Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is conscious self-delusion possible in the long run?

A few days ago, Rick posted some thoughts taken from John Finnis at the Princeton conference on abortion. What stuck me were these words in particular: "The thing about moral status is, if you believe in morality at all, that it is not a matter of choice or grant or convention, but of recognition. If you hear anyone talk about conferring or granting moral status, you know they are deeply confused about what morality and moral status are...."

Beyond (but including) the abortion issue, Finnis here puts his finger on the core problem of post-modern thought, namely the claim to be able to believe in self-generated meaning. But "make-believe" is just another word for "pretense." No one can seriously think that he/she can grant a doll or a tree or a baby moral status and then feel bound by the claims of that entity. (Legislatures, perhaps, can do something like this, but only if we all somehow already believe in the binding authority of the people and of majority votes.) Surely the status-granters would see the nonsense they are substutiuting for moral reflection were it not for the remnants of traditional or natural morality that still somehow manage to govern our life together. But once that is gone, I cannot see how mere pretense will have enough force to keep us able to live together.

Our primary task in this world today is to halt this lemming-like rush to the abyss.


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