Monday, December 22, 2008

O Reason, O Truth

One of the problems that I do have with old-school conservatives like Russell Kirk is their suspicion or skepticism about human reason. It is the liberals and ultra-moderns, they say, that put all their faith in reason, and it was reason that crucified Christ, that executed Socrates, that led to the French Revolution. They hold that transcendent Justice is higher than reason.

I would submit, however, that those who were there and witnessed those sacred historical events did not see it as reason: they saw it as justice. Reason had nothing to do with it; reason would have said, of Christ, "Well, of course he is not God Himself"--and it did. Still the Law demanded they put blasphemers to death--that is only just. The Divine Reason, however, saw the logic and the justice in all of these events. All of God's attributes are one with His Being. In God, therefore, Reason and Justice are one in the same; it is only in our materially-bound intellects that we see the distinction. Thus, ultimately speaking, errors of reason are errors of justice. Likewise: if justice is equal to reason, then reason is equal to justice. Therefore it makes no sense to talk about justice being "higher" than reason.

The problem with skepticism about reason is that skepticism itself is one of reason's functions. Without reason, skepticism would be impossible. Thus is suspicion about reason nearly an internal contradiction. You can be skeptical about emotions, you can be skeptical about a person--you cannot be skeptical about your own reason. That is not to say that errors in reason do not occur. They do, and frequently. But to even perceive the error requires reason, and to correct the error requires more reason.

Indeed, it takes reason itself to recognize the necessity of preserving tradition. To me at least, conservatism is not an affair of the emotions; it is given force to action by the emotions (like everything which requires action). But in relation to reason it is more like a conclusion to a long argument than a prejudice which has determined that argument's course. If I listen to the political instinct of my emotions, in fact, all I find is violence and anarchy; no mere "humane sentiment" suggests conservation to me at all. I fancy that I would have been pleased at life in the Old Northwest, in some lawless mining town, like Deadwood or Butte. No: it is my reason and conscience that declare the dictates of Order. And only in my best moments--few, and far between--do I obey.

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