Thursday, May 22, 2014

Book review: Harry V. Jaffa, The Doughface Dilemma

This slim volume, by the legendary Straussian scholar at Claremont, is a masterpiece of political invective, particularly noteworthy since it comes from one conservative exposing the noxious and antidemocratic underpinnings of another--or in this case, of a whole movement.

Although this pamphlet may appear to be nothing more than a salvo in an obscure internecine battle among conservative thinkers--and it is that--it is something more than that.  Jaffa meticulously lays out the case that the American Enterprise Institute strain of neoconservatism takes its philosophy, intentionally or not, from the thought of John C. Calhoun, and is essentially that of the Confederate States of America.  It would be well for progressives to pay close attention to Jaffa, because he outlines the fundamental principles on which liberalism is based.  They may not like the specific policy choices he derives from this examination, but they will find no more pointed dissection of the dominant brand of modern conservatism--and they may find, unsettlingly, that some of their own ideas stem from the same flawed principles.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Lincoln's Thomist argument for the permanence of the Union

Was Lincoln a student of Thomas Aquinas? He offers powerful evidence for it in his First Inaugural Address. 

Here is Aquinas's first proof for the existence of God:

"Further, those things are said to be self-evident which are known as soon as the terms are known, which the Philosopher (1 Poster. iii) says is true of the first principles of demonstration. Thus, when the nature of a whole and of a part is known, it is at once recognized that every whole is greater than its part. But as soon as the signification of the word "God" is understood, it is at once seen that God exists. For by this word is signified that thing than which nothing greater can be conceived. But that which exists actually and mentally is greater than that which exists only mentally. Therefore, since as soon as the word "God" is understood it exists mentally, it also follows that it exists actually. Therefore the proposition "God exists" is self-evident." (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 2, Objection 2)

Here is Lincoln's argument for the permanence of the Union:

"...one of the declared objects for ordaining and establishing the Constitution was "to form a more perfect Union."
  But if destruction of the Union by one or by a part only of the States be lawfully possible, the Union is less perfect than before the Constitution, having lost the vital element of perpetuity." (First Inaugural Address, Paras. 14-15)

Q.E.D.