NB: All previous chapters can be found .
Natural Law offers both a foundation for and complications to libertarian theory and the non-aggression principle. In this chapter, I will summarize the issues as presented until this point.
For any of this to make sense to the reader, one must buy into this idea that all beings are made with a purpose – an end, a telos. One must buy into the idea that man has an end – an end he cannot choose, but must discover; inherently, this means an objective “end” – objective values for which humans are to aim.
If you don’t buy into this even after what has been presented thus far, that’s fine. But then quit talking about the objective value of non-aggression: don’t hit first; don’t take my stuff. Without buying into the idea that there are objective values for man which we are to discover, there is no reason to buy into this objective value as one that is absolute. Just accept that the left (including self-contradictory left-libertarians) has won (ethical values are subjective), and go home quietly.
For those who remain…it is worth spending time summarizing what has been covered regarding man’s end or purpose, the objectives that must be kept in focus when one is looking to discover natural law. This was identified through several sources.
Aristotle and Aquinas point to happiness as the ultimate end to which human beings are to aspire. It seems superficially silly, unless you understand what was meant by happiness:
…There is one single ultimate human good that provides an ordering of all other human goods as partial in relation to it, namely, happiness or better in the Latin beatitudo.
This is not the modern understanding of happiness: “if it feels good, do it; I’m in it for number one.” Instead:
Beatitudo: (happiness or blessedness). The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action. Think of it as the Golden Rule.
Beatitudo is about as high a purpose or end as humans can aim for. There is an even higher end, beyond human reach: Sublime Beatitudo: (sublime = "to lift up or elevate"). It encompasses a reach for fullness and perfection of happiness. The fullness, therefore, of goodness, beauty, truth and love. We recognize in this category, those things that are, in a sense, beyond what we are capable of doing purely on our own. Call it the Form of the Good, Plato’s perfect – disembodied – triangle.
Melissa S. Atkinson : “Like Aristotle, Aquinas believed that human beings live for a telos or end, which is eudaimonia.”
Eudaimonia…is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing or prosperity" and "blessedness" have been proposed as more accurate translations.
Etymologically, it is made up of two words: “good” and “spirit.” It appears to be something much deeper than material happiness, or “if it feels good, do it.” It is connected to the ideas of virtue and excellence, and a body that embodies this good spirit.
Where will man find this example, this target at which to aim? I suggest that in Jesus we find the singular example of Sublime Beatitudo, this “good spirit.” Here we have the ultimate Form of the Good made manifest – Plato’s God to be found in Aristotle’s physical being.
I will repeat here what I offered for thought in :
So say this is so. It is all in us – just as these philosophers suggest. It is natural for us to want to act on such a basis and in such a manner. It makes one wonder: if this is how we are intended to act, can you imagine the tension in us and in society when we purposely act otherwise – when we set our own ends, in defiance of our nature?
Take any other being on earth – say a lion, or a bee. Condition it, through propaganda, public education, cultural Marxism, or whatever – to act toward ends and purposes contrary to its nature, in defiance of its nature. Could you look at such a being and label it “free,” as having achieved liberty?
Consider the state of man today – certainly in the West. In the best case, we are told that meaning – our proper end – is to be found in the accumulation of material goods: more stuff; he who dies with the most toys wins in the worst case, we are offered unconstrained individualism – no limits on gender identification, personal expression, self-control, exhibitionism, physical satisfactions, etc.
Sure, it might sound like liberty. But this seems quite superficial, and a superficial definition of liberty. It is also unsustainable – what being can constantly and continuously go against its natural ends or purposes and survive as the being it was intended to be?
On the right, it is the liberty of material accumulation in place of all else; on the left, it is the liberty of the unconditioned life, any lifestyle must be allowed and acceptable otherwise freedom is being crushed. But would you look on a lion or a bee in such a condition and consider it free? How long would you expect lions or bees to exist if such freedom was achieved?
I am reminded here of C.S. Lewis, from The Abolition of Man:
They are not men at all. Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void. Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men. They are not men at all: they are artefacts. Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.
Freed from the being of humanness. Certainly freed from aiming at beatitudo. It is not a road to freedom; it is a dead end.
So, how do we properly seek as the proper ends which then point us to natural law. Thomas offers reason as the tool man has been given to discover .
For Thomas, the answer is reason, and to the extent humans act according to reason they are partaking in the Natural Law.
How should we consider reason? Is it also to be unconditioned? In John 1:1, Jesus us referred to as the logos – the Word, reason. To understand reason without understanding the author of reason offers a reason without foundation – a reason left to the Übermensch to decide for the rest of humanity.
Through reason conditioned by the logos, Thomas has identified four primary ends for humans:
· Protect and preserve human life.
· Reproduce and educate one’s offspring.
· Know and worship God.
· Live in a society.
According to St. Thomas, the natural law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (I-II.91.2). The eternal law is God's wisdom, inasmuch as it is the directive norm of all movement and action. When God willed to give existence to creatures, He willed to ordain and direct them to an end.
Are we to believe that all other beings have an end, yet humans – the most complicated and advanced beings of creation – do not? An acorn is gifted with an end to become an oak, but a human is left as a meaningless drifter?
Aquinas, like Aristotle, leaned on reason as the means through which ethics can be discovered; Aquinas, unlike Aristotle, places love in a higher place than reason when searching for ethics. Jesus, being the embodied Form of the Good, offered:
Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
Aquinas leaned on reason; his foundation, however, was love: beatitudo – other-regarding action, the Golden Rule. It isn’t merely that love is higher than reason. Reason, properly channeled, leads us to love: beatitudo.