Great Chesterton excerpt on the relationship of history to economics

The truth is that the mere economic motive would never have produced anything like what we call the history of men; even if it produced something like the history of mice. Even if we merely think that men have behaved too much like mice, we shall in fact find that some notion of moral order was behind their action; was behind even their inaction. We may think we can prove their inaction to be servile, to be superstitious; the one thing we cannot prove it to be is materialistic; or even economic.

(source: History Is Humanity)

Cultivate, cultivate, cultivate

Is it not true that what we call “nature” in a cosmic sense has its origin in “a plan of love and truth”? The world “is not the product of any necessity whatsoever, nor of blind fate or chance… The world proceeds from the free will of God; he wanted to make his creatures share in his being, in his intelligence, and in his goodness.”[ix] The Book of Genesis, in its very first pages, points to the wise design of the cosmos: it comes forth from God’s mind and finds its culmination in man and woman, made in the image and likeness of the Creator to “fill the earth” and to “have dominion over” it as “stewards” of God himself (cf. Gen 1:28). The harmony between the Creator, mankind and the created world, as described by Sacred Scripture, was disrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve, by man and woman, who wanted to take the place of God and refused to acknowledge that they were his creatures. As a result, the work of “exercising dominion” over the earth, “tilling it and keeping it,” was also disrupted, and conflict arose within and between mankind and the rest of creation (cf. Gen 3:17‒19). Human beings let themselves be mastered by selfishness; they misunderstood the meaning of God’s command and exploited creation out of a desire to exercise absolute domination over it. But the true meaning of God’s original command, as the Book of Genesis clearly shows, was not a simple conferral of authority, but rather a summons to responsibility. The wisdom of the ancients had recognized that nature is not at our disposal as “a heap of scattered refuse.”[x] Biblical Revelation made us see that nature is a gift of the Creator, who gave it an inbuilt order and enabled man to draw from it the principles needed to “till it and keep it” (cf. Gen. 2:15).[xi] Everything that exists belongs to God, who has entrusted it to man, albeit not for his arbitrary use. Once man, instead of acting as God’s co-worker, sets himself up in place of God, he ends up provoking a rebellion on the part of nature, “which is more tyrannized than governed by him.”[xii] Man thus has a duty to exercise responsible stewardship over creation, to care for it and to cultivate it.[xiii]

(source: If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation | Humanum Review)

How’s this for a book jacket blurb?

The best introduction to the spirit of St. Thomas is, to my mind, the small book by G. K. Chesterton, St. Thomas Aquinas. [10] This is not a scholarly work in the proper sense of the word; it might be called journalistic—for which reason I am somewhat chary about recommending it. Maisie Ward, co-owner of the British-American publishing firm which publishes the book, writes in her biography of Chesterton [11] that at the time her house published it, she was seized by a slight anxiety. However, she goes on to say, Étienne Gilson read it and commented: “Chesterton makes one despair. I have been studying St. Thomas all my life and I could never have written such a book.” Still troubled by the ambiguity of this comment, Maisie Ward asked Gilson once more for his verdict on the Chesterton book. This time he expressed himself in unmistakable terms: “I consider it as being, without possible comparison, the best book ever written on St. Thomas. . . . Everybody will no doubt admit that it is a ‘clever’ book, but the few readers who have spent twenty or thirty years in studying St. Thomas Aquinas, and who, perhaps, have themselves published two or three volumes on the subject, cannot fail to perceive that the so-called ‘wit’ of Chesterton has put their scholarship to shame. . . . He has said all that which they were more or less clumsily attempting to express in academic formulas.” Thus Gilson. I think this praise somewhat exaggerated; but at any rate I need feel no great embarrassment about recommending an “unscholarly” book.

(source: St. Thomas Aquinas and the Thirteenth Century | Josef Pieper)

Turn, turn, turn….

The hagiographies of science are full of paeans to the self-correcting, self-healing nature of the enterprise. But if raw results are so often false, the filtering mechanisms so ineffective, and the self-correcting mechanisms so compromised and slow, then science’s approach to truth may not even be monotonic. That is, past theories, now “refuted” by evidence and replaced with new approaches, may be closer to the truth than what we think now. Such regress has happened before: In the nineteenth century, the (correct) vitamin C deficiency theory of scurvy was replaced by the false belief that scurvy was caused by proximity to spoiled foods. Many ancient astronomers believed the heliocentric model of the solar system before it was supplanted by the geocentric theory of Ptolemy. The Whiggish view of scientific history is so dominant today that this possibility is spoken of only in hushed whispers, but ours is a world in which things once known can be lost and buried.

(source: Scientific Regress by William A. Wilson)

The Unexpected (to Me) Return of White Racism

the-most-iconic-parts-from-martin-luther-kings-i-have-a-dream-speech

Twenty or ten or even a few years ago, I thought white racism was a radically diminished factor in American life. Obviously it is not now. Was I wrong all along? Or did it decline and come back? I would argue for the latter, given that the new racism is so different from the old. But that’s not a hill I’d die on, either. I could be persuaded that I was simply insensitive to what was there below the surface.

Perhaps it doesn’t really matter. The present is never identical with the past but always grows out of it in some way.

These thoughts are prompted by Kevin Williamson’s outstanding defense today of his outstanding article on why many white working class communities are dying and can’t be saved by any possible means. He says today:

Conservatives thought so highly of Cosby for saying these things that when he was accused of rape, the New York Post protested that he was being “crucified for being conservative.” When the allegations first started coming out, Rush claimed that they were getting media play only because Cosby had enraged liberals by insisting that black men “start accepting responsibility.” Jerome Corsi, Trumpkin extraordinaire, fell over himself with praise for Cosby, whose speech had gone “against the grain of politically correct rhetoric that defines white racism as the cause and black inequality as the result.” (Conservatives of this stripe are big on being “politically incorrect” — about blacks.) Sean Hannity joined in.

Black man tells black underclass to get its act together, he’s a hero to white conservatives. White man tells white underclass to get its act together, different story. If you wanted to know whether white identity politics inspired by Donald Trump is going to be as foolish and morally reprehensible as black identity politics inspired by Al Sharpton, there’s your answer.

Houston, we have a white racism problem.

I think it really does come down to a choice between modern, liberal constitutional democracy or the abyss.

I keep coming back to Allan Bloom on this. The big question he was really posing was simply: Must liberal democracy destroy itself? And the context he sought to provide for the question was twofold. 1) If it does, we do not seem to be capable any longer of generating any other kind of humane social order; if liberal democracy does destroy itself, the only alternative seems to be totalitarianism. You can say (as I do) that this is because the great tradition culminated in modern, liberal democracy and cannot now be found outside it, or you can say (as Bloom did) that the great tradition died because we became aware that we could choose between many traditions and thus none of the traditions can now function for us as a tradition. In the end perhaps they’re two ways of saying the same thing. 2) Our minds have been shaped for a century by a radical European thought tradition that takes for granted liberal democracy must destroy itself, and we are now so deep in this thought tradition that we are not aware of the alternatives. Thus the American mind has become “closed” to even the possibility of the American experiment, and we cannot think freely again until we recover some awareness of why people found that experiment plausible in the first place, so we can evaluate for ourselves whether they were right.

Interesting times to live in. It will be fascinating, though not necessarily fun, to see what the Lord has for us next.