Sunday, September 26, 2021

Be Not Afraid

 I remember a two volume set of the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas among the Great Books collection of the canon of Western Civilization in my parents' house.  As a young man of 12 or 13, I attempted to read from these two volumes and found them too dense for me to comprehend at the time.  I should have attempted to read Aquinas at a later time, but I was too busy.  Too bad for me.  But fortunately, others have taken on Aquinas, and we have a book report on his efforts at The Federalist by Casey Chalk entitled Recovering Our Common Sense Means Rediscovering The Divine.

As Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., argues in his Thomistic Common Sense: The Philosophy of Being and the Development of Doctrine — recently translated by Matthew K. Minerd — common sense is only coherent if it derives from a specifically Aristotelian-Thomistic understanding of being. That might sound esoteric, but the basic outline of Garrigou-Lagrange’s argument is not.
What Thomistic philosophy is describing is the nature of reality itself. The nature of being, of substance, of what the French call raison d’être or purpose of being. As Chalk points out:
This might seem all fairly straightforward, but much of modern philosophy since the Enlightenment has rejected it. Immanuel Kant rejected raison d’être as entirely subjective because of his rejection of all knowledge originating in being. Rene Descartes — who authored the famous phrase cogito ergo sum — believed our intellect knows itself before it knows being. The pantheist Baruch Spinoza rejected free will because our wills are determined in some ways.
This obscuring of reality instead of clarifying it is ultimately the sin of breaking the First Commandment:
Thus philosophy in our own day is understood not as something that clarifies reality, but obscures it. Writes Garrigou-Lagrange 100 years ago: “How many times, after leaving the courses of the Sorbonne, did the judgment of Saint Paul concerning the philosophers of his times come back to our own mind … ‘Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man.’”
Most Americans understandably look askance at philosophy as arcane nonsense, all the while drawing haphazardly from utilitarianism, materialism, moral relativism, and various other modern and postmodern systems, in order to make sense of life. Intellectual coherency matters little.
To all of this, Garrigou-Lagrange would retort: “Nothing is intelligible except in function of being.” In other words, inasmuch as any of us actually employ our common sense, we rely upon the same ideas articulated by Aristotle and his medieval interpreter Thomas Aquinas.
In abandoning reality, modern philosophy has made many decisions more complicated. Now, men believe they can simply will themselves to be women and vice versa. Indeed, men believe in a new god called the State.  And the State is all about power for itself, which definitely defies the First Commandment.  Look at the scare porn the state media constantly puts out in order to convince you to believe things that are unscientific and therefore untrue.  If you did not believe them, they would have to convince you to obey by more forceful means, which is what they are doing now with forced vaccination and universal masking.

Here, the book of Daniel shows the way to resist.  The first thing to do is not be afraid.  They want to scare you with, as H.L. Mencken, an endless series of hobgoblins, mostly imaginary.  Do not succumb.  Next, continue to pray and to worship God, as Daniel did.  Defy them when the insist you should pray to the state.  The state wants you to believe your life depends on them.  But it does not.  As always, God gave you your life, and he invested human life with certain unalienable rights, and only God has the right to take that life away. 

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