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Notes from Chapter 12 – Section 3

– He internalized that principle of “‘All differences of opinion are at bottom theological.” to become “possibly the most leaned American theologian of any communion” (432-433) as a thorough skeptic

– The central theme of his voluminous works is: “the insistence that for our salvation in this world and the other, we must look to things of the spirit, accept the duality of human nature, remind ourselves that the present moment is of small consequence in the mysterious system of being.” (433)

  • Shelburne Essays
  • The Green Tradition
  • New Shelburne Essays

– He recognized like Burke and Newman that generations must “link spiritually” in order for civilization and human existence to continue into the future

– A believe in a transcendent power is critical

– Man must strike a balance between law for man and love for thing and always keep a distinct view of duty in private and public life

Paul Elmer More Notes

“Our modern social confusion, intellectually considered, is the consequence of confounding the sphere of private morality with the sphere of public activity.” (433)

– The church has a weapon to use against the evils of society which needs to be restored and that is a sense of duty here and beyond the grave

“‘The one effective weapon of the Church in her campaign against the unnecessary evils of society, her one available instrument for bringing into play some measure of true justice as distinct from the ruthless law of competition and from the equally ruthless will to power of the proletariat, is through the restoration in the individual human soul of a sense of responsibility extending beyond the grave.’” (434)

– Society must find its way back to a religious permanence or risk being stuck in the flux of the romantic/scientific approach which has a shifting principle: “pleasure of the individual” – aka Pragmatism

“In such times, the man of conscience must declare boldly that he is a reactionary; otherwise formlessness in philosophy and letters will become formlessness in society, impotent acceptance of change, leading to the individualism of Cobden or the collectivism of Marx – in either case, the stifling of civilization by material forces; or, this bulwark failing in turn, then anarchy.” (434)

– Being a reactionary to change isn’t cowardly but an action of stepping forward with “immutable fact” and to bring forth ideas based on what history has taught mankind

– Instead of developing something new, use forces of “discrimination and selection” to guide our thoughts of facing down present circumstances

Aristocracy & Justice is a reaction to the societal flux of early WW1 and bring forth the political problem: how can a democratic society recognize the need for and implement an unrecognized (by symbol) aristocracy to guide them?

– Not “more” but “better” democracy is the cure for democracy

– A natural aristocracy that doesn’t seek “inherited privilege”, money, or oligarchy is necessary to create the “machine” to bring out the best leaders of society and lead with a bestowed power

– A reform in higher learning that top of society must occur

– Purge the cancer of Humanitarianism and instill a proper sense of duty

– Generations of societal elites have been corrupted from Utilitarian greed to fierce advocates of the welfare state

“‘The scheme of the humanist might be described in a word as disciplining of the higher faculty of the imagination to the end that the student may behold, as it were in one sublime vision, the whole scale of being in its range from the lowest to the highest under the divine decree of order and subordination, without losing sight of the immutable veracity at the heart of all development, which ‘is only the praise and surname of virtue.’’” (436)

– Without a guide of something higher or education of past, men will be subject to any dictatorial whim

– Freedom of distinction vs freedom of envy is the true liberty man needs to be guided toward and in by a natural aristocracy with a liberal minded education

– Universities just try to turn out people and not build up the minds that are necessary for “social tranquility”

– More importantly than how an aristocrat will manage but what upon – that principles must be Justice

– More defines just as “‘the act of right distribution, the giving to each man his due’” or “‘the inner state of the soul when, under the command of the will to righteousness, reason guides and the desires obey’ or, briefly ‘Justice is happiness, happiness is Justice.” (437)

– More condemns the idea of “social justice”

“Social justice, instead, is ‘such a distribution of power and privilege, and of property as the symbol and instrument of these, as at once will satisfy the distinctions of reason among the superior, and will not outrage the feelings of the inferior.’” (437)

Paul Elmer More Notes

– The legislator must find a balance in the pursuit of justice and all must recognize there will always be some “injustice” in the world because laws and men are not perfect

“We are not perfect or perfectible creatures; and if we would be in harmony with Nature, we must not damn the nature of things (like Porson trying to blow out the mirrored image of a candle-flame) and demand that absolute Justice which does not reside in this world.” (438)

– Property can be the most striking inequality but retention of it is critical to civilization’s survival

“Unless we call civilization a mistake, any attempt to ignore natural inequality and propertied inequality is sure to cause general unhappiness.” (438)

– Man is a best, but property is his unique identifier and the “means of civilization” without which we could never advance

“To the civilized man the rights of property are more important than the right to life.” (438)

Paul Elmer More Notes
Paul Elmer More Notes

– Law plays a critical part in property rights but even that must be balanced

– It is more important that “legal robbery” laws come along with “maintenance of law” than for law to be abused

– Law must find a balance in where it’s capable of being effective rather than extending itself and gaining contempt among the people

“If you deny a fact, the fact will control you. This is true of property. ‘You may to a certain extent control it and make it subservient to the ideal nature of man; but the moment you deny its rights, or undertake to legislate in defiance of them, you may for a time unsettle the very foundations of society, you will certainly in the end render property your despot instead of your serving, and so produce a materialized and debased civilization.’” (438)

“When property is insecure, the spirit of materialism flourishes.” (439)

– When people sense turbulence with property ownership they tend to consume it more and denounce those with more “intellectual leisure”

“‘There is something at once comical and vicious in the spectacle of those men of property who take advantage of their leisure to dream out vast benevolent schemes which would render their own self-satisfied career impossible.’” (439)

– Societal progress comes with the security of the means of ownership, production, and distribution

– Transferring property from consumers to producers changes nothing but imperils societal order

“‘For if property is secure, it may be the means to an end, whereas if it is insecure it fill be the end itself.’” (439)

– Conservatives face challenge to overcoming the radical’s advantages of “…the seduction of flattery, the opportunism which deals with immediate material needs to the exclusion of distant considerations, the force of humanitarian sympathies.” (439)

– A conservative can appeal to the imagination and morality of another but must be certain his own imagination and morality are sound

– Must face town the social passions that constitute New Morality

“Humanitarianism, usurping the place of the Church, endeavors to ignore the existence of Sin and to erect sympathy into a social theory, leaving individual responsibility out of account. Sympathy and justice are confounded.” (439)

– The conservative will have challenges that require him to remember their dual nature of self and spirit which has a higher guide than the shifting passions of the crowd

“Guided by this intuition, ‘he will know that the obligation to society is not the primal law and is not the source of personal integrity, but is secondary to personal integrity. He will believe that social justice is in itself desirable, but he will hole that it is far more important to preach first the responsibility of each man to himself for his own character.’” (440)

– More further defines justice as:

“‘The Everlasting Morality of distinctions and of voluntary direction opposed to the so-called New Morality of drifting.’” (440)

– Aristocrats and society are allied to help guide the senses of morality and if it’s in flux (as humanitarians like) ir rapidly leads to collective compulsion

– Politics leads to morals which must lead to religious faith

– Without a religious fear of something higher or natural instincts lead us to a fear of class war or societal destruction or “subjugation to the machine”

“‘As we contemplate the world converted into a huge machine and managed by engineers, we gradually grow aware of its lack of meaning, of its emptiness of human value; the soul is stifled in this fortification of mechanical efficiency. And then we begin to feel the weakness of such a creed when confronted by the real problems of life; we discover its inability to impose any restraint on the passions of men, or to supply any government which can appeal to the loyalty of the spirit. And seeing these things we understand the fear that is gnawing at the vitals of society.’” (440)

– Humanitarians are defenseless against a power figure because of their destructive powers against “old loyalties and prescriptions”

– Turning back to a societal fear of God helps to direct us back to a healthy human instinct which is the recognition that fear, injustice, and sin can never be eradicated but a higher power will help to guide us through them

– More studied and wrote great books on Platonism & Christianity

  • The Greek Tradition
  • The Religion of Plato
  • Hellenistic Philosophies
  • The Christ of the New Testament
  • The Catholic Faith
  • Christ the Word

“Nothing else in American letters, for union of constance with power of execution, equals More’s intricate countermine to radical naturalism in philosophy and radical humanitarianism in social controversy.” (442)

– Naturalists attempt to ignore sin and redemption, justice and grace, as relative ideas but abuse society along the way – these ideas are very real to the conservative

Conservatism on a higher level requires a strong imagination and consecration

“‘It is true that religion, or religious philosophy, as its friends and foes have seen from the beginning, is an alleviator of discontent and brake upon innovation,’ More said in 1921; ‘but the content it offers from the world of immaterial values is a necessary counterpoise to the mutual envy and materialistic greed of the natural man, and the conservatism it inculcates is not the ally of sullen and predatory privilege but of orderly amelioration.’” (442)

– He reminded America of the high philosophies of Christianity and Greeks and exposed the pragmatists’ dead-end philosophies

  • Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001

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