The Artist as Judge


J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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3 Responses

  1. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    I find modern and classical more helpful than left-right, or “liberal” in any fashion. Renaissance humanism was “liberal,” yet I don’t see it fitting into “modern” as I understand it. Conservative is best understood as an opposition to radicalism, or “modernity” as I understand it.

    Calvinism-Puritanism, certainly not modern. The French philosophes, modern. The Scottish Common Sense Enlightenment, not modern [and the version of the Enlightenment that vitiated the American Founding].

    When you speak of a “freedom with some defining purpose,” that is an Aristotelian teleology [Aquinas’ as well], and it is “natural law,” the concept of freedom of the American Founding. The freedom that is an end in itself is that of the moderns, of the utilitarians, of the libertarians [except Rothbard]. Pope Benedict complains of such a soulless freedom, whose only telos is itself, freedom for freedom’s own sake.

    Lawler, whom I like: “Freedom of religion is for freedom of religion–understood as an organized community of thought and action in which particular persons participate.”

    This is Barry Shain’s thesis BTW,
    The Myth of American Individualism:
    The Protestant Origins of American Political Thought

    Coming from the Roman Catholic tradition, I’ve found learning Protestantism–particularly via “Calvinist resistance theory”—invaluable in understanding the American ethos. I like Lawler because he appreciates that, that somehow between whatever’s modern about Locke and the Calvinist view of man, there is, as he puts it, an “accidental Thomism.”

    [I don’t think it was “accidental,” but that’s a quibble.]

    “Our Declaration is Thomistic at least to this extent: Because of Congress’s amendments to the original draft, the God of Nature becomes emphatically also the living God of the Bible. That’s in the context of free persons pledging all they have and are to each other in a sacred cause they share in common.

    Had our Declaration been the exclusive or even the primary product of the original Puritans, it would have been theocratic—that is, not orthodox Christianity. The Puritans, Alexis de Tocqueville tells us, were heretics in the sense that they were about basing the law of their political community on the law found in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. There’s not a word in the New Testament that would justify their effort, in effect, to criminalize every sin.”

    [Here, the thing is that to rid themselves of all traces of popery, the Puritans left the ecclesiastical courts behind in Europe. So where marriage, divorce, childrearing, adultery, inheritances, drunkenness, and many of the components of social order were once administered by the church, it fell to the state to enforce these norms of social order.]Report

    • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

      the antecedent is not quite clear, (and I may be confusing your thoughts with a paraphrase of someone else’s) – are you saying The Scottish version of the Enlightenment vitiated the American Founding ? And if so, is vitiated the actual word you want to use, or the opposite of the word you want to use?Report