Injustice in liberalism and totalitarianism

Let a liberal society be one that allows extensive social relationships outside the reach of law or politics, and therefore (at least) tolerates some degree of what now gets called discrimination. At it’s most sympathetic, tolerance for this sort of discrimination appeals to the equality of justice. If, for example, a consumer can buy or refuse a product or service for any reason he wants – or for no reason at all – why doesn’t the seller enjoy the same right of denial? For liberalism, tolerating what now gets called discrimination is a part of justice, since justice is freedom of association. 

This toleration is easier when technology is relatively undeveloped. When we aren’t aware of the effects of discrimination we also lack the ability to control them, and even if we wanted to control these things it would run up against (a) the limits of our ability to observe what is going on too far outside our own community and (b) the intrinsic limits of the political.

When technology develops to a certain point – first suggested in the Reformation and definitely achieved in the Twentieth Century – Liberal society no longer enjoys the blissful ignorance of the discrimination it tolerates but either has to either double down and bite the bullet of allowing it or widen the political sphere to combat it. To extend the political sphere this far into quondam social sphere, however, demands there be nothing outside the state, i.e. a  totalitarian regime.

The totalitarian regime sees an injustice in tolerating the discrimination arising from the liberal division between the political and the social. What liberalism sees as integral to justice totalitarianism takes as the injustice mandating vigorous intrusion into the social.

One difficulty in deciding between liberal and totalitarian regimes is that it’s hard to abstract from the question of whose ox is gored. One appeals to the same freedom of association if a corporation puts “No Colored” signs over its lunch counters as when PayPal or YouTube deplatforms undesirable pundits, but how sympathetic one is to the “right of association” implicit in both, or the extension of state power to end either one, is more a matter of ideology than principle.

My point is not that there is no tertium quid between liberalism and totalitarianism (though I think the third option is a hard balance to hit) but about a fundamental division of opinion over what justice demands, and which plays itself out, at least at its extremes, in either a foregrounding of liberalism that backgrounds the dark sides of the freedom of association or a foregrounding of the evils of discrimination that backgrounds its totalitarianism.

Analogy in Thomas

Re-reading Thomas’s texts on analogous naming of God for the idunnohowmanyith time, the whole thing seems a good deal simpler than the commentary has made it.

The basic rule is this:

Analogous names have a per prius analogue. Every analogue other than this is called per posterius.

An analogue is per prius if it enters into the definition of per posterius analogues. So coffee can mean either the grounds, the drink, the color of paint or the flavor of ice cream, but the drink enters into the definition of the other three while the opposite is not the case. So the drink is per prius and the others are per posterius.

Because of this, there are two relations called “analogy”:

a.) Any analogue relating to the per prius analogue.

b.) Any per posterius analogue relating to another.

Sense (a) is how any analogue of coffee stands to the drink, sense (b) is how any analogue other than the drink stands to another.

Thomas’s main interest in analogous names said of God is to insist that the God-analogue is per prius. So which names of God are analogous? We could start with the Fourth Way, which proves God is the maximal good, true, dignified, and being, and qua maximal measure is the per prius analogue of every indeterminate manifold of lesser goods he measures. But in fact any of the names of God in the Five Ways are analogues for which God most of all satisfies the ratio of the name. God, in other words, more fulfills what one means by cause, mover, agent cause, necessary being, intelligence, or governor than any of the sensible beings of the same name.

Though analogies between God and creatures presuppose some causal connection, it is not in virtue of God’s causality that he is named analogously to creatures. Coffee (the grounds) causes coffee (the drink) but the latter is the per prius analogue. Thomas only names God analogously so far as the name has a per prius referent in God, otherwise Thomas is content to name God by negation or relation to creatures.

The measures of being

0.1) Every mul­titude in some way participates in The One. Whatever exists belongs to some order, and the maximal in any order is both (a) most simple and (b) the measure of all else in that order. So the maximal in any order deserves the name The One. 

0.2) Where an order has more and less, it has a maximal described above.

0.3) Measure reduces the indeterminacy of some manifold to the certainty of something known in itself. When the room is measured in inches the inch, qua standard of length, is known entirely in itself and has no standard of length.

0.4) Only quantity is measured, but quantity is either predicamental or transcendental. Quantity limited to the category studied by mathematics is predicamental and the transcendental is anything else, like things that are more or less white, black, smooth, alive, formal, dignified, true, etc.

1.1) The maximally simple measure of predicamental quantity is the number one, measuring both by multiplication and division of itself (the way a meter stands to both kilometers and millimeters). The totality of all these multiplications and divisions is equal to the number of possible equations, i.e. the ways in which we can express unity in quantity.

1.2) Taken solely as a physical modification of an organ, the sensible world is purely quantitative, comprised of what the Medievals called common sensibles and Locke called primary sensibles. So taken, nature’s rationality is a pure participation in the simplicity of the one, and the possibilities of nature might be as extensive as possible equations, i.e. expressions of unity in quantity. The stable relationships between the numbers so generated are physical laws.

1.3) Among measures, quantitative measure is most intelligible to us and is therefore least intelligible in itself, i.e. measure makes the physical world more rational in to us but accepts a certain irrationality in doing do so. First, physical laws are pure abstractions from the qualitative world even while they can only be verified through the very qualities we abstract from. Second, the very measure itself is only rational in the lowest possible way. True, “The One” to which we reduce the manifold is simple and known in itself, but this arises largely from fiat, in the way that standards have no length qua standards. Third, and most of all, there is no definite answer to whether the quantitatively abstracted is real. It is a melange of the real and mental fiat which cannot even be understood as approaching some definite real term.

2.1) The intelligible indeterminacy of the world is more perfectly reduced to that which is known in itself though the natural generation of the human person within the cosmos. The person is known in himself not by stipulation or fiat but instrinsically and by nature. Notwithstanding Protagoras’s very different understanding of his axiom, man is literally the measure of all things.

2.2) The human person measures all things first by his rational nature, comprised of both (a) a rational part and (b) a part that is not rational but can obey reason. The first is an illumination of and receptivity to the real as such and so can have no definite physical structure; the second is nature’s own participation in rational life, and so is the totality of nature so far as it is a cause of human life. The most obvious expression of (b) is in the human central nervous system or, more generally, the human body.

2.3) While on one axis our clearest knowledge of nature is through quantitative correlations, of itself nature is interiority of action which, from the point of view of the one in the habit of seeking quantitative correlations, is entirely irrational. Nature in this sense is understood more intimately by gardening than by biology; by myth than by measurement; by poetry and landscape painting than by experiments. These oppositions can never be absolute, however, since they are all different noetic dimensions of one and the same human life, and distortions or privations of one dimension will affect the others.

2.4) Part (b) of the person is sexually dimorphous. Dimorphism was long understood to reduce to a supposedly simpler and more perfect masculine principle, but the incoherencies in this theory, always present, have become unavoidable. While we have no widely accepted theory to replace male supremacy, any possible theory must explain how the human person measures all things in an essentially sexually dimorphous manner.

2.5) Minimally, the perfection of the universe requires at least one man and one woman entirely without defect, and this pair together would be the intra-cosmic measure of all things absolutely. The Apostolic Church has a very ancient theory of this sort, and among these the theory that the feminine measure was never with defect is the more coherent with the line of thought developed here.

3.1) The measure of being must be purely simple and known in itself, but nothing intra-cosmic can be this absolutely. Pure simplicity in the intelligible order is an essence both knowing itself and identical to its essence, which the Apostolic Church has always understood as the angelic order. Much more needs to be said about the angels as measures of being.

4.1) The simplicity of the divine nature is not just on the intelligible level but even in the principle of the intelligible, i.e. not just the order of essentia but the order of esse. 



Fortitude habitually construes one’s negative emotions as opportunities for human excellence.

The usual context of negative emotions is life in community: family, job, political life.

Trait neuroticism measures susceptibility to negative emotion. Fortitude views high neuroticism as increasing opportunity and so making fortitude achievable in a shorter amount of time.

Aristotle explains fortitude by its paradigm and ideal expression in death for the highest and most common good (for him, the city; for us, God and his truth) but the highest in any genus is the least known to us. Fortitude is most known to us in patience.

Fortitude is the first virtue since its matter is the most knowable to us.

The reception of act

Esse is either received or not, but we sense only the reception of accidental esse and have to draw analogies to higher modes of reception.  Absent analogy, one only visualizes “receiving” esse after already assuming it.

A radio or TV are pure information receivers. The information is an accident of either appliance, but it’s still true that

1.) The receiver is not given. It’s not as if TV’s were just lying about and we decided to use them to receive broadcasts. The broadcast material was an ambient given without which the radio becomes plastic junk. Thus receivers, as receivers, aren’t givens – the informing reality (IR) is the given with the receiver assembled after the fact.

2.) Receivers are characterized by a desire for the IR. This desire means nothing other than the receiver lacks any raison d’être apart from the IR, and the measure of its value is entirely from how well it can be informed by it.

3.) The IR is the measure of the receiver. We judge the value of the receiver relative to how faithfully the IR is present to it, but the reverse is not true.

4.) The receiver limits and contracts the IR. As received, form is only here, though capable of actualizing in many other places.

So receivers are (a) non-givens relative to a given form (b) instrinsically a sort of desire, lacking a raison d’être in themselves, (c) measured by the being they desire and (d) limiting the desired reality.





Translation of Mediator Dei

A translation of Mediator Dei on the key paragraph 70 which sets out a theory of how the Mass is a sacrifice:

[A]ccording to the plan of divine wisdom, the sacrifice of our Redeemer is shown forth in an admirable manner by external signs which are the symbols of His death. For by the “transubstantiation” of bread into the body of Christ and of wine into His blood, His body and blood are both really present: now the eucharistic species under which He is present symbolize the actual separation of His body and blood. Thus the commemorative representation of His death, which actually took place on Calvary, is repeated in every sacrifice of the altar, seeing that Jesus Christ is symbolically shown by separate symbols to be in a state of victimhood.

The translator’s stress on symbol is impossible to miss, but causes something of a scandal. Why demand a physically present and transubstantiated Christ for the sake of a symbolic sacrifice?

The original:

[E]x divinae sapientiae consilio Redemptoris nostri sacrificatio per externa signa, quae sunt mortis indices, mirando quodam modo ostenditur. Siquidem per panis « transubstantiationem » in corpus vinique in sanguinem Christi, ut eius corpus reapse praesens habetur, ita eius cruor : eucharisticae autem species, sub quibus adest, cruentam corporis et sanguinis separationem figurant. Itaque memorialis demonstratio eius mortis, quae reapse in Calvariae loco accidit, in singulis altaris sacrificiis iteratur, quandoquidem per distinctos indices Christus Iesus in statu victiinae significatur atque ostenditur.

So “symbols of his death” is mortis indices; the verb in “‘symbolize’ the actual separation” is figurant; “commemorative representation” is memorialis demonstratio; “separate symbols” is distinctos indices; “Christ is symbolically shown” is Christus… significatur atque ostenditur.

Notes on knowledge

-Abstraction is nothing but the cognitive act of considering one thing while not considering another, so sensation is more abstract than intellection is, since it considers sensible information in concrete entities while being non-cognizant of their intelligible structure. Intellection, on the other hand, considers intelligible structure both in itself and as realized in the concrete, and in this sense is inherently less abstract.

-In making rational creatures, God is not multiplying himself but making a part of the universe with access to the power ordering the whole universe. If the power of intelligence were not the power at work in the world, science would not be possible. Knowledge would no more reveal the world than chilling would make steam out of water.

-All action reduces to intelligence, but any action so reducing intra-cosmically is human. All action starts from the causality of the end, but the end can only be causal within intelligence.

-The causality of intelligence is never intrinsic to the system. This is why experiments, in spite of being artistic constructions, tell us about nature and not art.


My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.

John 4 : 34.

Christ’s comparison is to the normal food of everyday life, and I know what food in this sense is to me – eating structures the hours of my day, it’s what I often find myself planning for and looking forward to, it’s what I’ll turn to for consolation or reward or celebration. Being without food for a matter of hours is usually not a psychological state that goes unnoticed.

Which is how Christ experienced doing the will of the Father. His habits of devotion pressed upon him with the urgency of physical desire, making him forgetful of physical needs in the face of his need for devotion in a way that most of us are forgetful of devotions in times when we’re looking for something to eat. Living by every word from the mouth of God was how Christ experienced life.


1.) Accounts of death have to be sensitive to its not being a part of life or an event in life. Life and death are not compatible states of any individual.

2.) One account that does this is death is an event which, occurring in fact, is entirely incompatible with life. 

3.) So things incompatible with life are measured by death as a maximum, having their ultimate intelligibility and existence from death, just as the execution and judgment of figure-skating routines is relative to a perfect 6.

4.) Privations of life, as such, are incompatible with it: hunger, thirst, loss of ones substance, infertility, pain, etc.

5.) If death allowed no connection with eternity or the divine then death is either decent into the realm of death or sheer annihilation guaranteeing that no ultimate purpose of life can be assured. Life is then either a sort of horror or an intrinsically purposeless backdrop onto which we might… what, project purpose? No. Purposes are aimed at, not projected.

6.) If life connects with eternity it does so through death and what is measured by death.



Contraception and eugenics

1.) Contraception is neither cosmetic nor a remedy for disease, but rests on a belief that we have the same power over our reproductive systems as we have over those of our cattle or pets.

2.) Power over cattle and pets is chiefly with the owners but isn’t entirely reserved to them. Cities have ordinances requiring spaying and neutering, and it’s understandable that farm policy regulates steers.

3.) So a right to contracept is implicated in a state right to eugenics.

4.) The obvious objection is that contraception is justified by an intrinsically personal, individualistic, self-expressive right. And doesn’t consent make an important difference? Allowing assisted suicide is not implicated in a state right to murder.

5.) But contraception could never be limited to a vague right to expression – the good of avoiding conception is a whole lot more pressing, and the state can make its case for limiting and controlling births. And the supposed firewall between assisted suicide and coerced death is largely imaginary. If your own knowledge of when you should die is infallible, why would you need a doctor? If it isn’t, why can’t you be wrong about believing you should live?

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