Just look at him. Would you trust this man with a razor?
While I compose my response to Dan’s provocative post, the more cerebral will enjoy reading this reflection from Michael Brendan Dougherty on some dangerous tendencies in certain quarters to romanticize the High Middle Ages and blame all our problems on Ockham and Luther. For those who are interested in such historical/philosophical questions, it’s worth the read just for the part about “medieval hipster ironies.” More broadly, the warning against “reverse Whiggism” is much needed. My long-term interest in drawing on John Locke as a moral and cultural resource (while being mindful of his theological and metaphysical limitations) is all of a piece with this. And so, in a broader sense, is the moral consensus idea.
Moral consensus stands against both optimistic and pessimistic Whiggisms. The thing they have in common is elevating some past historical moment (the Glorious Revolution and the American founding on one side, the High Middle Ages on the other side) as a great historical culmination, the ultimate manifestation of the moral law (and even the gospel) in the social order. A central insight of the moral conensus view, which traces its roots through Augustine, is that human civilization is always a realm of compromise – is always a place of moral/spiritual edification and failure simultaneously – such that no particular social order or cultural situation is ever a final destination or moral entelechy. There is no end zone for the moral/spiritual development of human civilization; there is only the best compromise available in each situation.
Hmm. Maybe I’ve already composed my response to Dan after all!