘Well the Church is the priests, the bishops, the Pope …’ We are all the Church! All of us all of us Baptized! We are the Church, the Church of Jesus’”. This was the message at…Continue Reading

Pope At Angelus: Love Of God And Neighbour Are Inseparable

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis prayed the Angelus with pilgrims and tourists gathered in St Peter’s Square beneath the window of the Papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on Sunday. In remarks ahead of the traditional prayer of Marian devotion, the Holy Father offered some reflections on the Gospel reading of the day, which was taken from Gospel…Continue Reading

Culture Of Life 101 . . . “Does Contraception Lead To Abortion?”

By BRIAN CLOWES Part 2 (Editor’s Note: Brian Clowes has been director of research and training at Human Life International since 1995. For an electronic copy of chapter 21 of The Facts of Life, “Contraception,” e-mail him at bclowes@hli.org.) + + + We have seen that contraception fails frequently and so often leads to abortion.…Continue Reading

Pass-Fail Grading: For The Professors’ Benefit?

By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK S.M. writes to offer some observations about the proposal to introduce a “pass-fail” grading system for freshmen at Princeton University. The possibility of doing that was discussed in the October 9 edition of First Teachers. He sees the idea as a “form of grade inflation that is solely intended to accomplish…Continue Reading

Contemporary Culture Encapsulated In A Single Sentence

By DONALD DeMARCO It is remarkable how much a single sentence can reveal about the temper of a culture, even when its author is trying to be withholding. Jacalyn Duffin, a historian and practicing hematologist, is the author of History of Medicine (University of Toronto Press, 2000). It is a 243-page tome that was produced…Continue Reading

Synod Document Of October 13, 2014

By JOHN F. KIPPLEY (Editor’s Note: John F. Kippley is the author of Sex and the Marriage Covenant: A Basis for Morality and other books and articles. With his wife Sheila, he is a coauthor of Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach and cofounder of NFP International. This commentary appeared on his blog [johnkippley.com] of…Continue Reading

Elite Judges Think The Highest Judge Never Will End Their Misrule

By DEXTER DUGGAN Today people worry about globe-trotting terrorists, the transmission of the deadly Ebola virus, and the way contagions can cross borders when the government insists borders must be open for everyone’s alleged benefit. Meanwhile, unaccountable U.S. judges continue their contagion of immorality, as if God’s judgment never will come, maybe in little germs,…Continue Reading

Advertisement

Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

Editor’s Note: Regarding our recent column on advanced medical directives and particularly the Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST), A.M.V. of Florida writes to say that the American Life League provides individuals with a document called the “Loving Will,” which corresponds to Catholic teaching. She said that this document was “crucial with my mom’s situation” when she was admitted…Continue Reading

Temples Of The Holy Spirit

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Feast Of The Dedication Of St. John Lateran In Rome Readings: Ezek. 47:1-2, 8-9, 12 1 Cor. 3:9c-11, 16-17 John 2:13-22 Today we celebrate the feast of the dedication of a church building that many people have never heard of and also have no idea of its significance. In Rome, there are four major basilicas; the…Continue Reading

Message Of The Extraordinary Synod Of Bishops . . . We Ask You To Walk With Us Toward The Next Synod

(Editor’s Note: Below is the text of the concluding message of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, held October 5-19. This message was released on October 18. (See Fr. Kevin M. Cusick’s column in this issue, p. 2B, and the front page for reporting and commentary on the separate final document of the Extraordinary Synod.) + + +…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Redefining Marriage: Not About The Kids And The Picket Fence

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK Following the Extraordinary Synod and the rollback on confusing language about same-sex attraction and the divorced and remarried in the final version of the Relatio Synodi document, the predictable reactions are coming in. Those who continue to hold Church teaching that marriage is only between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots,” while…Continue Reading

Debunking The Sola Scriptura Myth… True Tradition And False “Tradition”

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM Part 4 A classical objection: What Catholics call the “Apostolic Tradition” is just a human tradition, which Jesus clearly condemned in the Gospel, when He said to the Pharisees, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?…So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the…Continue Reading

Cast A Gauntlet – Sola Scriptura: Part 1

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Wolfgang

By CAROLE BRESLIN October 31 has come to be yet another Christian holy day corrupted by our secular society. All Hallows Eve, Halloween, is now celebrated with emphasis on evil and horror. Corn mazes with frightening objects around the corner, haunted houses to terrify even the bravest of persons, glorification of vampires, and decorations of death and witches — these…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes . . . St. Anthony Mary Claret

By CAROLE BRESLIN St. Anthony Mary Claret has something in common with at least three other saints. Like St. Peter Claver, he was born in northeastern Spain — over 200 years later. Like St. Pio of Pietrelcina, when he heard Confessions, he frequently could read the souls of the penitents, asking them about a sin that they had not confessed.…Continue Reading

A Powerful Weapon: 15 Quotes on the Holy Rosary

We live in evil times. I hardly need elaborate the multitude of crises that fill the globe. Sadly, many are being swept away by this flood of evil and are succumbing to an overwhelming anxiety and discouragement. But no matter how tempting it is, we must not shrink back. We must pray and fast with a living faith and a firm confidence—and there is no better way to…Continue Reading

12 Ways to Become a Committed Catholic Man

There is a Catholic “man-crisis.” Large numbers of men who were baptized Catholic have left the Church and the majority of those who remain are “Casual Catholic Men”, men who do not know the Catholic faith and don’t practice it. This large-scale failure of Catholic men to commit themselves to Jesus Christ and His Church has contributed to the accelerating…Continue Reading