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The Return Of Humpty-Dumpty

July 3, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By JOHN YOUNG

Some people claim that a thing may be true for them but not for me: Their truth may not be my truth. Further, marriage can be anything people want it to be. Going further, they claim there are no sexual norms applicable in all cases. Going further still, they maintain that the notion of male and female must be abandoned in favor of fluid sexuality.
A Rip Van Winkle who woke up today might assume that, while clearly insane, these people were also extremely democratic, in that they allowed all opinions to be held. We know, of course, that the opposite is true: If all opinions are assumed to be equal, some are seen to be much more equal than others.
So there is increasing persecution of those whose views are judged to be politically incorrect, with governments and judges condemning them. Yet the outlawed views are sanity, and have been recognized as such through the ages.
How did Western society get to this point? There are various factors, but I believe the fundamental one is the abandonment of sane philosophy.
In the seventeenth century, René Descartes, dissatisfied with current philosophy, set himself to reconstruct philosophy from the foundations. He started by methodically doubting everything that he thought could be doubted, until he came to his famous principle cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am.
But this was no basis on which to build a philosophy, and the result of his attempt to achieve certainty was widespread skepticism among philosophers. Many other factors contributed to this, with the result that the philosophical edifice built up from the time of the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Plato and Aristotle, was shattered.
More recently the philosophies of post-modernism and deconstructionism have added to the confusion, denying that things have intelligible natures which we can know, and claiming that we are immersed in an ever-changing flow of fragments, with no objective intelligibility for the mind to grasp.
Proponents of blind evolution, with no Supreme Intelligence guiding the process, have contributed greatly to the intellectual disarray confronting us. Also the wonderful achievements of modern science have led to the mistaken assumption that the highest form of knowledge is that attained by empirical science: an assumption that implicitly rules out not only sacred theology but any philosophical knowledge of the nature of things.
The result is nominalism: the view that terms such as man or tree or common good or beauty are really just names we give to individual things that seem to resemble each other. So we have no universal principles by which we can make judgments, for there are no fixed natures.
Applying this to marriage, the conclusion is that the union of one man and one woman for life, ordered toward the procreation and education of children, is simply a human arrangement, not something natural and unchangeable. Nor has sexual desire any fixed end, but may be satisfied between two men or two women or with an animal.
The corollary of so-called same-sex marriage is not that marriage is seen more broadly than in the traditional understanding, but that the understanding of marriage has been obliterated, for it is seen so broadly that it really has no content.
There is a principle in Scholastic philosophy: “that which can be all does be none.” This applies particularly to the obscure potency known as primary matter, which refers to the underlying potentiality in all material things. But to take a more everyday example, plasticine of itself has no fixed shape: It can be any shape — we can form it into a pyramid, or make it circular or square.
Now applying this to the fluid concepts just mentioned, they are so vague and changeable that they lack definite content; and can mean pretty much whatever we choose to make them mean. What passes for intellectual discussion today resembles the attitude of Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass: “‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I want it to mean, neither more nor less’.”
That insane scenario would be bad enough if it were confined to a small number of eccentric individuals, but the disturbing fact is that it is taking over the intellectual environment in schools and universities, and is being peddled by the media. And the almost incredible thing is that it is being imposed on the whole population by those in powerful positions, and backed up by civil “laws.”
In the fairy tale, after Humpty Dumpty had his great fall, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men were unable to put him together again. But what they were unable to achieve has now been accomplished by the modern intelligentsia, aided by the modern media and a corrupt legal system.
Of course it is not simply a matter of intellectual errors. The moral basis is a more profound cause: the fanatical urge to promote immoral behavior, driven by the subconscious awareness that such behavior is profoundly inhuman, is the force behind today’s activism, with its dictatorial silencing of anyone who defends a sane view of reality. Uneasy consciences are at the heart of the problem.
But the very fact that things are so bad is paradoxically a reason for optimism. There will inevitably be a strong reaction, and let us hope in the not distant future. There is already a renewed interest in the wisdom of the past and in the legacy from Plato and Aristotle to St. Thomas Aquinas and his modern followers.
Edward Feser, with his acute and devastating critiques of today’s “new atheists,” is a prominent example of a thinker combating the modern errors.
The morally corrupt practices being forced on society today must from their very nature lead to great unhappiness, and this will provoke a healthy reaction, particularly as parents see the kind of world in which their children are growing up. Whatever the immediate future holds, I believe we can be moderately optimistic about the longer term.

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