Last week I was telling the Original Visitor about –
The Original Visitor breaks in: You don’t have to be so didactic.
Budziszewski: Why do you care? You’re a figment of my imagination.
But you’re imagining me to be something like a real reader, and a real reader would find your language patronizing. “I was telling him,” indeed.
Sorry, that's not my intention. How would you say it?
I thought we were having a little chat.
All right. Last week the Original Visitor and I were chatting about the four witnesses. Better?
May we now resume our broadcast?
Yes. You were going to tell me what the third witness is.
Well, you remember that we were talking about our natural design.
The second witness was recognition that in fact, we do have a natural design --
I remember. So?
So the third witness is just recognition of its details.
What do you mean?
If the human person really is a meaningful whole, then each of our various powers and features has moral significance.
For example, the respiratory power is for breathing, not sniffing airplane glue.
So by meanings and purposes you just mean the functions of our bodily organs.
No, I’m talking about all of our powers and features. The power of anger is for arousing us to the ordinate defense of endangered goods. The sexual power is for turning the wheel of the generations uniting the procreative partners. The power of practical reason is for deliberating well. The power of wonder is for stirring us up to seek truth, especially the truth about God. Each of these powers should be used according to its purpose.
A little propaganda, eh, Mr. Blogger? I see how you slipped in the item about sex.
I didn’t “slip it in.” We recognize the inbuilt meaning and purpose of the sexual powers in exactly the same way that we recognize the inbuilt meaning and purpose of, say –
Try anger. There’s a power for you. Tell me the “inbuilt meaning and purpose” of the power to become angry, if you can.
Wouldn’t you say that the inbuilt meaning and purpose of anger is to arouse us to the ordinate defense of endangered goods?
Why should that be the purpose?
Be serious. Apart from arousing us to the ordinate defense of endangered goods, why should there even be such a thing as anger?
And I suppose you’d say, “Apart from the need for posterity, why should there even be such a thing as sex?”
Would I be wrong?
Why not say that the meaning and purpose of sex is simply pleasure?
Because the exercise of every voluntary power is pleasurable, and that tells us nothing about its purpose. You wouldn’t say that the inbuilt meaning and purpose of the power to eat is simply pleasure, would you?
You said that each of our “powers and features” has moral significance, but all of your examples are what you call “powers.” Give me an example of a “feature.”
Sure: The fact that men and women are complementary.
Complementary, like different?
Complementary, like different in a way that makes them correspond, that makes them form a whole. There is something missing in a man which is more fully present in the woman, and something missing in a woman which is more fully present in the man. They balance each other.
And why do you say that this fact about us has “moral significance”?
Because any way of life which denies or defies it is asking for trouble.
Every few sentences I want to hit you.
Why? I don’t have any urge to hit you.
Never mind. Tell me the fourth witness.
When I do you may hit me anyway.
Because the fourth witness is all about asking for trouble.
So what is it?
The natural consequences of our deeds.
Hmm. What do you mean by “natural consequences”?
All of the things that happen to us when -- and because -- our lives cut across the grain of our design.
If I cut myself, then I bleed. If I use a lot of dope, then I become its slave.
So by “natural” consequences you mean bodily consequences.
No, I mean all of the consequences which arise in the course of nature. If I live by knives, then I die by knives. If I desert the mother, then my child grows up without a father. If I hop from bed to bed, then eventually I lose the capacity for intimacy. If I betray my friends, then eventually I have no friends.
Okay, not just bodily. You mean bodily, emotional, and social consequences.
Don’t forget the intellectual consequences.
If I make myself stupid, then I will end up even stupider than I had intended. Works every time.
I’m not sure I understand you.
You should. I’ve been talking about it for weeks.
Oh, I see – those stories you’ve been telling in your blog –
Most of them are about the natural consequences of suppressing conscience. Right?
So they’re about the natural consequences of making yourself stupid.
But then they’re not about just one witness.
They’re about two witnesses at once. The first and the fourth. Deep conscience and natural consequences.
So the four witnesses don’t work independently. They depend on each other. They interact. We need all four.
Exactly. Do you notice how that takes us back to the question you asked at the beginning of the conversation?
That was last week. What was it again?
You asked why what I call natural law doesn’t sound much like what thinkers like Hobbes and Locke called natural law.
I said I work in the classical natural law tradition, but they were revisionists. So you asked about the difference.
You’re going to tell me that thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke got natural law wrong because somehow or other they got the four witnesses wrong. Correct?
Yes, but it’s even worse, because the revisionists didn’t even admit that there are four witnesses. You see, they were simplifiers.
What do you mean?
The hallmark of classical natural law thinking is that it tries to weave all four witnesses into a tapestry.
So you’ve been saying.
But the revisionists tried to make their tapestries with fewer colors. They always ignored or diminished at least one of the witnesses.
Illustrate. Use Hobbes.
His theory recognized only one of the four witnesses.
Right on the first try. Not only that, he recognized only one kind of natural consequence.
Right. He considered man’s natural condition to be anarchy. But in anarchy life was short. According to him, we worked out moral laws in order to stay alive, and we invented government to enforce the moral laws.
But that’s not all wrong, is it? Morality does help keep us from each other’s throats.
And government does enforce – never mind, I don’t want to say that. Still, isn’t there something to be said for keeping one’s theory simple? Occam’s Razor and all that. Why clutter up the picture with unnecessary details?
Because they aren’t all unnecessary.
You’re saying the revisionists threw out some moral data.
Actually, a lot of it.
And I suppose throwing it out had natural consequences too?
Yes! When you push some of the facts out the front door of your theory, you force them to try to creep in through the back door. Worse yet –
Worse yet, they may not succeed.
At creeping back in.
You’ve lost me again.
Would you mind not being found until next week?