To the list of subjectivist sins we can now add a reverse of Greg Koukl's Tolerance Trick: The Tolerance of Intolerance. A (regretfully anonymous) commentator on Thursday 12th, to a post on the plight of Christians in the Middle East on the blog Setting the World to Rights wrote as follows:
Relativistic thinking leads to a peculiar problem. If one person cannot judge an other's behavior because he does not live in his skin and cannot see through his eyes, then how should disagreements be settled? If each antagonist's conflicting idea about what each will do is determined by equally valid but differing perspectives, then a philosophy that starts out sounding tolerant to each, devolves into a philosophy that supports conflicting patterns of behavior, otherwise known as violence. By uncritically accepting the Islamists perspective that Westerners are "Christian Crusaders", no doubt in the name of being tolerant, the Archbishop (ed. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams) unwittingly accepts the legitimacy of the consequences of that worldview, namely the massacre of Christians -- surely the height of intolerance. The Archbishop, like relativists who argue similarly, adopts a morally inconsistent and therefore morally wrong position: the tolerance of intolerance.... for which we are no end grateful!
In the world of paradoxes and oxymora created by the relativist world view I yesterday even had to conclude that the impossible has now become possible. What keeps bothering me no end is the case of Rocco Buttiglione. Let me not repeat the whole sordid matter: a biography and links to media articles on the case can be found on the site of the Acton Institute.
It was of course the politically correct E.U. at its worst, having elevated subjectivism to the officially prescribed policy for all member countries. I'm just wondering what my old hero, philosopher and former E.U.commissioner Frits Bolkestein would make of it. We cannot know, as he doesn't seem to blog.
It is of course a case that would make any follower of genuine Liberalism, in the classical sense of De Tocqueville and John Locke, shudder at the mere thought, the latter two probably turning in their graves as well. I know my mother does.
I was a member of the Dutch (classical) Liberal party VVD (not to be confused with the left wing Liberal D66) when Frits Bolkestein was leading it with great moral courage. Mr Bolkestein at his inauguration stressed the need to come to a discussion in the party on ethics and morality. It never got off the ground, there being a wing that subscribes to "unlimited liberty as long as nobody else gets hurt" and the banning of "preaching moral values", a hint at the fully fledged relativism of current date. The subject at some point even became a real taboo. It was - in the end - also the core reason for me leaving the party.
Since there's an element, described by some journalists with a turn for the caricature, as "beer tap liberalism" - a branch of Liberals not particularly interested in the inner thoughts and workings of the doctrine itself - they know little of De Montesquieu who remarked on the American Constitution that it worked as it was embedded in a Christian society, and John Adams who said that the American Constitution was made "only for a moral and religious people". Alexis de Tocqueville has commented that "despotism may govern without faith, liberty cannot" and Liberal theorist John Locke noted on civil society that it was Christianity that gave his doctrine foundations and strength.
Contrary to how it is seen at present, I think that for at least a number of the great Liberal philosophers from the age of the Enlightenment, it never was the idea for society to become "radically enlightened" (secularized, science and reason only considered possible outside the faith), in the sense that Christianity, as the original source of reason, science and natural philosophy, was seen by them as an obstacle to the Liberal ideal. Above quotations are proof to the contrary.
Pope Benedict XVI in his book "Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures" proposes that we adopt the reverse of an axiom from the age of the Enlightenment, when an attempt was made to understand and define the essential norms and morality by saying, these would be valid etsi Deus non daretur, even if God did exist. The reverse advising the atheist to direct his life veluti si Deus daretur, as if God did indeed exist.
It is valuable advice from men who in wisdom and knowledge are light-years removed from today's pseudo scepticism and sophistry that in fact has led to a form of politically correct crypto- totalitarianism, that hasn't the foggiest notion or even awareness of a nasty by-product of democracy, the dictatorship by the majority.
But in line with the paradox of The Intolerance of Tolerance, it is the Dictatorship of Liberalism that is at the core of "The Case Buttiglione", a case with more victims than Mr Buttiglione and the E.P. alone: it marks the death of classical Liberalism as we knew it. (It stands to reason, when basically totalitarian parties start calling themselves liberal.)