Sunday, 29 November 2015 03:47

Whose "Good"?

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Whose "Good"?

Piers Woodriff

Piers Woodriff is a retired Virginian farmer.

To this unorthodox "intellectual," it seems that ever since G. E. Moore's 1903 denial of the adjective "good," modern intellectuals have unwittingly become partisans of evil, enablers of destruction. Julien Benda, in 1928, with The Treason of the Intellectuals, and Alexander Solzhenitsyn, in the 1978 Harvard Commencement Address, attributed the worst political disasters and wars of the 20th century to the intellectuals -- not the economic powers or the military powers. This indictment of intellectuals began before I was born. Flannery O'Connor, the "Hillbilly Thomist," was in the middle of it with her crusade against the "innerleckchuls."

So -- why -- for over a century, have the intellectuals upheld Moore's denial of the adjective "good"? "Good" -- logically -- means creative, the support of creation, of nature, of natural law. Apparently Moore did not consider that definition to be defensible because it implies that there is a creative power -- natural law -- transcending the universe. That puts theology in the equation and many influential intellectuals would have objected. Prevented by intellectual "correctness" from defining "good" as "creative," Moore was forced to conclude that the adjective "good" could not be defined.

Why does Moore's conclusion still hold today? For one thing it fits in perfectly with the reign of "non-judgmentalism." When Christ said "judge not," he meant do not judge people. Judge acts only. People can only be known by their acts, which change if they change. But, that reading has been "righteously" twisted into: "do not judge people or their acts." Moore's 1903 denial of the adjective "good" facilitated that twisting. 1970: Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good, p. 74: "good is non-representable and indefinable." Well, that makes "judgment" almost indefensible. My, how righteous we have all become!

If we cannot define "good" exactly, we have no way of definitively judging acts. It gets worse. If the ban on the equation of good with creative holds, then we have no absolute definition for morality. Morality automatically becomes "relative," relative to some conditional, worldly "good." For the champions of egalitarianism, morality must not be defined as "creativity," because some people are more creative than others. Morality as creativity is an absolute that would destroy relative human equality. That so called "morality" would be immoral. Consequently, humans must not be defined as being made in the image of the Creator: "able to be creative."

There is a famous controversy, the "Is-Ought Controversy." It has always puzzled me. The fact that a thing exists or is done does not prove that it is natural or that it ought to be done. Correct: no "ought" from this "is." But, there is another "is," which has apparently been left out. The way a thing is designed to work is the way it properly works and is the way it "ought" to be done. Here again, a word being used: "design," gets us into trouble with that monster called "theology." Drop "design"? Personally, l see no way to escape from "design." If you ignore the "design" of the universe, i.e., biology, chemistry and physics -- you are dead.

Liberal or conservative, left or right, progressive or regressive? Liberals, apparently, are superior to conservatives. The key distinction though, in my opinion, goes back to the Enlightenment. Alasdair Macintyre has articulated that distinction, but few seem to have noticed. In the Scottish Enlightenment, which inspired the American Revolution, human enlightenment (liberality) springs from submission to Truth, i.e., God. In the French Enlightenment, which inspired the French Revolution, human enlightenment (liberality) springs from submission to Reason, i.e., Man.

The American Revolution led to peace and prosperity and an equable form of government. The French Revolution led to a bloodbath. The French then realized that true democracy puts truth ahead of reason, avoiding tyranny -- theocracy of any kind. But, since 1900, America has adopted the original French bias: replace God with Man, truth with reason, fact with theory. Benda and Solzhenitsyn clearly saw the problem. Worship of the Creator -- theism (theonomy) -- enables human creatures to honor truth and be creative. Worship of the rational self -- anthropocentrism (autonomy) -- too often glorifies the individual so much that self-destruction follows. *

"If you want total security, go to prison. There you're fed, clothed, given medical care, and so on. The only thing lacking . . . is freedom." --5-Star General and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890-1969)

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