December 5, 2004

Sunday Meditation

"We live in an age whose chief moral value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the absolute liberty of personal volition, the power of each of us to choose what he or she believes, wants, needs, or must possess; our culturally most persuasive models of human freedom are unambiguously voluntarist and, in a rather debased and degraded way, Promethean; the will, we believe, is sovereign because unpremised, free because spontaneous, and this is the highest good. And a society that believes this must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular moral metaphysics: the unreality of any 'value' higher than choice, or of any transcendent Good ordering desire towards a higher end. Desire is free to propose, seize, accept or reject, want or not want -- but not to obey.

"Society must thus be secured against the intrusions of the Good, or of God, so that its citizens may determine their own lives by the choices they make from a universe of morally indifferent but variably desirable ends, unencumbered by any prior grammar of obligation or value (in America, we call this the 'wall of separation'). Hence the liberties that permit one to purchase lavender bed clothes, to gaze fervently at pornography, to become a Unitarian, to market popular celebrations of brutal violence, or to destroy one's unborn child are all equally intrinsically 'good' because all are expressions of an inalienable freedom of choice. But, of course, if the will determines itself only in and through such choices, free from any prevenient natural order, then it too is in itself nothing.

"And so, at the end of modernity, each of us who is true to the times stands facing not God, or the gods, or the Good beyond beings, but an abyss, over which presides the empty, inviolable authority of the individual will, whose impulses and decisions are their own moral index. "
-- David B. Hart: Christ and Nothing

Posted by Vanderleun at December 5, 2004 11:48 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

The modern secular state has not left the individual will unencumbered, though. It has exiled God, but it has not eliminated idols. Individuals still bend the knee to corporations, to celebrities, and to ideologies that promise everlasting peace and harmony, provided only that human nature not be consulted.

There are dangers in mixing God, or notions about God, with worldly politics, as history shows all too well. But for individuals to forgo the light of transcendence and choose only on the basis of what will most enhance the ego or satisfy intellectual vanity is to live in a house with no windows, only mirrors.

Posted by: Rick Darby at December 6, 2004 1:16 PM

It is the ultimate hubris for man to think that he is master of his own fate. He need merely glance up into the night sky, and staring into the infinite void, to realize how truly insignificant he is. Those who presume that order is the natural state of things fail to grasp the laws of physics, thermodynamics in particular. Chaos is the natural state of the universe, order can only come about as a result of Consciousness. And the ultimate Order, the source of the very laws which bind this reality together, must hence come from the ultimate consciousness, what we so obliquely refer to as "G-d." To deny the possibilty of a shaper of Order, is to deny the very laws which permit us to exist.

Posted by: Final Historian at December 6, 2004 2:31 PM

When I read something as profound and awe-inspiring as this, I can't help wondering, "Will I ever write anything that dense?" Sadly, this is usually followed by, "When is Survivor on next?"

Posted by: Uncle Mikey at December 6, 2004 3:37 PM