Ideological Thinking and the Need to Be Critical
A Message to My Former Students on the Roots of Post-Modernism

Doug McManaman
Spring, 2003
Reproduced with Permission

If there is one thing I hope my former students have learned as a result of studying philosophy, it is that they have learned to think on the basis of first principles. My goal in teaching philosophy is primarily to instill a habitus, an intellectual disposition. If the habit of thinking on the basis of first principles rooted in the nature of things is yours, then I believe that I have done what it was my primary responsibility to do.

As you know, all science is a knowledge of things through their proper causes. The difference between philosophical knowledge and that of the empiriological sciences (chemistry, physics, biology, astronomy, etc.) is that the former involves a knowledge of things through their ultimate causes, while empiriological science is knowledge of things through their proximate causes. It is this search for first causes that distinguishes the philosophical quest from all others, and it is the tendency to think in terms of first causes that distinguishes the philosophical habitus from all others.

At one time, universities -- especially Catholic universities -- were places where a person could study the great thinkers and the great ideas in order to discover enduring principles and truths not subject to the passing of time, principles in light of which a society could critically evaluate and reform itself. But, generally speaking, this is no longer the case. The current habit of thinking that dominates university campuses today is more ideological in nature. Thinking on the basis of primary principles has for the most part been replaced by an ideological habitus. Ideology is the attempt to put a theoretical, speculative, ideal system into actual practice in a real social and political context. As such, ideological thinking does not begin with the real in order to understand the natures of things, but begins in the mind, that is, with the theoretical system through which the real is interpreted. It begins with an already constituted "scheme", a ready-made epistemological super-structure to be appropriated by young minds eager to make sense out of the world, a structure through which certain data will be interpreted as significant, while other data will remain relatively meaningless.

Teaching young people to think takes a great deal of time and patience, both on the part of the teacher and the student. It requires the study of history, and it demands that students become part of a great conversation (the history of philosophy) that began long ago and still continues. But as you know, joining a conversation already in progress can be confusing. To understand what the participants are talking about requires that one go back to the beginning. Hence, the importance of the history of ideas. But we all know that the pace of life in the Western world is rather hurried. Time is not something that many of us have been taught to respect, which is why patience is a virtue of which most of us have little. But teaching young people to think within a ready made ideological super-structure can be very appealing to both teachers and students for a number of reasons: it saves the teacher a great deal of time and labor, and it promises quick results to students already habituated towards the quick and easy.

To make sense out of something is to see it in relation to other things. An already fabricated schema can take data that is otherwise chaotic and disordered and provide it with some sort of order, thus allowing the student to see it in relation to ideas already within the ideological super-structure. But in bypassing the study of first principles, the young person has nothing in light of which to critically scrutinize the ideological super-structure itself. Universities or faculties that cater to ideological thinking encourage students to be critical, but only within the already constituted ideological perspective. It occurs to only a few students to submit to critical scrutiny the ideological schema itself, which most of them have uncritically appropriated.

And so from this angle, universities are falling short of their duty to liberate young minds through education. As Winston Churchill said: "The first duty of a university is to teach wisdom, not a trade." And as Aristotle points out, it belongs to the wise man to judge in light of the most universal principles. But today it seems that it is more incumbent upon students to evince political correctness than the ability to judge in light of the first principles of being. In fact, ten years ago the American Academy for Liberal Education expressed worry that Liberal Arts Colleges were being threatened by "eroding standards, spreading vocationalism, increasing specialization, rising prices, and heightened political correctness" (emphasis mine).1 This is ironic in that the Liberal Arts are meant to 'liberate', for as a certain kind of knowledge increases (history, philosophy, logic, theology, literature, etc.), personal freedom increases. But the uncritical appropriation of an ideological school of thought, such as Feminism, Fascism, Marxism, Historicism, Libertarianism, etc., lends the appearance of education and liberation, but is little more than an uncritical subservience to an ideology that is only temporary and which eventually gives way to something more fashionable.

In order to clarify this more fully, I'd like to call attention to the 20th century philosopher of science, Karl Popper, who became critical of Marxist Historicism and through this criticism developed his well known 'falsifiability' principle (what Popper means by 'historicism' is "an approach to the social sciences which assumes that historical prediction is their principal aim, and which assumes that this aim is attainable by discovering the 'rhythms' or the 'patterns', the 'laws' or the 'trends' that underlie the evolution of history"2). Popper rejected the verifiability principle of Logical Positivism because he found that within the framework of certain theories, such as Marxism, Freudianism, or Adlerian psychology, one could find verification for them just about anywhere. In his Science: Conjectures and Refutations, he writes:

These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once your eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still "un-analysed" and crying aloud for treatment.

The most characteristic element in this situation seemed to me the incessant stream of confirmations, of observations which "verified" the theories in question; and this point was constantly emphasized by their adherents. A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history; not only in the news, but also in its presentation which revealed the class bias of the paper -- and especially of course in what the paper did not say. The Freudian analysts emphasized that their theories were constantly verified by their "clinical observations". As for Adler, I was much impressed by a personal experience. Once, in 1919, I reported to him a case which to me did not seem particularly Adlerian, but which he found no difficulty an analyzing in terms of his theory of inferiority feelings, although he had not even seen the child.

Slightly shocked, I asked him how he could be so sure. "Because of my thousandfold experience," he replied; whereupon I could not help saying: "And with this new case, I suppose, your experience has become thousand-and-one-fold." What I had in mind was that his previous observations may not have been much sounder than this new one; that each in its turn had been interpreted in the light of 'previous experience', and at the same time counted as additional confirmation. What, I asked myself, did it confirm? No more than that a case could be interpreted in the light of the theory.3

And this is precisely the problem with ideological thinking. It is profoundly unscientific, and despite their appearance, ideologies have more in common with "primitive myths than with science", and are more like "astrology than astronomy".4

The Roots of Post-Modernism

Before we consider examples of ideological fragments, I'd like to examine the philosophical roots of this cultural shift from reason to ideology. How does one explain this shift? The answer, I believe, is that we're living in the age of Post-Modernism. Moral relativism and the denial of the very possibility of truth is no longer merely the posture of a particular philosopher or school of thought. On the contrary, it has become the "spirit of the age" (zeitgeist). I would argue that Post-Modernism begins with Hegel, but is further developed by Nietzsche and Heidegger. For the duration of this article, I'd like to limit myself to an examination of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Like Heraclitus of old, Nietzsche begins with the premise that all is becoming. Being and permanency are merely human constructs, illusions created by language. In other words, there is no such thing as a "thing", a being, a substance or entity, according to Nietzsche. Hence, there is literally nothing (no thing) to know. Knowledge is thus impossible. Nietzsche writes:

The character of the world in a state of becoming as incapable of formulation, as "false," as "self-contradictory." Knowledge and becoming exclude one another. Consequently, "knowledge" must be something else: there must first of all be a will to make knowable, a kind of becoming must itself create the deception of beings...supposing everything is becoming, then knowledge is possible only on the basis of belief in being.5

Recall the principle of identity: "Each being is what it is." This principle is self-evident and is the starting point of all reasoning. We saw that it is not possible to deny the principle of identity without using it. In other words, in order to draw any valid conclusion, one can do so only on the basis of premises containing terms that refer to things identical with themselves. For example, consider the following syllogism:

Our conclusion rests on a number of things, one of which is the self-evident fact that a cat is a cat, not a pumpkin. Without the principle of identity, no premises can be established and thus no conclusion can be drawn. But Nietzsche, one of the Fathers of Post-Modernism, denies the principle of identity. He writes:

The principle of identity has behind it the "apparent fact" of things that are the same. A world in a state of becoming could not, in a strict sense, be "comprehended" or "known"; only to the extent that the "comprehending" and "knowing" intellect encounters a coarse, already-created world, fabricated out of mere appearances but become firm to the extent that this kind of appearance has preserved life -- only to this extent is there anything like "knowledge".6

According to post-modernist thinking, knowledge is nothing more than an attempt to bring order and meaning to a universe that is in itself unintelligible and meaningless.7 In short, all knowledge is a fiction: "The biggest fable of all is the fable of knowledge. One would like to know what things-in-themselves are; but behold, there are no things-in-themselves!"8 Thus, Post-Modernism brings us right back to Protagoras: "Of all things the measure is man, of the things that are that they are, and of the things that are not that they are not". In the same vein, Nietzsche writes: "There are many kinds of eyes. Even the sphinx has eyes -- and consequently there are many kinds of "truths," and consequently there is no truth."9 Hence, the post-modern adage: "Everyone has a right to his own opinion; for every opinion is just as valid as any other".

Now, anyone who thinks about this maxim for more than a few seconds realizes that it leads to absurdities and is thus untenable. If every opinion is as valid as any other, then contradictories can be true at one and the same time. Nietzsche understood this very well, and, consistent with his original premises, he readily denied the principle of non-contradiction, another self-evident principle and starting point of all reasoning: "Nothing can both be and not be at the same time and in the same respect", and its logical form: "Nothing can be true and false at the same time and in the same respect". Nietzsche writes:

We are unable to affirm and to deny one and the same thing: this is a subjective empirical law, not the expression of any "necessity" but only an inability. If, according to Aristotle, the law of contradiction is the most certain of all principles, if it is the ultimate and most basic, upon which every demonstrative proof rests, if the principle of every axiom lies in it; then one should consider all the more rigorously what presuppositions already lie at the bottom of it.10

The presupposition that lies at the bottom of it, according to Nietzsche, is the "presupposition" of being, that we actually live in a world of beings, each one identical to itself.

Either it asserts something about actuality, about being, as if one already knew this from another source; that is, as if opposite attributes could not be ascribed to it. Or the proposition means: opposite attributes should not be ascribed to it. In that case, logic would be an imperative, not to know the true, but to posit and arrange a world that shall be called true by us.11

And so the "real" is a creation of man, and the rules of logic are properties of that creation.12 That is why, for the post-modernist, there is no necessary requirement to obey the rules of logic. For logic is not a tool by which a person can draw valid conclusions and thus attain the true, for there is no truth. For Nietzsche, this is especially the case with respect to judgments of what is good and what is evil. Moral precepts are nothing more than expressions of the will to power.13 And so within the framework of Post-Modernism, all knowledge is ideological in the most general sense of the word. Knowledge is the imposition of order and regularity upon what is chaotic and unintelligible. It involves the invention of being and permanency:

Not "to know" but to schematize -- to impose upon chaos as much regularity and form as our practical needs require. In the formation of reason, logic, the categories, it was need that was authoritative: the need, not to "know," but to subsume, to schematize, for the purpose of intelligibility and calculation.14

Ideology and the Abuse of Logic

This should be enough to explain the irony and inconsistency of post-modern thinking.15 If one need not obey the rules of logic, then one may hold contradictories to be true at one and the same time. And if all knowledge is merely the expression of a will to power, one may employ what have been traditionally regarded as logical fallacies in order that one's own point of view may prevail. And so it should come as no surprise that logical fallacies are in widespread use today, especially around political issues and election time. The appearance of these fallacies is often an indication of ideological thinking. Some of the more popular fallacies to look out for include ignoring the question, which involves proving something other than the point to be established, or double standard, which involves the use of one standard for a favored group of people or person, and another standard (usually much higher) for an unfavored group or person. Ad hominem is frequently employed today, which involves the criticism of a person's position by criticizing the person rather than the position itself (note the media attention paid to the grammatical errors in the off the cuff communications of George W. Bush). The fallacy of composition involves attributing to the whole what belongs only to the part, or the converse, attributing to the part what belongs to the whole. Examples include, "Jews are stingy"; "conservatives are cold hearted"; "Muslims are violent"; "capitalists are exploitative"; "men are pigs"; etc. Racial profiling, generalizations, stereotyping are all instances of the fallacy of composition, but it isn't this fallacy that is currently politically incorrect. Rather, it is this fallacy as applied to specific groups of people that is politically incorrect (i.e., black people, Jews, homosexual persons). Outside of these groups, one may generalize with impunity (i.e., Catholics, Americans, Males, the Political Right, etc.).

For example, consider the annual Walk Against Male Violence. Each year I hear of young students who challenge the organizer of the walk regarding the expression "Male Violence", which gives some students a rather uneasy feeling. And each year the students are given the same answer: "97% of violence against women is perpetrated by males." I have yet to hear of a student challenging the source and veracity of the statistic, but one need not go to such lengths to discover a possible difficulty. The U.S. Department of Justice, in its 2000 Crime Data Brief, reported that black people were seven times more likely than whites to commit homicides. Everyone would see through the bigotry at once were a person to organize, in response to such information, a Walk Against Black Violence.

Patricia Pearson, in her book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, points out that "women commit the majority of child homicides in the U.S., a greater share of physical child abuse, an equal rate of sibling violence and assaults on the elderly, about a quarter of child sexual abuse, an overwhelming share of the killing of newborns, and a fair preponderance of spousal assaults".16 Were a Walk Against Female Violence to be initiated, who wouldn't anticipate a huge outcry from the feminist movement? Pearson continues: "The question is, how do we come to perceive what girls and women do? Violence is still universally considered to be the province of the male. Violence is masculine. Men are the cause of it, and women and children are the ones who suffer".17

Within this ideological framework, any piece of information that accords with it is automatically highlighted (i.e., a news piece about a woman killed by her husband), while whatever does not, such as the data that Patricia Pearson provides, remains in the shadows. That is why ideologies -- which always contain half truths -- do not bring us in contact with truth but instead tend to serve the special interest groups that generate and perpetuate them. And once a person gives up thinking on the basis of universal principles rooted, for example, in human nature and surrenders to ideology, his thinking is, from that point onwards, governed by the ideology and its demands, which may not accord with reason at all -- for the demands of the ideology are not necessarily expressions of reason, but are rather expressions of the will of a group.

Some people have asked: "Isn't Catholicism just one more ideology alongside others?" This is a fair question, and after studying the Catholic Faith since my teenage years, I believe I can safely answer this question with a resounding, no -- and for the following reason. The more you think, the more Catholic you become. For the Church has always encouraged the study of philosophy. Consider the great doctors of the Church, the Apostolic Fathers, the theologians of the early and high Middle Ages, through to the Modern period. Within the Church, there has never been a fear of ideas formulated outside its visible borders. Note the use of Neo-Platonism in the writings of St. Augustine, or the use of philosophy in Boethius and St. Anselm of Canterbury, St. Bonaventure, and St. Thomas Aquinas, to name a few. In fact, the role of the critical thinker who contradicts your point of view is of essential importance to the entire Medieval method of teaching (this is just the opposite of the modern propaganda approach that discloses only the politically correct side of an issue, or at best reveals the opposing side in a way that no one can possibly find attractive).18 Or consider some of the more contemporary Catholic thinkers and their use of philosophy, such as Gabriel Marcel, Hans Urs VonBalthasar, Karl Rahner or his brother the brilliant Hugo Rahner, or French philosopher Jacques Maritain, probably the greatest thinker of the twentieth century. Even before a person can study theology for the priesthood, the Church requires that he study philosophy, preferably for four years. But this is not the case with the various religious cults throughout the world. In these cults, such as the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons, the study of ideas generated outside the cult is explicitly discouraged. In fact, it is this fear of thinking that will distinguish a cult from a genuine religion.

In Catholicism, thinking is built upon principles known by faith and revealed in Scripture. The contribution of these great Catholic thinkers listed above has been to show, among other things, that what Catholics choose to believe on the basis of faith is not contrary to reason, or unreasonable, despite the fact that all genuine articles of faith are above the grasp of reason. When a faith is below reason, the fear of reason is just around the corner.

Post-Modernism is neither a cult nor a religion, but it is the "spirit of the age", and the fear of reason is so great that it has literally done away with it. And once we eliminate the principles of identity, non-contradiction, and the rules of logic, and go so far as to deny real being in favor of pure becoming, and maintain that all science is nothing more than a human construct, we are free to say and hold any position we please and defend it in any way we see fit.

This may have the appearance of being more in accordance with the idea of democracy, but this is only appearance. Democracy is founded upon real definitive and unchanging principles, and once these principles are removed, democracy can give way to anything, even the most brutal totalitarianism. For example, democracy is founded upon the essential equality of persons. But the very notion of an essential nature is denied in the post-modern world: "The concepts "individual" and "species" equally false and merely apparent"19 That is why Nietzsche considered democracy to be a dangerous idea: "Democracy represents the disbelief in great human beings and an elite society: "Everyone is equal to everyone else." "At bottom we are one and all self-seeking cattle and mob."20

Democracy is founded upon the rule of law, which in turn is founded not upon the will to power, but on reason, that is, on the precepts of the natural moral law.21 But natural law is a participation in divine law. It is not man's law, as Cicero points out:

Neither the senate nor the people can absolve us from our obligation to obey this law. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all peoples; and there will be, as it were, one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter, and its sponsor.22

A democracy that is not founded upon the dictates of natural law, but upon the will of the majority, is a democracy that has lost its roots, and like a tree that has been uprooted, it is on its way to becoming something else entirely. That is why the study of ultimate causes is important for the preservation of human liberty. Post-Modernism is no more democratic that the most extreme forms of totalitarianism, and if one is unable to figure this out through a consideration of its fundamental premises, history will eventually bring us face to face with its true nature. Presently, our democracies are functioning on the habits of a previous generation. It is only a matter of time before the premises of Post-Modernism generate new habits to replace the old ones.

Final Thoughts

The irony in Nietzsche is that he carefully demonstrates his conclusions from the premises using valid logic, ultimately in order to deny its necessity. One can only ask why he would consider that necessary. He uses both the principles of identity and non-contradiction in order to deny them, thus establishing their necessity and permanent validity. Moreover, he puts forth his premises as true and maintains their contraries as false (i.e., all is becoming, permanency and being are illusions, etc.), that is, he puts forth his own ideas not as one perspective alongside other equally valid perspectives, but as insight at once universal and trans-historical. And of course, if all knoweldge is a fable, this must include everything Nietzsche has written.

The roots of Post-Modernism are irrational, and one does not acheive personal freedom on the basis of irrationality. The only way to preserve your personal liberty is to learn to think; for you can be sure that if you choose not to think, others of higher ambition will be more than willing to do your thinking and decision making for you. On a more general level, the only way for a people to preserve its own liberty is through genuine education. Ideology is not education, even though our universities have begun to cater to most of them and are less concerned with teaching students how to penetrate them. Our hope is that we've given you something to begin to do just that, and that you continue what we've started. We've done more than just scratch the surface, but there is still a great deal more to explore and re-explore. As a safeguard, remember always to be patient, that is, do not be in a rush to make sense out of the world. Impatience allows small errors, and a slight initial error eventually grows to vast proportions.23 Rid yourself of the need to be right, for man is not the measure of all things, but is measured by the real and the true. That is why without humility, a person will not go very far. And be not impressed by intellectual arrogance, which is rampant in university faculties. No human being has anything to be arrogant about; for we know little, and as Socrates discovered, the more a person really knows, the more he comes to realize that indeed he knows very little. But the arrogant have not learned enough to know that they don't know, and are thus deluded by the little that they know.

Finally, know where to put your faith. No one functions in this world without faith, in the sense of accepting as true something somebody tells you because you have evidence that the speaker is well informed about the subject and is honest. For example, we trust that journalists are not simply making up the news that they report to us (even though this trust is increasingly violated). We trust that our mechanic will indeed fix our brakes and add the right amount of break fluid before allowing us to drive off. We trust that others will stop at the red lightas we proceed through the green. We trust that the food we order is edible, that the cook has not poisoned it. And we trust that the scientist has not falsified his data. And so faith is not unreasonable; it is inevitable. But not everyone is wise in their choice of whom, ultimately, they are going to trust. It is always wise to put your faith in Him who cannot lie, in Him who is Truth Itself: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life" (Jn 14, 6). In the light of this faith in Him, you will eventually come to discern in whom you can safely put your trust.

And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him...the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name -- he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you (Jn 14, 21-26).


1 Lisa Watts. "Liberal Arts Posse." Harvard Magazine. 1993. (24 May 2003) [Back]

2 Karl R Popper. The Poverty of Historicism. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973) p. 3 [Back]

3 Karl Popper. "Science: Conjectures and Refutations." Challenges to Empiricism. Ed. Harold Morick. (Indianapolis: Hackett Pulishing, 1980) p. 130 [Back]

4 Ibid., p. 130. [Back]

5 Friedrich Nietzsche. The Will to Power. Translated by Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. (New York: Vintage Books. 1968) 517- 518. [Back]

6 Ibid., 520 [Back]

7 "The concepts "individual" and "species" equally false and merely apparent. "Species" expresses only the fact that an abundance of similar creatures appear at the same time and that the tempo of their further growth and change is for a long time slowed down, so actual small continuations and increases are not very much noticed (-- a phase of evolution in which the evolution is not visible, so an equilibrium seems to have been attained, making possible the false notion that a goal has been attained -- and that evolution has a goal --)... Form, species, law, idea, purpose -- in all these cases the same error is made of giving a false reality to a fiction, as if events were in some way obedient to something,..." Ibid., 521 [Back]

8 Ibid., 555 [Back]

9 Ibid., 540 [Back]

10 Ibid., 516 [Back]

11 Ibid., 516 [Back]

12 "In short, the question remains open: are the axioms of logic adequate to reality or are they a means and measure for us to create reality, the concept "reality," for ourselves? -- To affirm the former one would, as already said, have to have previous knowledge of being -- which is certainly not the case. The proposition therefore contains no criterion of truth, but an imperative concerning that which should count as true...our belief in things is the precondition of our belief in logic. The "A" of logic is, like the atom, a reconstruction of the thing -- If we do not grasp this, but make of logic a criterion of true being, we are on the way to positing as realities all those hypostases: substance, attribute, object, subject, action, etc.; that is, to conceiving a metaphysical world, that is, a "real world" (-- this, however, is the apparent world once more --)." Ibid., 516 [Back]

13 "It is the height of psychological mendaciousness in man to frame according to his own petty standard of what seems good, wise, powerful, valuable, a being that is an origin and "in-itself" -- and therewith to abolish in his mind the entire causal process by means of which any kind of goodness, any kind of wisdom, any kind of power exists and possesses value. In short, to posit elements of the most recent and contingent origin as not created but "in-themselves" and perhaps even as the cause of creation in general...Knowledge and wisdom in themselves have no value; no more than goodness: one must first be in possession of the goal from which these qualities derive their value or nonvalue -- there could be a goal in the light of which great knowledge might represent a great disvalue (if, for instance, a high degree of deception were one of the prerequisites of the enhancement of life; likewise if goodness were perhaps able to paralyze and discourage the springs of the great longing) -- " Ibid., 244 [Back]

14 "The development of reason is adjustment, invention, with the aim of making similar, equal -- ...The categories are "truths" only in the sense that they are conditions of life for us:...The subjective compulsion not to contradict here is a biological compulsion: the instinct for the utility of inferring as we do infer is part of us, we almost are this instinct -- But what naivete to extract from this a proof that we are therewith in possession of a "truth in itself"! -- Not being able to contradict is proof of an incapacity, not of 'truth.'" Ibid., 515 [Back]

15 Floyd Centore provides the following examples of the arbitrary nature of post-modern ethics: "Let a manager of a large corporation "fool around" with the wife of a fellow manager of the same company and there is no way the boss can fire him according to the laws of the land. Legally one is not allowed to argue that, because of his actions, he is no longer fit to be a member of the company "team". However, let the same man take so much as a dollar from the company bank account and he is on his way out the door before he can say "post-modernism". The same sort of thing applies to the waitress down the street to whom you give your tip each day after lunch. Let her spend every night in someone else's bed and she is above reproach by all around her. No one can censure or reprimand her. Yet, let her fail to report her tips to the tax collector and see what ill fate befalls her. Will the judge have pity on her? Not in the least. She must pay the full amount plus interest and a fine in order to be set free. Why? Because of the "principle of the thing."...Why isn't lusting after a million dollars, even if it belongs to somebody else, and actually doing something about getting it into your own pocket, as much a matter of easy going good humor in the actual operation of society as is lusting after somebody else's husband or wife, and doing something concrete about getting him or her into your own bed? The answer to this question is that right and wrong are decided by social consensus, not by some divine standard or the like, and that the social consensus today is that giving in to the one type of temptation is fine while succumbing to the other kind is evil. What's right and wrong can be changed at will." Being and Becoming. A Critique of Post-Modernism. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991). p. 14-15. [Back]

16 Patricia Pearson. When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence (New York: Random House, 1997) p. 7. [Back]

17 Ibid., p. 7. [Back]

18  For example, in dealing with the question "Whether the natural law is the same in all men?" Aquinas begins with three possible objections: Objection 1. It would seem that the natural law is not the same in all. For it is stated in the Decretals (Dist. i) that "the natural law is that which is contained in the Law and the Gospel." But this is not common to all men; because, as it is written (Rm. 10:16), "all do not obey the gospel." Therefore the natural law is not the same in all men. Objection 2. Further, "Things which are according to the law are said to be just," as stated in Ethic. v. But it is stated in the same book that nothing is so universally just as not to be subject to change in regard to some men. Therefore even the natural law is not the same in all men. Objection 3. Further, as stated above (2,3), to the natural law belongs everything to which a man is inclined according to his nature. Now different men are naturally inclined to different things; some to the desire of pleasures, others to the desire of honors, and other men to other things. Therefore there is not one natural law for all.

He then proceeds to argue the contrary. After providing an answer, he carefully responds to each of the objections. Every article in the Summa takes this particular format. [Back]

19 Will to Power, 521 [Back]

20 Ibid., 752. "The will to power" is so hated in democratic ages that their entire psychology seems directed toward belittling and defaming it. The type of the great ambitious man who thirsts after honor is supposed to be Napoleon! And Caesar! And Alexander! -- As if these were not precisely the great despisers of honor! Ibid., 751. [Back]

21 In the American Declaration of Independence, we read: "When in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation. We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. [Back]

22 "There is in fact a true law, namely, right reason, which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men, and is unchangeable and eternal. By its commands this law summons men to the performance of their duties; by its prohibitions it restrains them from doing wrong. Its commands and prohibitions always influence good men, but are without effect upon the bad. To invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right, nor is it permissible ever to restrict its operation, and to annul it is wholly impossible. Neither the senate nor the people can absolve us from our obligation to obey this law. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all peoples; and there will be, as it were, one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter, and its sponsor. The man who will not obey it will abandon his better self, and, in denying the true nature of a man, will thereby suffer the severest of penalties, though he has escaped all the other consequences which men call punishment." Cicero, Republic, III, 22. [Back]

23 St. Thomas Aquinas. On Being and Essence. Prologue. Cf Aristotle, De Coelo, I, 5. [Back]