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.
Man’s reason without this foundation is unstable. , it places man in the position of both judge and judged:
…the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite.
For Lewis, natural law – the Tao – must be accepted as given:
A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.
Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever. You cannot reach them as conclusions; they are premises. …If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly, if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.
Man tries to look beyond this, thinking he will find true freedom; beyond this, there is only nothingness – the void:
It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.
If this is way too Christian or Catholic for you, and you want to look beyond Aristotle, Aquinas, and Lewis, When it comes to objective truth regarding human values, Rothbard is quite firm: has joined in.
Philosophically, I believe that libertarianism — and the wider creed of sound individualism of which libertarianism is a part — must rest on absolutism and deny relativism.
I have long struggled to explain and develop my thought that libertarianism is not sufficient for liberty. This is the entire purpose of this book, for goodness sake. Yet, here it is, from Rothbard:
What I have been trying to say is that Mises's utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty. It must be supplemented by an absolutist ethic — an ethic of liberty, as well as of other values needed for the health and development of the individual — grounded on natural law, i.e., discovery of the laws of man's nature. Failure to recognize this is the greatest flaw in Mises's philosophical worldview.
If one is after “a full case for liberty,” one must include an “absolutist ethic” as well as “other values” – values grounded in “the laws of man’s nature.” These values are to be “discovered,” not invented.
If Rothbard is not enough, Hans Hoppe has :
“…the full six mentioned commandments can be recognized as even an improvement over a strict and rigid libertarianism – given the common, shared goal of social perfection: of a stable, just and peaceful social order.” (Emphasis added)
Citing Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, from the to this work:
I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities.
To which I offered:
In an attempt to provide purely objective law – and only objective law – pure libertarian law applied, without some statement regarding culture and tradition, will never allow us to reach the highest levels of human possibilities, as Solzhenitsyn suggests. And, after all, can you offer a better definition of liberty than reaching our “highest levels of human possibilities”?
Do Rothbard and Hoppe sound so different from this – from either Solzhenitsyn or my summary? The non-aggression principle – purely objective law…and only objective law – does not bring us to liberty. Rothbard suggests that there is an “absolutist ethic” beyond this that is necessary if one wants to establish a full case for liberty; Hoppe offers this as “an improvement over a strict and rigid libertarianism.”
Is libertarianism sufficient for liberty? Clearly not. It sounds silly, perhaps, when I ask it; as if I have dumped the project and jumped the shark. Does it sound as silly when Rothbard or Hoppe say the same thing?
This is the complication then, isn’t it? Where does this leave the non-aggression principle? Where does this leave libertarianism? Do we dump it, trash it? Would you ask Rothbard or Hoppe this question given what they have written?
Well, thus far I have written not a word about the proper use of violence or punishment – which, after all, is the only object of the non-aggression principle. I have merely offered an examination of man’s ends and how these offer an understanding about the meaning of liberty.
In other words, next chapter.