Summary of the Nietzschean critique

1.) The Liberal tradition lives by two axioms: the equality of all persons and the saving power of science.

2.) Hypothesis: both axioms are borrowed from Christianity but deprived of their basis, and so taken, it is only a matter of time before we recognize they are insupportable and even absurd.

3.) Christianity provides a robust sense to the equality of all persons through universal atonement, the great commission, and the presence of Christ in the poor. The Gospel is in some sense incomplete and the eschaton cannot arrive until everyone hears the message, and all without exception are called to the ultimate fulfillment in the heavenly kingdom adn the sacraments that bring it about now. From the beginning of the Liberal tradition, however, there have been not just differing but contradictory accounts of human equality, ranging from natural law accounts grounded on providence to Marxist accounts grounded on the critique of all religion and theism. The tension between these makes equality either incoherent or groundless, and therefore a revolution waiting to happen. In times of crisis, it’s inevitable that one side breaks radically from the Liberal tradition, either by Calhoun declaring that the Declaration was a “Self-evident lie” or the new Alt-Right denying any meaningful sense to human equality.

4.) Christianity could give a robust account of the absolute value of truth: it is the devotion to a God who chose to die rather than deny the truth of his message, and who was betrayed by those who chose to deny him rather than die.

The Liberal tradition also insists that one should never deceive others and must be entirely dedicated to truth: the scientist must be “unbiased” by any allegiance to religion or politics, and a fortiori towards attaining tenure, getting recognition, etc. But does the tradition itself have the resources to back up this claim? Sure, it’s easy to see why we shouldn’t lie all the time in the sciences, but why not occasionally for a good reason like, ya know, saving the world or getting tenure? At any rate, the sense that one is free from bias almost always comes from forgetting about all the areas of investigation he leaves out.

5.) The reason why human equality or the absolute value of truth had a basis in Christianity is because they were not fundamental, but outgrowths of the divinity and passion of Jesus and the catholicity of the Church. Ever since the French and American Revolutions we’ve wanted both to be axiomatic or somehow justified apart from this, but we have deep and intractable disputes over how this is done, and we’ve fought more than one war over the whether the axioms are justified at all.

 

 

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