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Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Contents: Original Sin and Late Medieval Political Thought

To make navigation easier, I have decided it would be wise to add a content page, and fill it out as I go. You can find all the elements of my undergraduate thesis on this page and view it in independent order on this page. 

This work, the thesis itself, ended up a bit encyclopedic, and this harmed my grade, though I still did very well; still it permitted me to post this material in a sectional format that works perfectly for the blog. Pretty fortunate I suppose. 

The whole work asks what is the relationship between medieval political thought and original sin? And what are the consequences for peace and the formation of an effective polity? I hope some readers find fascinating answers to these questions in the text written.

Part 1: Introduction and Thomas Aquinas
Part 2: Marsilius of Padua and Dante Alighieri
Part 3: Humanism and Innovation Desiderius Erasmus, Christine Pizan, and Niccolo Machiavelli
Part 4: Thomas More
Part 5: Martin Luther and Conclusion

Original Sin and Late Medieval Political Thought #2


Hello, all. I will be posting over the next few weeks the results of my 2017 undergraduate thesis. The work focused on the relationship between the Christian concept of Original Sin and its relationship to political theory from the 13th to 16th centuries. My principal argument is that Original Sin plays both a conscious and sub-conscious role in the political thought of the middle ages, and re-enforced a natural understanding of human limitations in the political sphere serving as a natural inoculation against utopian thinking and high ideals that would emerge in more secularize thought.  Furthermore, Original Sin as a political concept played an important role in defining the limitations of peace as a concept and as a pragmatic ideal in medieval thought. If you see any issues with the arguments presented please bring them up to me in the comments as I I know the effort was sophomoric, and I could always use feedback. 

Likewise, my apologies in advance for its limited scope and lack of Nicholas of Cusa as a prominent example of the concepts focused upon. Sadly, this was a single semester project, and both Cusa as well as Richard Hooker, and King James I/VI. If you can forgive this oversight I feel you might have a genuinely enjoyable read on your hands.  

--Cole 
These same patterns [as found in Thomas Aquinas] begin to emerge as one considers the contributions of Marsilius of Padua in his book the Defender of the Peace and Dante Alighieri’s treatise De Monarchia. Both authors place a premium on two objects: virtue and Law. Both virtue and law accord with the search for peace and its manifestation in the political realm. One acts to cultivate man and align his will with the common good, and the other compels man and limits him because of the vicissitudes of his nature.  This relationship is further complicated by Historian Quinten Skinner who postulated that both men, as theorists, dissociated “philosophy and theology” as well as “nature and grace.”[i] This is a consequence of their antipathy toward the papacy, and places them not only direct opposition to Aquinas but allows for the authors to propose that mankind has additional ends outside of beatitude in God. Instead, man can engage in politics independent of faith for the purposes of securing peace and tranquility.

The argument Dante makes for peace begins with first an observation of man's two ends divine and earthly, corruptible and incorruptible. The two goals are earthly happiness and happiness in eternity each requiring its own respective leader and attained through specific virtues. The temporal goal is reached through cardinal virtues, and the eternal goal is reached through faith and the theological virtues.[ii] The path to the earthly end then begins with his assertion that the end of man resides in the potential actualization of the highest human activity. This activity by virtue of both nature, man’s naturally social character, and proximity to God is the social use of human reason.[iii] For this world of fulfilled intellectual potential, the reaching of this telos, universal peace is the ultimate means and precondition.[iv] For he does not conceive of anything less than a universal state “hence it is clear that universal peace is the best of those things which are ordained for our human happiness.”[v] Universal peace can enable man to maximize this faculty firstly because reason resides in the community; therefore, the potential for reason is greater in a greater community both in terms of unity and size. Secondly, unity is a quality of God and things united toward their ends by reference to the greater from the lesser are most like the character of God.[vi] 

To fulfil these demands Dante then exalts the men of the classical world and focuses on the absence of virtue in his contemporary man as a key failing in politics. It is implicit from the start that he believes that the nature of man is not only flexible, but flawed as he notes that it is imperative that “higher natur[ed]” men leave behind a legacy to posterity.[vii] If there is a higher nature there must be a lower and in this sense his contending with those who lack adequate virtue and jeopardize peace. Man is prone to dispute in his discourse; in order to rectify these continuing conflicts the proposition is that men naturally designated leaders of exceptional virtue to arbitrate between them.[viii] This is evident even in the narrowest society: the household where fathers take on this prerogative for the benefit of the family.[ix] The monarch, who is the solution to universal peace, illuminates the conundrum of human nature, for human beings including the monarch, are appetitive, and the will can be motivated and twisted by its desires. As a solution, the monarch is proposed to be not only highest in rule but provided with the greatest wealth and abundance of resources so he may covet nothing further.[x] Dante does not solve the problem of nature through character, though his ideal monarch has a virtuous character but rather by inundating the desires with commodities to satiate them. Unity with the will of God and the proper order of the universe cannot be achieved in one man, even if he is the monarch, but the unity could be found in a return to right if the people of the world place their trust in the proper authority: The Holy Roman Empire.

This groundwork for this conclusion is laid out in book two and confirmed in book three. These previously abstract considerations of the nature of man receive greater illumination in two arguments made by Dante. First, that politics only became necessary after the fall of man.[xi] This is briefly considered when arguing against the apologists for the pope's authority over the secular world.[xii] Furthermore, this argument is buttressed by the claim that, any error in the world, any flaw in “earthly things are flaws do to the material they are constituted.”[xiii] Secondly, that man showed himself to be flawed when he deviated from “true and pure right”[xiv] by renouncing the authority of the Roman Empire, the first universal monarchy, which has now in his contemporary time been divided schismatically between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.[xv] To assert this position first it must be demonstrated that the secular power can receive its authority directly from God. Dante does so by drawing on Virgil and Livy to demonstrate God’s favour toward the Roman emperor as universal monarch.[xvi] God’s will is directly evident in history through both the success of the Roman Empire and the incarnation. God willed the success of the Romans because they were the noblest people, at the end of a great chain of other empires whom they beat in a divinely judged contest between them. Each empire rose and fell in time, from east to west leading to a summation in Rome.[xvii] True confirmation of the approbation of God then is found in the incarnation and the events proceeding from scripture. For Christ chose Roman territory as the land of his birth and because Christ was born under the Roman law, God conferred his favour to Roman law.[xviii] In addition, the Roman law and empire preceded the incarnation indicating that the authority of Rome did not need the sanction of the Catholic Church and operated completely independently of the Church.[xix] To bring the argument into 14th century Europe Dante asserts the transmutation of the Roman prerogative to the Holy Roman Empire that serves as the inheritor of the Roman tradition. This is made evident by references both to the Donation of Constantine, and the crowning of Charlemagne and Otto the Great.[xx] The restoration of the emperor and empire with the relegation of the Church to its spiritual duties becomes the method to restore man's nature to righteousness by realigning it to the will of God in history.[xxi] This, to Dante, would have the further consequence of achieving man’s earthly end by establishing universal peace as the only means to absolutely fulfil man’s teleological potential.

Dante then exists in a tension with Aquinas, his predecessor. There are distinctions and continuities between the two. Both work within a scholastic framework and draw heavily on the works of Aristotle, but differences are immediately obvious both in relation to peace and the relation of the secular and spiritual powers. Aquinas remained vague on the question of the superiority of the spiritual and temporal powers, he subscribed to the theory of two swords, both in possession of the church in a literal sense, and openly called the church the higher power in relation to the temporal power.[xxii] Meanwhile, he does not explicitly state that the church may command the secular power, rather “the temporal sword should be unsheathed at the church’s bidding.”[xxiii] This statement leaves open a voluntary subordinate relationship which Dante rejected. Instead, he proposed that the Pope caused discord through his usurpation of the authority of the temporal ruler while remaining convinced that historical precedent reinforced the claim that the spiritual and temporal powers received their ends independently of one another and equally from God.[xxiv]

Moreover, they differed in another important respect: they saw different origins for discord in the polity. Aquinas traced warfare and rebellion, in their negative incarnations, to the relationship between man and the good, specifically the common good, in that man when he caused unrest in the political world did so out of a misguided notion of the good. His will to sin arose from a lack of virtue.[xxv] In opposition to this position, Dante despite taking a dim view of human nature, not unlike Thomas Hobbes, saw the political world as suffering from problems when there was no absolute sovereignty to resolve necessary disputes between political actors.[xxvi] Only when no higher appeal to authority could be made did Dante predict that a just and stable constitution would arise. That being said, both thinkers saw the highest good on the earth and available to man as the ability to exercise reason in a social context. In this way, they will both be set apart from the individuals who follow. 

It comes next to identify whether the same strains can be recognised in the Defender of the Peace by Marsilius of Padua. Marsilius certainly favoured law as the measure of political society but is their evidence of his determining its necessity based upon the fallen nature of man itself? If so this is him presenting the political world as a solution to the turning of man from God. The first thing to be noted about the Defender of the Peace is that it is principally an anti-papal tract[xxvii] that also attempts to assert the independence of the Italian Republican city states against projects like Dante’s De Monarchia that exchanged the vassalage of the Papacy for subordination to the empire.[xxviii] These considerations mean that Marsilius must identify new origins for the power of the city to exercise sovereignty and in turn he needs to show that independent government by “the faithful human legislator” can supplant the government of the Holy Roman Emperor and the Church while remaining efficacious at dealing with the fallen nature of mankind.[xxix] 

Marsilius begins his treatise by citing Cassiodorus who claimed that “every realm must desire tranquility,” for the purposes of prosperity, profit, multiplication of the human race, and resources.[xxx] This emphatic focus on the material world immediately sets the stage for the division of the human temporal world of politics and the spiritual world which belongs to the church. The aim of politics to Marsilius became “sufficiency of this life” originating in “peace and . . . tranquility.”[xxxi] To identify the origins of tranquility Marsilius suggests the examination of contraries by identifying the origins of intranquility. He asserts that the Italians lived rightly before they came into discord amongst themselves. This he portrays as a sickness of man identified by men of the philosophy of civil science, but it is chiefly the product of a prior unforeseen power. This power, later identified with the papacy, capitalized on the sickness of the Italian people to subjugate them further. In identifying this source, however, it becomes imperative then to find the source of the evil within the papal government, and identify why to Marsilius it asserts itself unjustly into the realm of civil government. 

Marsilius follows Aristotle and Plato in the assertion that man lives for man and has his origin as a complete person within the civil community.[xxxii] He is insightful, however, in that he first asserts that the civil order can never be completely free from disturbances caused by sophism.[xxxiii] Furthermore, he follows the assertion with a citation from James 4:17 that give great insight into the problem Marsilius faces, for “To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”[xxxiv] This opens the possibility that man's will is potentially contrary to the will of the good even when the good is known to him. St. Augustine makes the Christian notion abundantly clear when he combats the multiplicity of disobedient wills in his Confessions.[xxxv] If Marsilius was arguing along Platonic lines strictly then the axiomatic assumption would be that knowledge of the good leads to doing the good.[xxxvi] He explicitly states that he is dealing with a fallen man, when he argues “and [if Adam] had remained in this state [of innocence], the institution or differentiation of civil functions would not have been necessary.”[xxxvii] This recognition of the new fallen nature will be further corroborated in Marsilius condemnation of pretensions of the Church to a right to civil government, its simultaneous corruption, and his recommendation for the best political constitution. 

In identifying the Pope as the chief enemy of tranquility and asserting that the purview of the priestly class ought to be restricted to “instruction and education of men on the subject of . . . things according to the evangelical law, it is necessary to believe, do, or, omit.”[xxxviii] He challenged the Catholic Church’s de facto and de jure claims to authority; in doing so he envisioned a new more precisely defined order on earth where the two governments, the two sovereignties adhered to a strict division of powers. This attack originated in a reading of scripture as well as an analysis of the activities of the church and relative disharmony between what the church claimed belonged to it by virtue of its ecclesiastical institutions, and the way the men in these institutions actually behaved. To Marsilius, the men of the church could not govern with adequate character and needed subjection to human law because “deacons . . . priests [and] . . . bishops commit, many voluntary actions that . . . inconvenience or inju[re] . . . in the status of this worldly life.”[xxxix] Instead, just like the problematic temporal rulers they indulged in pride, avarice, and caprice.[xl] In opposition to the claims of authority, he attacked the throne of Peter by arguing that the keys only bound and loosed souls; he assaulted the doctrine of the two swords; he undermined the Donation of Constantine; he argued that church was not the Roman Church but alternatively, the body of believers; and furthermore he claimed that Christ himself never made any claim to the temporal power instead he remained obedient to secular authorities even and up until his passion.[xli] For these reasons Marsilius aimed to invalidate the authority of the Pope, who managed to secure his rule through, custom, opportunity, and fear.[xlii] 

The points made against the papacy are indicative of a larger problem, however. The body of the Church itself has been corrupted, and it has become unable to shepherd the souls of those most in need of salvation toward their spiritual end. This is part of the sinful nature of the Church, which is the source of discord and intraquility in Italy.[xliii] The Church itself has turned away from God and in turn away from the truth by concerning itself with things of the world, and will not assume its proper role until it can be stripped of all earthly jurisdiction, which is the source of its corruption.[xliv] This same corruption serves as the cause that will drive Marsilius toward his novel constitutional model whereby the sovereignty is held first by the people, not in an absolutely democratic sense, but an aristocratic sense regarding the “prevailing part,” and resides in the consent of the city as a whole.[xlv] It is a necessary inculcation against the nature of the individual man in the political realm, which has already received the modest end of the “sufficient-life.”[xlvi]

To rectify or at least ameliorate the hardships of temporal life and politics a new form of government is suggested. This new government is designed to rectify individual “perverted affection.”[xlvii] In so doing it may achieve harmonious, sufficient, and sovereign government. This is achieved by subordinating the legislator and sovereignty of a city to the assembled whole and will of that city defined as the “human legislator.”[xlviii] This is the only way that Marsilius can see to prevent the emergence of tyrannical government because “the prince, being human, has an intellect and a desire which can take on different forms . . . it is possible for him . . . to do things contrary . . . to the law.” The prince then needs “something else” to “measure or regulate him.”[xlix] Because even the leading most men in a community, no matter how virtuous, are still scarred by a fallen nature. However, by insisting upon the government of the community, and the many, in its own name, the government can adopt and capitalize on human wisdom expressed by the many.[l] In this way the city receives the most virtuous ruler as in “heroic times” and, in turn, it’s possible to justify its liberty.[li] This new model of sovereignty and jurisdiction permits each government the temporal and spiritual to realise its ends in concert with its nature, just as the ideal citizens each work as a part of a greater body politic;[lii] this model unites politics into a whole and recognizes its limits, and in turn the spiritual guidance of the papacy and the temporal government can both best fulfil their ends: guiding men to salvation and the sufficient life respectively. 

From these two inheritors of the scholastic tradition Dante and Marsilius, one can see two vastly different attitudes toward rectifying government and politics to the fallen nature of man. One proposes vast and universal ends that assign the intellect and rationality as the final cumulative end for mankind on earth ruled over by an absolute monarch in the form of the Holy Roman Emperor. The other seems to envision a popular sovereignty[liii] that restricts itself to the local will of the “human legislator” and the sufficient life. Despite these differences, both argue for a secular authority independent of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, contrary to the writings of Aquinas, and propose instead two ends for mankind a spiritual and temporal.[liv] In concurrence, they both assert that the claims of the Pope to temporal power is a corrupting influence upon the institution of the Catholic Church and argue instead that the spiritual ends of man can only be achieved when the eyes of the Church turn from earth back towards God. In this way, these two medieval thinkers represent a growing tradition of limiting and designating ends for the ephemeral political realm that differ qualitatively from what can be achieved in the eternal.

The upcoming week will focus on various exmaples of Humanist thought and quasi modern theories. The Figures include Erasmus, Christine Pizan, and Niccolo Machiavelli.


[i] Quentin Skinner, The Foundations of Modern Political Thought, vol. 1 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1978), 17-18. [ii] Dante Alighieri, De Monarchia, Trans. Prue Shaw (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 92. [iii] Alighieri, De Monarchia, 6-7, [iv] Ibid., 6-8. [v] Ibid., 8. [vi] Ibid., 13. [vii] Ibid., 3. [viii] Ibid., 8, 10-11. [ix] Ibid., 10. [x] Ibid., 18. [xi] Ibid., 71. [xii] Ibid., 69. [xiii] Ibid., 32. [xiv] Ibid., 33. [xv] Ibid., 62, 64, 66. [xvi] Ibid., 34. [xvii] Ibid., 34, 49-52. [xviii] Ibid., 59. [xix] Ibid., 87. [xx] Ibid., 80-81, 83-84. [xxi] Ibid., 92. [xxii] Aquinas, On Law, 182-183, 196. [xxiii] Ibid., 196. [xxiv] Alighieri, De Monarchia, 92 [xxv] Aquinas, On Law, 178, 188-189. [xxvi] Hobbes, Leviathan, 115, 213-214, 216-217; Alighieri, De Monarchia, 4, 10, 17-19. [xxvii] Ryan, On Politics, 273; J.S Mclelland, A History of Western Political Thought (London, UK: Routledge, 1996), 137. [xxviii] Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 18. [xxix] Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, trans. Annabel Brett (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 159. [xxx] Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, 3 [xxxi] Ibid., 3. [xxxii] Leo Strauss, The City and Man (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1978), 13-14, 16-17, 107-108. [xxxiii] Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, 6-7. [xxxiv] "The General Epistle of James," in Holy Bible (The Bible League, 1769), 4:17. [xxxv]St. Augustine, The Confessions, trans. Henry Chadwick (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008), 148-150, VII (22-25). [xxxvi] Plato, The Republic of Plato, trans. Allan Bloom, 2nd ed. (New York: Basic Books, 1991), 381c; Plato, "Meno," in Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Meno, Gorgias, Menexenus, trans. R.E Allen, vol. 1, The Dialogues of Plato (New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, 1984), 77c-77e, 88a-89a; Plato, Dialogues of Plato: Gorgias, 460a-460c. [xxxvii] Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, 31. [xxxviii] Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, 35. [xxxix] Ibid., 150. [xl] Ibid., 134-135, 464-465. [xli] Ibid., 162-164. [xlii] Ibid., 134, 139, 142-143. [xliii] Ibid., 135. [xliv] Ibid., 142, 162-163, 246-247. [xlv] Ibid., 66-67, 73, 76. [xlvi] Ibid., 3. [xlvii] Ibid., 56-57. [xlviii] Ibid., 51, 62. [xlix] Ibid., 124. [l] Ibid., 74-76. [li] Ibid., 5, 44, 117. [lii] Ibid., 12-13, 127-128. [liii] Skinner, Foundations of Modern Political Thought, 61, 65. [liv] Alighieri, De Monarchia, 92; Marsilius Of Padua, The Defender of the Peace, 3, 35

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Original Sin and Late Medieval Political Thought #1



Hello, all. I will be posting over the next few weeks the results of my 2017 undergraduate thesis. The work focused on the relationship between the Christian concept of Original Sin and its relationship to political theory from the 13th to 16th centuries. My principal argument is that Original Sin plays both a conscious and sub-conscious role in the political thought of the middle ages, and re-enforced a natural understanding of human limitations in the political sphere serving as a natural inoculation against utopian thinking and high ideals that would emerge in more secularize thought.  Furthermore, Original Sin as a political concept played an important role in defining the limitations of peace as a concept and as a pragmatic ideal in medieval thought. If you see any issues with the arguments presented please bring them up to me in the comments as I I know the effort was sophomoric, and I could always use feedback. 

Likewise, my apologies in advance for its limited scope and lack of Nicholas of Cusa as a prominent example of the concepts focused upon. Sadly, this was a single semester project, and both Cusa as well as Richard Hooker, and King James I/VI. If you can forgive this oversight I feel you might have a genuinely enjoyable read on your hands.  

--Cole 

The Human Condition and the Prospect of Peace in Late Medieval Political Thought


Political thinking in the late middle ages had an immensely Christian character that imparted its theological premises on politics itself as is evident in the political philosophy of the thinkers Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, Marsilius of Padua, Thomas More, and Martin Luther. Despite an interlude where humanist thinking brought forth some elements of a more malleable nature in man, this understanding of the permanence of sin in man, as a mark upon his creation in absolute goodness did not disappear. Instead, it seems imperative to understand that man, as understood by late medieval thinkers was because of original sin, not a properly natural man, rather he was fallen man; political theorist Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddin asserted that the need for politics can be understood as a direct consequence of the fall.[i] In adopting this paradigm late medieval political thought in relation to expectations regarding the attainability of peace can be more clearly understood. Likewise, questions regarding the aims of politics, and their relative modesty or immodesty can be brought into clarity. Late medieval political thought in this way can be understood as attempting to reckon with a unique and complex political problem, which will better inform one's understanding of political thought throughout the period and political expectations as a result. 

The first authors to be considered are Thomas Aquinas, Dante Alighieri, and Marsilius of Padua. Each author is representative of late medieval political thought, and each is similar in that they relied on the scholastic method to make their claims. The scholastic method originated with the discovery of Aristotle’s writing in the 1250’s and the subsequent translation into Latin by William of Moerbeke[ii] who’s translation would serve as the basis for the work of Thomas Aquinas; as a result of this synthesis the propositions of the Greek political thought became complicated by a new monotheistic end and a new nature of man.

Due to Thomas Aquinas introducing this new monotheistic system to the methodology of Aristotle, to understand Thomas Aquinas in relation to peace, one must first understand the origin of politics as Aquinas perceived them. To Aquinas, the first precept of natural law is to “seek good, and shun evil.”[iii] This first precept, however, is incomplete without the administration of justice, which itself cannot be practiced outside the political community because the political community binds us in stable relation with one another and provides the means to administer justice as properly understood by Aquinas.[iv] This is encapsulated in his definition of justice which states “justice is the habit whereby one with a constant and perpetual will renders to others what is due to them.”[v] This is necessarily political justice, by virtue of the other, Aquinas elevates the persons beyond their individual pursuit of virtue and their particular interest and directs them toward a new good: the common good, alternatively described as happiness.[vi] Moreover, the common good is the authoritative good insofar as it permits for coercion both in the facilitation of virtue, and the protection of the political community. The capacity to enforce the law by promulgation and execution is what divides the political community from all other communities and defines its unique character. This is most obviously contrasted to the practice of ruling the family. This rule lacks the character of law in that it pertains to particulars and is not enforced in a uniform fashion due to the family being a single being and subject to paternal justice.[vii] Meanwhile, within the political realm, this capacity for coercion and authority extends to the purposes of uniformly “induc[ing] subjects to . . . virtue.”[viii]

This seeking of the good, which is living in harmony with the natural order prescribed by God, and living in comity with the will of God is a necessary element of human flourishing; human flourishing that encompasses the best of human life. To Aquinas, people live as virtuously as they are able, but only reach the truest and most perfect blessedness or summation of human happiness through union with God who’s will they attempt to abide by in the political realm.[ix] This will of God is the eternal law, which is expressed by the natural law; the natural law being the law of reason, in which human beings due to their rational nature participate in.[x] Yet, adherence to the natural law lacks, because human nature lacks,[xi] and therefore its precepts, touched through Synderesis and understood through reason, require application to the necessarily contingent circumstances of the human world.[xii] This human world possesses the potential for happiness in the cultivation and exercise of the individual human virtues: moderation, courage, justice, and practical wisdom, but it is justice and its political nature that serves to guide these individual virtues, and justice can be considered the virtue of a citizen not necessarily a virtue of the individual. In this way, it is not “identical with all virtue” because it directs the other virtues that themselves terminate in the common good.[xiii] This places specific demands upon the rulers who uphold the political order that enables and facilitates the flourishing of these virtues under the auspices of justice as exercised through human law; primarily, this obligation to virtues requires that they rule in the interest of those they govern, and take upon themselves the responsibility of inculcating and educating those who participate in the community so that they are most able to pursue the common good.[xiv] This is the origin of the human law and the subject of politics. 

If politics is natural and peace is natural then by necessity the things that disturb peace will be unnatural; in this case, then it becomes pertinent to identify how exactly the peace is disturbed in political communities.[xv] In the case of war, Aquinas subscribes to a just war theory that receives its positive sanction from the intention of the ruler, the authority of the ruler, and the cause of the war.[xvi] In this case, peace is the superior of war and it is by virtue of securing peace that states ought to go to war.[xvii] Just war is initially defined by a reaction on behalf of the common good, and the key to its justice for the individual is that the sword is not taken up on his own behalf but in the name of the common good.[xviii] This is one of the key instances where he draws a line between the private individual and those who have authority. The evil of violence does not come from the those who commit violence necessarily, but those who commit it as private persons, not deferring to those who have been assigned the role of judgment and decision, that natural leaders who act as arbitrators are stewards on behalf of the common good.[xix] 

War then for Aquinas in a complex fashion originates within, for its first genesis is within the sinful soul of a person whose intention is to secure their desires or has succumbed to sinful compulsion to harm others by acting as a judge in in their own case.[xx] For the war exists to punish sinners against their will who have done wrong to the whole. In this case then the sinner is stimulated by his will and compelled by it, indicating the sinner is sinning by free choice and has determined it is to his advantage to subject what is not naturally his own, to his own will, while also neglecting to air his grievances to the appropriate authority.[xxi] This is the origin of war within the disordered soul succumbing to sin. 

Yet, war also comes from without, for the invader has placed himself beyond the common good by bypassing the proper authority of the ruler as an arbitrator and sought to act in his own interest.[xxii] He is different from the warrior who takes up the sword rightly insofar as the one who fights with good intent, under legitimate authority, for the defence of the common good does so with the approbation of God and the law.[xxiii] Furthermore, the soul of the sinner is being sentenced by the sword in that it is for the benefit of the sinner that he dies and faces his judgment under God, and if the sinner does not die by the hand of an enemy he dies the worst death in his own soul when he truly perishes.[xxiv] These linkages demonstrate that to Aquinas there cannot be a war that originates within the natural political community, but within man’s fallen nature and his will’s impulsion toward sin and his acceptance of it. This further binds the political thinking of Aquinas to the notion that the political community is inexorably linked to the good of its subjects and the good of mankind in general. Virtue is paramount, for the proper character does not make war, but knows how to rectify himself to the common good via proper channels under law.[xxv] To Aquinas, the soul and politics are inseparable and will be explicated further in his thoughts on rebellion, for they are qualitatively alike. 

Rebellion, and disobedience, to Aquinas, are mortal sins in direct contradiction with one of the highest virtues for they violate and attack the common good.[xxvi] Human beings are obliged to obey others based upon the understanding that some are closer to the divine will. These individuals are higher and designated to move the lower in the direction of God’s will.[xxvii] Yet a potential for valid disobedience remains. For the system to breakdown justice itself must breakdown and this is exactly what Aquinas tells us when he informs one that “human beings are obliged to obey secular rulers insofar as the order of justice requires.” He then provides the example of a usurper and the ruler who “command[s] unjust things.”[xxviii] This then is the ruler, who being an absolute tyrant rebels against the common good, as rebellion as commonly understood is the rebellion against the common good and divine order, which is as wrong for the subject as it is for rulers.[xxix] Aquinas then defines rebellion as a mortal sin meriting punishment, and if the people topple a ruler, who by ruling against the common good, is himself in rebellion their action becomes valid. In the case of rebellion then, the ruler rebels, and is himself acting in sin, which is an inward force motivating him to pursue his own good at the expense of the common as Aquinas states “discord from what is clearly good cannot happen without sin.”[xxx]

    

[i] Erik Ritter Von Kuehnelt-Leddin, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Times (Auburn, AL: Mises Institute, 2014), 92-94.
[ii] Nicolai Rubenstein, “The History of the Word Politicus in Early-Modern Europe,” In The Languages of Political Theory in Early-Modern Europe, Ed. by Anthony Pagden. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 41. 
[iii] Thomas Aquinas, On Law, Morality, and Politics, ed. William P. Baumgarth, trans. Richard J. Regan (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 2002), 43.
[iv] Aquinas, On Law, 108.
[v] Ibid., 106. 
[vi] Ibid., 13, 103.
[vii] Ibid., 103-104.
[viii] Ibid., 27, 29, 164.
[ix] Ibid., 20-21.
[x] Ibid., 18.
[xi] Aquinas, On Law, 20; Alan Ryan, On politics: a History of Political Thought From Herodotus to the Present (New York: Liveright Pub. Corp., 2012), 240. 
[xii] Ibid., 2, 18-19.
[xiii] Ibid., 113.
[xiv] Ibid., 189, 200, 202-203. 
[xv] Ibid., 165.
[xvi] Ibid., 165.
[xvii] Ibid., 166. 
[xviii] Ibid., 166.
[xix] Ibid., 166, 168.
[xx] Ibid., 165, 189.
[xxi] Ibid., 14, 165.
[xxii] Ibid., 167-168.
[xxiii] Ibid., 166.
[xxiv] Ibid., 166.
[xxv] Ibid., 58-60, 173-174. 
[xxvi] Ibid., 188-189.
[xxvii] Ibid., 174, 177.
[xxviii] Ibid., 185.
[xxix] Ibid., 185, 206.
[xxx] Ibid., 189. 
The upcoming week will focus on two prominent Italian thinkers of the early Humanist period of the late 14th Century. Marsilius of Padua and Dante Alighieri. 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

A Thought About the Truth of Discriminatory Policing (Anecdote)

I see it often suggested that Law Enforcement is by nature racist. I doubt this presumption. However, working in the Security field as an agent of a public institution in Canada and as a quasi Provincial employee responsible for the safety and the security of property and people at certain government buildings, I hear this accusation of 'racism' and being 'racist' fairly often. It probably does not help that like many people involved in this line of work I am white man between the ages of 18 and 30 who shaves his head. These have been interpreted periodically as markers of affiliation between myself and racialist groups.

Now, one thing that escapes public perception much too often is that this type of work centres around what I will divide into two roles, though it is not limited to two roles. The first is proactive work and the second is reactive. Now because most law enforcement and quasi-law enforcement agencies, as well as private security firms, have relatively limited resources in contrast to their responsibilities they must inevitably rely a great deal on reactive measures. Furthermore, acting in a reactive capacity generates a feeling of confidence and security for patrons who are served by these bodies. That means that more often than not these groups, which will be colloquially referred to as law-enforcement though they are not only law enforcement, are typically responding to calls for service. These calls are generated by the community at large. If they go unanswered confidence in the law-enforcement plummets.

Now, back to racism. many times these law-enforcement responses are labeled racist when the interactions are between minority communities and the often mono-ethnic law enforcement. This is typically not the case. Ignoring the fact that minority communities, due to poverty, or countless other factors are often responsible for more criminality. In Canada, for example, Aboriginal homicide is often driven by Aboriginal criminality and the killer is known to the victim. Or in the African American community in the United States drives its own sky high incarceration rate and murder rate. Given this uncomfortable data sets please allow me to note that I am not trying to make a personal indictment of all First-Nations or Black people in North America. The majority are law abiding and good people, which should go without saying. In further response to these claims, I am instead going to give a composite anecdote that frames a somewhat typical racists interaction.

What I am arguing is that much of the discrimination in Law-Enforcement can be regarded as generated through calls for service. What typically happens on any given day in my workplace is a call received in this case lets say a suspicious Aboriginal male. A description is provided and we go look for that person in the last known location often with a degree of skepticism. We will then locate the often young man and inquire as to why we were called as typically no real reason for concern is provided unless its an obvious disturbance or intoxication issue. The subject on the receiving end of this uncomfortable inquiry will be asked to identify himself have his name searched in a database, and his reason for being in the area confirmed. This is humiliating and uncomfortable for the subject as well as uncomfortable for the officer, who in my case tends to be skeptical of the call in the first place. The subject then at some point typically responds with 'are you talking to me because I am brown?'  When we receive a call I am obligated to respond regardless of how trivial. I did not stop you arbitrarily. I stopped you to speak with you because someone else called out of concern legitimate or not. This is often greeted by one of two things either 'what the fuck that is racist' or 'oh, that makes sense.' Either way, after the interaction, concludes myself and the other gentleman will go his own way, and the officers will proceed to bitch in private about the stupidity, naivety, or prejudice of the caller who saw it necessary to call in someone guilty of walking while brown. 

Another example of this is, we had a call regarding 'suspicious persons' aboriginal in this case, and sleeping and making a mess in a public area. We responded, and it turned out it was a couple which I had passed earlier with no regard, this couple was in the public area with a baby and all the associated paraphernalia involved in taking care of an infant. Both the man and the woman looked poor, but not dirty or disruptive nor were they doing anything of concern. I spoke to them, and they notified me they had been moved from a private area earlier, but were in the area for a family member. Fine, I went my own way and apologized for the disturbing their day. 

WE RECEIVED FOUR MORE CALLS ABOUT THE SAME COUPLE. And, again, because we have to respond to every call for service, at least in my instance, this same family was approached again and again throughout the same morning with the same apology. This is, insofar as I am aware, the typical interaction in a nutshell. 

I am not so naive to deny that people abuse authority or are not racially prejudiced, but to describe this as the norm seems folly. 

Just my two cents. 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Canada, Tradition, and Government

The wonderful Canadian traditionalist site Northern Dawn has published an essay of mine. This essay entitled Canada, Tradition, and Government was written as part of their Canada 150 Symposium. It aims to contribute to a dialogue around the question of Canada, 'who are we?' It does this by exploring some philosophical elements surrounding the differences between conservative and liberal theories of government, and how those ideas have impacted Canada over the last 150 years. I implore all interested readers to check it out along with all the other wonderful contributions to Canadain traditionalist thought on the site. 

--Cole 

Thursday, 20 July 2017

We Are All Liberals Now

Hi everyone this is a repost from now defunct site TheeWesterner. I thought I had lost the essay, but it happened to still be on my hard drive. I am not sure I agree with the conclusion any longer, but the premises and the insights are still valuable. Either way, it's, here for your pleasure or pain. 


I have been meaning to discuss the topic of the myth of political diversity for some time. In Canada, we have three major parties, the NDP, The Liberal Party, and The Conservative Party. These are the only parties that remain capable of forming government. It has been my personal contention for a great deal of time, that these parties all represent in some ways the liberal currents of our society, in fact, we are all liberals now.

This is a site about political opinion, and I am by no means, an authority at the present time, but having recently completed significant research on political philosophy, I am going to offer a tentative definition, of what exactly defines politics. I hope though personalised my definition is adequate for my own analysis: I contended that politics is the application of ‘ethics’ to the organisation and pursuit of the well being of the community. This is not far off how Aristotle conceived of politics: politics being the communities’ rational pursuit of excellence and the authoritative good, and like Aristotle, I contend that politics is both natural and based on the community as the unit of analysis.

In contrast to the current paradigm, Aristotle conceived of politics in a teleological fashion. Teleology essentially states, that everything in existence has an identifiable Telos or end, which may be discovered through rational inquiry about its nature. For example, an Acorn's Telos is to grow into an Oak. Teleology, which was later adopted by church thinkers, was rejected by the English liberals, particularly Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, and it is these two thinkers which define how we conceive of modern politics. It’s not that Lockean and Hobbesian thinking is the only paradigm that currently exists, but rather that socialism and anarchism, and other political movements derive their frame of reference from the initial premises of the English liberals. By basing our political considerations off the work of the English liberals we all fall victim to the trap of liberalism in a fashion, and this is unsurprising in a democracy, whereby individuals easily succumb to the notion that they are entitled to self-actualization through a conception that places the utmost value on materialism or commodity and autonomy.

In modern politics, the first error, of which all are guilty, is the notion that the individual is the unit of analysis when thinking politically, and our relation to the community is firstly defined and conceptualised as a part of the framework of individualism and autonomy. The individual precedes the community.

In the classical political understanding of the Scholastics, the community precedes the individual and our identity is formed and fostered in such as way as to be inseparable from our obligation and duty as well as natural affiliation to the Commonwealth. The state of nature theorists, Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau directly refuted this concept by asserting that we are pre-political and independent, we can and do thrive or fail on an independent basis and engage in politics as an instrumental calculus whereby benefit to the individual and their prosperity is the measure of political value.

Our modern conservative party considers politics this way. It induces us, by virtue of our democracy, through incentives such as more direct representation, reduced taxes, child care subsidies, and greater criminal enforcement (to protect our lives and estates); this is not controversial thinking instead it is thinking based on the minimal amount of individual inconvenience, and the maximum amount of freedom, while avoiding value judgments that might impinge upon the autonomy of the voter. Rarely now do we hear of backbenchers rallying to condemn abortion, prostitution, drug reform, or support marriage reform in any significant sense, not only because these issues are toxic to the mind that considers individual autonomy the predominant political value, but also because they cannot make such claims and have realized the limits of their political philosophy within the modernist framework (more on this later).

Meanwhile, our liberal party needs very little examination. We already know that Canada’s liberal party is and remains hostile to tradition in this country: it abolished the Dominion’s Red Ensign; it continues to liberalize social policy; it brought us closer to the United States at the expense of the British and French connection, and facilitates multiculturalism hostile to the history of this country. The liberal party likewise, will not countenance the restriction of freedom, but rather, through John Kekes’ liberal faith, advocates for the idea that human nature is essentially good, and therefore any behaviour that seems patently evil cannot occur as a result of individual irresponsibility.

The NDP follows the same script. It deviates however due to its economic prescriptivism, the one area, where political value judgments can be made: the sphere of economic inequity. Economic inequity, however, is a concern not of justice in any ethical sense, but rather derives its significance from the emphasis placed on acquisition that found its initial voice in both Hobbes and Locke, who in absence of considerations of virtue, saw property and commodity as the definitive ends of politics.

Finally, and critically for any considerations of legitimate political conservatism, the modern political conception, cannot abide ethical judgments, our politics experiences a paucity of value. This is a direct consequence of both pluralism and relativism, which have their direct antecedents in the rejection of both natural and theological teleology and Platonic considerations of eternity. These prior classical models of politics understood that humanity could, and indeed should, determine what is best for the community. Such judgments now are verboten, at least in any substantive sense.

Certainly, conservatives still maintain that we have, and may continue to have a sense of right and wrong, but how do we make such a case in the political sphere? Locke’s materialism worked, according to Irving Kristol, because it was built upon a foundation of Republican Virtue derived from scripture. Scripture in much of the early modern era still remained a potent moral guide and authority in the lives of westerners. But without this broad adherence to the same value structure, individuals cannot agree to the constitution of the good in a political community. Only a natural teleology can inform us of how to direct ourselves in political life with any authority, but this is an antiquated idea.

What does that leave for conservatives then? It leaves tradition, but this creates a considerable issue because traditions are both localised, subject to evolution, and necessarily interpretive. Conservatives are beholden to a shifting anchor. They must strategize about what traditions to advocate for, but this historical traditionalism is rootless and subject to generational change. Those who reject this, or long for a specific era, are simply not conservatives, but reactionaries. Therefore, if politics is not reactionary or classical it is liberal. 

Friday, 30 June 2017

What Liberals Won't Tell You About Divorce

Does that graph above you indicate anything funny to you?

I'll tell you what it says just in case; the common liberal refrain is that 'divorce has been falling since the 1980's.' What the bigger picture above tells you is that divorce has actually been on an extreme ascent since 1968 in Canada.

Really since the 1980s divorce has been on a decline because marriage, the red line on the line chart, has been on the decline. There has been no precipitous drop in the divorce rate. It is still hundreds of percentage points higher then it was before defacto no fault divorce came in during the late 1960s with the Canada Divorce act

Divorce was under 1% of all marriages in 1926. The year between 1968 to 1969 divorces rose 230% think about the level of social change that entails and you begin to see why marriage reform is necessary in this country. The decline in marriage and the growing divorce rate is the most catastrophic social change that has ever occurred in the western world. It correlates with huge increases, in poverty, crime, family dysfunction, mental health problems, and even worse through entitlement programs a reliance and dependence upon the state.