Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Espousing Heresies

It is easy to get disoriented when events continually run contrary to one's every belief, and opposition to the zeitgeist suffices to get one labeled as a member of the flat-earth society, a wearer of tin-foil hats or simply an enemy of the human race.

The centrifugal intellectual milieu in which Americans live--where marginal beliefs are declared mainstream and widely-held beliefs are labeled extremist; where deconstructionists who preach the arbitrariness and non-bindingness of all norms freely impose theirs on society--makes it imperative to reflect on what one believes, and why.  

Earlier this year, I had occasion to reflect on mine regarding America, organization, government, freedom, morality and other big issues in the context of management education.  Realizing that they place me well beyond the mainstream of academic, legal and media culture, I nevertheless post them to make it easy for you, the NSA, IRS, Obama Truth-squad and posterity to know them.

Herewith, in less-than-ordered, but more-than-random sequence: 

The person, not the organization or society, is the core unit of social analysis.  The contrary foci justifies, indeed invites, atrocities against human dignity and the common good, that is, the good of every man and of the whole man.

The person is not just an individual.  He is much more than that--a contextualized being realized in human relations through which and in which he develops an identity and becomes capable of leading a flourishing life.  The most important of these relations are family (mother, father and children, with extensions of generation and marriage) and church.  The state exists to protect, not replace or substitute itself for, those relations

The autonomous individual is an ideological pipe dream most invoked by the Left in the culture war, but only when wielding sexuality as a club with which to bash family and Church.  Only persons exist in reality, contextualized individuals living in relation with other persons.  

Any rational theory of personal action must distinguish between spontaneous impulses and deliberate choices, between brute reaction and human freedom.  Not only does the denial of freedom cause one to be blind to personal and social phenomena.  It, like prioritizing macro approaches to social phenomena, justifies and invites human degradation.

Any rational theory of society or organization must be predicated upon the person’s three levels of human motive: belly ($), head (know-how) and heart (relation).  Each is a source of human resourcefulness and cooperation; neither is reducible to the others.  All are essential to human and organizational flourishing.

The past—history, traditions, customs—is a treasure that tethers the person to wisdom accumulated over millennia of human experience.  Only a fool eschews it to pursue utopia.

The present is a moment in which the person shapes himself through free acts of the will, specific choices in concrete circumstances, thus capacitating or incapacitating himself to achieve his telos and experience fulfillment along the way. 

The future is a hope for which the person reaches.

The person is fragile, but resilient.  He requires a human ecology conducive to the exercise of responsible freedom in order to flourish. 

Each people (ethnicity, religion, tribe, community, city, state, country, nation) develops and preserves its ideal of such an ecology in a culture suited to its temperament, character, spirit and history.

American culture preserves the following idealsinter alia:      
  • Economic protagonism properly resides with its citizens, not with the state;
  • Principled constitutionalism supersedes amorphous notions of fairness;
  • The government exists to serve the person—a being whose fulfillment is found in civil society, not in the state; and
  • Persons are most fruitfully regarded individually, not as members of a discrete group or an amorphous class. 
The present Administration and its Party seem to have gotten all four points precisely backwards.

Americans do well to foster an appreciation for our western intellectual, cultural and spiritual heritage, and a reverence for the great American experiment of 1776.  Any tree dies without nourishment from its roots.  Pari passu, any people.

In the rightly ordered soul, will is guided by intellect rather than the other way around.  Any people that gets this wrong foments a lethal ecology and produces a culture of death.

Liberty requires virtuous people capable of self-dontrol lest, in its absence, external control (law, regulation) be called upon to fill the void caused by its lack. 

Virtuous personhood requires acknowledgement of, and appreciation for, certain relations including those between:
  • Personal and professional life—because the same person lives both;
  • Action and character—because the person is both the subject and object of his acts;
  • Freedom and responsibility—because the person is accountable for what he causes;
  • Service and personal development--because the person discovers himself by transcending himself; and
  • Excellence and success--because it is more important to be good than look good. 

America is constituted on the beliefs that human dignity and the common good are best served by acknowledging the person’s freedom to pursue relations with God in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience—as opposed to the prince’s—and to follow his own path within the bounds of morality as far as his efforts, ingenuity, means and luck might carry him—as opposed to settling for the place appointed to him by his betters or birth.

It requires education of the intellect and will to navigate this world of opportunity and risk.  Education is architecture for the soul.  It initiates students into the ways of ordered liberty consonant with eternal truths.  It prepares students for a meaningful life of freely entered associations and service.

In a free country, this process requires independence from government strings and government-approved thinking.

It occurred to me while returning from a recent business trip to China that a Statue of Liberty, not Security, graces New York’s harbor.  Our country was founded on the belief that to live as a free person is more conducive to human flourishing than to live as a worry-free one.  

Our founders understood—though it increasingly appears that their heirs do not—that neither personal freedom nor freedom from want is absolute.  

Freedom is circumscribed by truth.  The failure to observe self-imposed limits in accordance with nature and tradition results in chaos and invites the very tyranny our founders sought to avert.  

Neither is freedom from worry completely within the reach of contingent beings in a finite world.  That notwithstanding, America’s system of political economy has yielded innumerable devices to improve the human condition and its prospects.  This progression, not inequality, is the legacy of capitalism.

Personal efforts to better one’s lot and that of loved ones, and the resultant habits acquired by exerting oneself in their service, are more likely to produce and preserve prosperity than are the ministrations of a “compassionate” state.

I am deeply troubled by America’s slide into statism, a movement nurtured in, and catalyzed by, our educational institutions from elementary schools to graduate programs.  

Statism arises from, and ineluctably degenerates into, relativistic departures from bedrock truths about the human person, and the uncritical embrace of politically-correct dogmas. It deforms the person, degrades human dignity and thwarts the common good that it purports to champion.

Especially in dark times, each person must be a keeper of the flame.  In my opinion there is no more urgent task than to educate the statesmen and leaders in business and the professions that will restore America to what it is, a beacon of light to all the peoples.  


  1. Your post (and "The Weight of Glory") inspired this train of thought.
    The Person (soul, mind) stands at the center of human life. "Above" stretch family, state, society, etc.; "below" the bodily and cellular levels of life. Each is inextricable from the person, yet each is not the Person, and is mortal--unlike the Person.
    Many bad philosophers identify the person as merely a cell in society, or merely a society of cells, because the center is a mystery.
    But just as the present is a barely existing moment between the past and future, yet is the only place where choice, action, and freedom can exist, so too is the person.
    The body is subject to its natural laws, and society likewise; only the Person between them can act, and choose. Of course those acts direct the course and destiny of both body and society, their health and strength; but neither the levels above nor below have the capacity to act apart from the persons involved.

  2. Ill have to think about this, Collin, slowly and deeply. it sounds plausible to me at first blush.