In my experience man and boy, I know of no topic more likely to provoke incompetent and incoherent reply than the topic of Lex Naturalis, or Natural Law.
I have a theory, nay, a speculation merely, as to why this is.
Natural Law is a term of art used by philosophers and theologians to refer to that objective moral standards by which Positive Law, that is, laws men posit, manmade law, is to be judged as good or bad, fair or unfair.
In jurisprudence this same distinction is called by other names: an offense that is malum in se or wicked in and of itself is contradistinguished from an offense that is malum prohibitum or wicked only because it is prohibited.
Murder is malum in se: if the killing of a human being with malice aforethought takes place on the high sea or in some unclaimed wilderness where no human law has sway, a court of law can still justly punish the crime. Its criminality is innate to the act.
Driving on the unlawful side of the highway is malum prohibitum: which side of the road is forbidden is different in England versus New England. No court of law could justly punish the act if a man drove on a private road on his own land, or if a scientist landed a wheeled vehicle on Mars and trundled it down some turnpike built by long vanished Barsoomians. An act that is malum prohibitum is wrong only when and where prohibited by Positive Law.
If no Natural Law existed, all discussions of the goodness or fairness of Positive Law would be silenced.
A man might say he preferred one statute or court ruling to another, but this would be a mere psychological report of his arbitrary and subjective tastes, like saying he preferred pie to cake.
No rational debate would take place in parliaments nor in the consciences of kings, contemplating amendments to law, because no standards could exist by which the Positive Law could be judged, or policies proposed to repeal or expand or amend Positive Law.
(Perhaps one could adjudicate lesser or derivative laws by appeal to standards in older or foundational laws, as when local laws are compared to constitutional law, but even this process would be arbitrary in the absence of Natural Law. For what standards would govern the act of comparison? Are laws supposed to be rational, follow precedent, uphold covenants, encourage thrift and virtue? All such questions are meaningless in the absence of Natural Law.)
Why are discussions on this one topic so heated with emotion, and so wanting in intellectual clarity? There are several reasons.
Partly this is due to the modern habit of mind which, dulled by the emotionalism and consumerism of a culture that despises metaphysics and praises instant gratification, cannot understand the definitions of words.
This inability to understand definitions is due in part to the philosophical posture, which is the default assumption of the Dark Age in which we live, that words have no innate meaning, and that men have no duty to be truthful in speech or rigorous in thinking. This assumpti0n rests on the grounds that all language is manipulative propaganda, and all thought is self deception of class interest or self interest.
I call this a “philosophical” posture only out of courtesy. In truth it is antiphilosophy, a dagger of hatred aimed at the roots of what makes rational thought possible: namely, what makes reasoning possible is a metaphysical conviction that truth exists and that logic is valid, an epistemological conviction that truth is discoverable and coherent, and an ontological conviction that the meanings of words exist and point to reality.
Because the modern mind is habituated to regard only the emotional connotation of words and to disregard the logical denotation of words, the modern listener, hearing the phrase “Natural Law” feels himself under no obligation to comprehend what the phrase means.
If the phrase reminds the listener of, for example, the regularity of physics which are also called laws, or reminds him of the great outdoors, or reminds him of the anarchy Hobbes called ‘the State of Nature’, the modern man will assume the phrase refers to that, and will simply ignore explanations and clarifications to the contrary.
The word means what he wants it to mean, not what you want it to mean. That is the glory of the modern mind. And I use the word ‘glory’ to mean ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’
This inability to understand a definition, no matter how clearly explained, in turn is due to the habituation of the modern mind to think by free association rather than by ratiocination. And, as before, I use the word “mind” only out of courtesy. Modern men have assiduously developed a faculty of antimind, which they use to promote a process that can only be called antithought, the ability to string nonsense and rubbish syllables together in a pleasing diapason. It is like a mind found in rational beings, but inverted of its purpose and nature.
Partly the incoherence of the objections the topic of Natural Law arises from a failure of the imagination. Modern minds (I use the term out of courtesy) simply cannot imagine that anything exists other than (1) those facts of the physical sciences which can be expressed as magnitudes, such as mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, moles of substance; and (2) utterly arbitrary personal preferences as expressions of the unhindered willpower.
By this dichotomy, Natural Law cannot be in the immaterial realm of the will, since the dogma of the modern mind is that nothing can or should hinder the willpower. Nor can Natural Law be in the realm of matter, because matter has no innate willpower, no ability to move on its own, no mind, no purpose, and no moral nature. Nothing is naturally good or evil: what the will says is good is good only for so long as the will so says, and matter is a raw material without moral character, and any use to which any material object is put is licit. Only these two categories exist; all else is puffs of words.
This division into the unhindered will and the blind willessness of matter is the default ontology of the Modern Age.
It is unfortunately an ontological stance very much in keeping with the philosophy of Madison Avenue, which seeks to encourage the desire for instant gratification in a consumer population of subjects, and which operates most freely when images, especially images of sex and power, can be tied to any commercial product or political candidate arbitrarily and freely.
A populous of citizens animated by a sense of decency and shame would not be as easy to manipulate, because that sense of decency would automatically reject as absurd the arbitrary attempt to associate images with goods offered for sale: a virile cowboy with a cigarette, a nubile woman draped over the hood of a car, the juxtaposition of cola bottles with polar bears — a healthy people would laugh. A sober people would want facts, comparisons, and arguments in their advertisements, something much more common in older ads than today.
Postmodernism, albeit animated by a spirit that hates commerce and capitalism, thrives and is aided by the impulse toward arbitrary and inappropriate and illogical free-association of images of sex and power. Such arbitrary mixing of images can only be taken seriously by populations whose poetic imaginations are utterly corrupt.
By the poetic imagination, I mean that faculty in man which makes and apprehends metaphors and archetypes, particularly those literal metaphors called words and ideas.
Unfortunately, the faculty seems instinctive, but, like the conscience, it must be trained and domesticated and in the young rendered fit for civilization.
It is not natural (in the sense of instinctive) for a boy to feel it is sweet and decorous to die for the ashes of the fathers and the altars of the gods; but this must be inculcated into him, along with a sense of honor that forbids him to steal even when he is hungry and even when no one is looking. Otherwise, in a land of no patriots where all theft is licit, the soldiers will not march and the workingmen will not work.
Poetry, when it is licit, is the attempt to train the young imagination to prefer fit and decent metaphors and imagines, and to have the decent and apt emotional reactions to objects, concepts and events he may encounter. It is unnatural for the youth to react to every image of fatherhood and authority with jeering and defiance, and therefore the poetical imagery which portray all fathers, literal and father-figures, as buffoons and tyrants in order to train the imagination of young so that this seems normal, is likewise unnatural. The young must be taught to love the beautiful, the just, and the good, and to hate what is ugly, unjust, and corrupted.
All of modern art is the pedagogic attempt to use the prestige of art to promote the false concept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or, in other words, is that attempt to avert, subvert, and invert the formation of natural emotional associations in the young.
Political Correctness, also called Cultural Marxism, is a theory of semantics that has the same goal and operates in the same way as Modern Art. It attempts to use the prestige of courtesy and “sensitivity” to promote the idea that words are labels without truth value, whose only value is as tools of social engineering, to manipulate oneself and others. Words are weapons and opiates. The attempt is to o avert, subvert, and invert the formation of natural linguistic associations between word and object in the young. It is the attempt to destroy both poetry and philosophy.
(Have you noticed how flat and sterile poems and plays and films that adhere to Political Correctness must perforce make themselves? This is because poetry serves truth whereas Political Correctness serves propaganda. There can be no true beauty in the words, no honest emotions in the characters, neither realist nor romanticized actions in the plot, and no deep philosophy in the themes.)
Notice, please that he ontology of the modern age, which admits only of an lawless blind will and an unwilling blind matter, eliminates by that false categorization the categories which make questions such as honor and honesty possible. There is no such thing as honor to the utterly unhindered will, nor is there any such thing as honesty in reference to the blind and meaningless raw material of matter.
If the universe is nothing but the blind yet godlike willpower and the blind void of empty matter, there is no room for the poetic imagination nor for the trained conscience. There is no room for honor or honesty, and, as we shall, barring divine intervention, soon see in the West, no room for civilization.
The survival of society depends on so airy and abstract a question as ontology.
Ontology is the study of being. Ontology concerns questions of what exists in truth versus what exists only as figure or metaphor or consensus. The Modern Age holds as an unquestionable article of faith that skeptical inquiry on a empirical basis can and must question all matters, and must take nothing on faith.
That skeptical inquiry on an empirical basis is limited to empirical questions (id est: measurements of mass, length, duration, temperature, current, candlepower, moles) is a self evident fact hotly denied by modern skeptics, who instantly and vehemently denounce any attempt to limit empiricism to empirical matters as a heresy. They go to great lengths to silence all debate on the matter, to deride and to mock those who question this mystery of their faith. That this is gross hypocrisy as well as manifest self contradiction never crosses the minds of these intellectual giants and rigorous skeptics.
Naturally, for those of us whose brains has not been rotted away by modernism and postmodernism, it seems a simple matter to conclude that empiricism is the proper epistemology to use for natural sciences, which deals with subjects open to verification or invalidation by sense impressions, and not the proper epistemology to use for other philosophical disciplines, as metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, logic, mathematics, ethics, jurisprudence, economics, aesthetics.
For the modern thinker, who dismisses all topics not related to matter in motion as immaterial, there can be no discussion of Natural Law aside from the regularity of natural phenomena we call the laws of physics. For him, it is morally wrong to discuss what is morally right and wrong, because these entities do not exist in matter, and cannot be measured.
For the postmodern thinker (and, yet again, I use the word “thinker” as a courtesy to refer to a mental process with opposite goals and means to rational thought) all reasoning and all debate on all topics, not merely those of physics, is a sinister attempt of the strong to oppress and deceive the weak my means of a “narrative.” What the postmoderns mean by this nonword is a mystery of their faith.
For the uninitiated, I will explain that postmoderns are voodoo doctors or Archimages of Roke who believe that words in and of themselves have the power to enchant men’s minds and change reality.
The postmoderns are ergo afraid that theologians and philosophers and especially economists will use words to justify certain laws or policies or civilized conventions that will maintain their hated enemy, civilization, once called “Christendom”, but now called “The West” or “The First World.”
Rather than using words to show why the inarticulate illiteracy of barbarism is better than civilization, the postmodern thinker spins meaningless noises together to making a pleasing sound, hoping this will stun the unwary student into believing something vaguely bad or unfair is being perpetrated upon them when they uphold law and order and decency, that it is somehow against their interests. In effect, the postmodernists are doing exactly what they accuse their enemies of doing, using words or “narratives” to cast a spell to oppress and deceive the weak.
For the modern or postmodern ethicist (and, for the final time, I use the word as a courtesy) there is no discipline of ethics, no philosophy, and nothing to study nor discuss. Ethics is the crudest possible version of hedonism, where any pleasure, not just enlightened and long term pleasures consonant with the social good, are sacred: but perverted pleasures, particularly when destructive of human souls and human lives, are more sacred than decent, natural, normal or harmless pleasures.
This is the paramount reason why objections of the Natural Law are notoriously ludicrous: those who make the objections, if they have been influenced by modern or postmodern nonthinking, cannot articulate an objection because they cannot imagine a universe where there is any Natural Law, any objective moral reasoning, any hindrance or opposition or even slight criticism of any desire, filthy or whole, sane or insane, depraved or healthy, on any grounds whatsoever, aside from possible harm to others or the hindrance of their pursuit of desires.
(And even there, membership in certain special protected groups or special classes of people makes harms to you significant: persons outside the protected class are non-entities, and harm to them vaguely funny.)
The idea of Natural Law is an unimaginable as the Ninth Dimension to a mind conditioned to parrot word-noises which uphold immediate consequence-free indulgence in gross physical pleasures, preferably sexual ones, preferably illicit or perverted ones, as the sole source and standard of goodness.
Unfortunately, discussions of Natural Law pursue the question of what is and is not a duty, specifically duties that make a demand even in the absence of Positive Law.
Nowhere is it established that the Natural Law promotes human happiness when and if such happiness conflicts with human virtue. The only reason why we have different words for duty and desire is because human nature makes it so that we frequently do not desire to do our duty.
The reason why we have modern, by which I mean dishonest and lunatic, philosophy is to invent excuses to justify ignoring duty to indulge in desires, particularly and especially abnormal sexual desires; the reason why we have ancient, by which I mean honestly-meant and sane, philosophy is to refute such excuses and inculcate a sense of shame into the human breast, and an ability to face the turmoils and disappointments of life unelated by success and undespairing of failure — to this day, we speak of “taking something philosophically” meaning with the stoic dignity of a civilized man. The purpose of modern philosophy is to do the opposite, to reduce man to barbarism.
This is done in such writers as Marx and Nietzsche and Freud by glorifying the envious desires and the pride of the will and the spontaneous yet infantile emotions so that any opposition to self-gratification is seen as a sacrilege. Instead of bearing privation with manly fortitude, or practicing chastity or courage or calmness, the modern philosophers invent bogus arguments to sacramentalize any and all abnormal, infantile, or selfish human desire, so that the gullible victim of modern philosophy reacts to any hindrance or criticism of instant gratification as if his sacred rights were being trampled. This allows for the curious and specifically modern spectacle of men publicly waxing wroth with righteous indignation whenever their unrighteousness is not praised as righteous!
I point to the behavior displayed by ‘activists’ who engage in objectively meaningless protests (Occupy Wall Street was particularly postmodern in its lack of defined goal or purpose) or who mau-mau sellers of chicken sandwiches for being Christian, or ruin the careers of makers of Bible story films by labeling them antisemites, or who ostracize and bedevil those who do not care to have public funds pay for killing babies in the womb.
All four of the causes I mention follow the same general rule: all four causes swell up like toads with self righteous indignation when crossed. All causes stoop to criminal means, vandalism, death threats, and so on, to support and spread their agenda, because their philosophy says their cause is so righteous that the ends justify the means. All these causes howl like barbarians when they are beaten, and all of them boast like barbarians when they beat others, and none of them treats their opposition with the manly firmness or manly chivalry or evenness of temper which is the hallmark of civilized behavior.
Natural Law is the concept that some basis exists for the customs and laws of men, and some goal toward which the laws and customs go seeking. Without Natural Law, poetic imagination and ultimate language itself is reduced to squalor and Newspeakish jabberwocky, customs and laws are reduced to a conspiracy of the strong to bewitch and oppress the weak, contracts and covenants are void for being meaningless, honor and honesty reduced to mere words, and, in short, civilization itself is found to have no foundation.