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Which Barth? Whose Failure?
A Reply to Matthew Rose

Matthew Rose: “Barth agreed with the Enlightenment insistence on the historical and empirical conditions of our knowledge, only to observe that God himself became historical and empirical” (“Karl Barth’s Failure,” June/July).

George Hunsinger: This is not right. The word “empirical” is out of place.

MR: “This violated no Kantian or Humean stricture.”

GH: Nonsense.

MR: “He authored one of the great metaphysical treatises in modernity.”

GH: Again, nonsense.

MR: “Having rooted theology completely within Christology, he was required to claim that God and his revelation were somehow identical.”

GH: Since for Barth the triune God is eternal and self-sufficient, God’s revelation of himself in history corresponds to and reiterates his eternal being. They are identical in content but not in form or ontological status.

MR: “He is his revealed life.”

GH: A half-truth at best, leaving out the more important half, namely, that God’s inner life lacks nothing in itself (II/2, 121). The eternal God exists in a “perfection . . . which needs no filling” (IV/1, 201).

MR: “Humanity is present in God’s eternity.”

GH: Only in a certain respect, along the lines of Ephesians 1:4.

MR: “This arresting belief that God is in some way human from all eternity—that humanity is eternally enclosed in the second person of the Godhead—is the core of Barth’s entire theology.”

GH: This statement is misleading. In my opinion, the correct view is that for Barth, the eternal Son does not need the Incarnation in order to be who he is to all eternity. For example, Barth writes: “The Son of God does not need His humanity. . . . [He] does not need any completion, any concretion, any form which perhaps He lacks. He is not an abstraction. . . . Nor is He an empty prius [“before”] which waits to be filled out by something actual. . . . He is actual in Himself—the One who is originally and properly actual” (IV/2, 53–54).

The Incarnation, furthermore—and this is crucial—belongs to the contingent will, not the absolute being, of God. Barth makes a fundamental distinction between God’s “absolute being” and his “contingent will” (von absolutem Sein und kontingentem Willen Gottes) (III/1, 15)—in other words, between God’s absolute being as the Holy Trinity and his contingent will in election and Incarnation.

By virtue of God’s eternal will and foreknowledge, however, the contingent union of his two natures is present in the person of the Son (proleptically) “from before the foundation of the world.” Barth is here thinking through an Augustinian view of eternity—that God knows eternally and therefore simultaneously—from the standpoint of his Christ-centered view of pre-temporal election. He is not making Jesus’s human nature constitutive of the Son’s essential identity, which he always insists is independent of election. “Of course, the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God does not rest on election” (II/2, 107, rev.).

MR: “What did he mean? This remains a topic of debate.”

GH: Mainly between Barth-revisionism on the one hand and Paul D. Molnar and me on the other. Rose cuts the Gordian Knot by siding with the revisionists while then completely ignoring the opposing interpretation.

MR: “Not an aspect or feature of his identity behind which his deepest nature remained hidden.”

GH: Another half-truth. The triune God remains hidden, for Barth, in and with his self-revelation (not behind or above it). For Barth, the triune God is revealed in his essential hiddenness, and hidden in his self-revelation.

MR: “Barth never fully owned up to the radical implications of his identification of God with revelation. He sometimes suggested that God actually constitutes his divine identity in his act of self-disclosure.”

GH: This is a disputed view. Note again the trick word “identification.” I think it can be shown beyond reasonable doubt that for Barth God did not constitute his identity in his self-disclosure.

MR: “God’s being is not merely a being-in-act but a being-in-this-act.”

GH: This is false. The act in which God has his being to all eternity is the act of his eternal Trinitarian self-constitution. His act of revelation is a repetition of his already constituted triune being in a historical form. It is contingent not constitutive. As Barth never tired of stating, God would be fully who he is as the triune God without it (see below).

MR: “ . . . identifying God’s essence with his revealed actions.”

GH: Once again this is a misguided thesis. Rose has to overlook a lot of contrary evidence to say this.

MR: “ . . . the scholastic separation of the question of God’s existence from that of his revealed identity.”

GH: Well, there may be unfortunate scholastic versions of this idea, but it is essential to all historic Nicene Christianity that there is a difference between time and eternity, and therefore between the immanent Trinity (God’s absolute being) and the economic Trinity (the contingent and historical manifestation of God’s absolute being). It is a matter of one Holy Trinity in two different forms, the one eternal and the other temporal, with the former being absolute and self-sufficient while the latter is contingent and dependent.

MR: “God eternally wills the redemption of the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.”

GH: Yes, of course. But that does not mean that God is constituted by willing this event.

MR: “In his extraordinary 1956 lecture ‘The Humanity of God,’ Barth made the daring argument . . .”

GH: Hmmm. Rose might have done well not to overlook Barth’s statement in this very essay: “It is not as though God stands in need of another as His partner, and in particular of man, in order to be truly God. . . . Why should God not also be able, as eternal love, to be sufficient unto Himself? In His life as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit He would in truth be no lonesome, no egotistical God even without man, yes, even without the whole created ?universe. . . . But . . . He wants in His freedom actually not to be without man but with him and in the same freedom not against him but for him, and that apart from or even counter to what man deserves” (p. 50).

MR: “. . . a dismantling of the classical understanding of God.”

GH: I believe the evidence shows clearly that Barth did no such thing.

MR: “Barth yielded to modernity’s most pernicious idea” [i.e., denying our rational capacity for knowing God].

GH: On the contrary: I show elsewhere that Barth and Aquinas are actually to some degree in convergence on this point. (See my essay in the volume Light from Light, edited by Gerald O’Collins and Mary Ann Meyers.)

MR: “First, he turned his back on the metaphysics of classical theology.”

GH: He didn’t do this. He reconceived it, but he didn’t turn his back on it. His views are in line with those of Gregory of Nazianzus, Cyril of Alexandria, and Anselm of Canterbury.

MR: “He could not properly and consistently distinguish God’s nature from his actions in the history of salvation.”

GH: This statement is patently false.

MR: “His basic error is evident in his rejection of natural theology.”

GH: This is a big topic, but one that Rose thinks can be handled summarily. As Mark Lindsay has shown, Barth’s rejection of natural theology was of a piece with his rejection of anti-Semitism and of liberal theology’s Kulturprotestantismus. He actually did not reject the idea of natural revelation, but like Calvin believed that it was no good to us apart from prior faith in the particular God of Israel, whose revelation was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Natural theology wants to sidestep the covenant or to bring it in only later.

MR: “The primary purpose of traditional natural theology was to show the indissoluble connection between the human intellect and a transcendent God who is Being itself.”

GH: It would seem that this point is actually up in the air among contemporary Thomists. Gregory P. Rocca argues that the Five Ways, for example, are all based on a prior article of faith. Rudy A. te Velde problematizes Rose’s idea of a simple ontological connection in Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas.

MR: “His idée fixe—that God is wholly identical with his self-enactment in history—stood in the way.”

GH: In my view, utterly false. For Barth, God is contingently identical with his historical self-enactment only because he is already absolutely identical with himself in eternal perfection.

MR: “He never spawned vulgar popularizers, and to this day Barth scholarship has a well-deserved reputation for its exceptional quality and academic sobriety.”

GH: Thank you very much. Rose might have had the courtesy to acknowledge (beyond mere lip service) that his opinions are highly disputed in Barth scholarship at the present time.

George Hunsinger
princeton theological seminary
princeton, new jersey

Matthew Rose’s assessment of the great Swiss theologian Karl Barth claims that (1) Barth is appreciated by theologians and scholars for “liberating theology from modern captivity,” though (2) Barth took for granted modernity’s limitation of natural human reason to the empirical world.

Indeed, regarding the latter, Rose says that Barth “made a tactical alliance with the Enlightenment,” “repurpose[d] modern ideas for Christian ends,” “agreed with the Enlightenment” limitation of reason, “used the Enlightenment critique of reason” for theological purposes, and “yielded to modernity’s most pernicious idea.” Each of these statements suggests that Barth simply adopted a “secular” idea and gave it his theological blessing. In fact, neither claim is accurate.

Rose cites only one Barth scholar, John Webster, to support his contention that Barth is understood as an anti-modern thinker. He writes: “According to British theologian John Webster, Barth is ‘a central figure in the break up of the modern tradition,’ a theologian whose ‘vigorous critique’ of modernity exposed ‘its fatal weaknesses.’” Rose is citing Webster’s introductory essay in the Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth, but the full line reads: “Barth is certainly a central figure in the break up of the modern tradition in its theological expression.”

Webster does not present Barth as rejecting the modern tradition, but rather the modern theological tradition. And Webster goes on to say: “What is less often discerned is that Barth was also in important respects heir to that tradition.” The recognition that Barth is a thoroughly modern theologian is widely accepted. Appreciation of Barth as a modern thinker goes back at least to the early 1970s. In Anglophone studies, Bruce McCormack has developed this understanding of Barth in great detail.

The second claim is the more serious one, and here Rose misrepresents Barth’s thought. While Barth freely makes use of Kantian epistemological concepts, he is never dependent on them for his own theological epistemology, which is rooted not in secular axioms regarding human reason but in theological claims regarding the nature of God and divine action. Barth draws on a variety of theologoumena to make this case: the sola gratia of divine justification, the hiddenness of God, the eschatological otherness of God and God’s kingdom, the qualitative distinction between God and the world. All of this, of course, he sees in the Bible, particularly in the epistles of Paul. The point is that he does not need modern philosophy to establish his epistemology; he finds it already in Scripture and in his tradition as a Reformed theologian.

David W. Congdon
downers grove, illinois

Matthew Rose replies:

I’m afraid that George Hunsinger and I have failed to achieve disagreement. He repeatedly charges me with not paying greater attention to rival interpretations of Barth, especially those (like his) that emphasize God’s transcendence over history. Although I do note scholarly debate, my point was that no appeal to Barth’s texts can settle this debate by itself. That’s because there is, undeniably, a “wobble” in Barth’s doctrine of God.

Hunsinger and I know both the proof texts that support differing interpretations. But while Hunsinger wants us to admit the fact of this debate, I want to deplore it. It’s one thing for a theologian to introduce ambiguity on a minor dogmatic point. But on the very nature of God himself? All great theologians inspire debate, of course, and the greatest theologians inspire the greatest debate. What is tragic about Barth’s work is that he inspired irresolvable disagreement precisely where he most wished to avoid it.

The more important question is why Barth was led into this disastrous ambiguity. My argument was that his errors were philosophical before they were theological. I maintained that he failed to acknowledge that divine revelation becomes properly intelligible only in light of certain philosophical theses—and that it is precisely this philosophical background that allows Christians to rightly understand God’s relationship to the world. Since Hunsinger does not respond to that charge, I am afraid our disagreements are so deep as to include what it is we’re trying to disagree about.

David Congdon insists that Barth finds his epistemology in Scripture. Here we have another version of the same problem. I don’t think Barth was unsuccessful in doing this. I think it cannot be done.

Church in England

As a British pastor living and serving in the U.K., I would like to correct the impression James Mumford gives in “Going to Church in America” (June/July) that churches in the U.K. are empty. They are not!

Many of our churches are full and growing more full, mine included. Indeed, a recent study showed that regular attendance at Cathedral services is also on the rise.

I’m not sure, either, if it is altogether fair to refer to “British blathering” in the context of preaching. We in the U.K. have a fine tradition of Spirit-led, Word-based preaching and teaching, with men and women seeking weekly (not weakly!) to build upon it. No doubt we have our fair share of “blathering,” but I doubt we are on our own.

So please do not allow your imagination to conjure up a picture of the U.K. being a land of empty churches with windbag preachers. We have our difficulties and our challenges, but many of our churches are healthy and growing.

Oh, and my church never runs out of milk, either.

David C. Ashton
peterborough, cambridgeshire, u.k.

Laws & Morals

Hadley Arkes’s “Recasting Religious Freedom”(June/July) has both a descriptive and a prescriptive component. As a descriptive matter, Arkes rightly notes that “sincere belief” appears to be a touchstone for American popular understanding of religious accommodation. He laments this, because he sees it bound up with, or tending towards, an “indifference to radical evil,” which is the antithesis of law. This is the problem, and I agree that it is a real problem.

Arkes’s solution? We must view religious toleration through a lens of natural reason. If I understand him correctly, he believes that by making rational arguments we can see, for example, that the owners of Hobby Lobby, the Greens, are not asking for an exemption, but demonstrating why the contraceptive mandate is not a law, and is therefore not binding on anyone.

I also believe this is correct, at least as a formal matter, but I do not see it as a solution. Arkes believes that if we can correct our terminology, we will more naturally see in the light of reason. Yet the law does not exist in a vacuum, and the degeneration of legal terminology occurs at the same time as the broader breakdown of concepts in culture. We cannot hope to move the argument up a level by appealing to “reason” when that concept itself is contested.

In fact, I believe that the very lawyers and judges most hostile to Arkes’s conception of religious liberty would give their assent to his formal structure. In other words, these lawyers and judges would agree that the government “should bear the burden of showing that there is something deeply unreasonable about the understanding [of the moral implications of contraceptive drugs] maintained by the Greens.” And they would find—perhaps summarily—that their beliefs, and traditional Christian beliefs in general, are “unreasonable.”

In a culture where what constitutes a reasonable religion is shifting, it does no good to expect people to ratify traditional understandings of religious liberty. The legal forms that accommodate religious liberty completely underdetermine the content of the law. Natural reason is not luminous and a priori—it exists within and is ratified by culture. We hold these truths to be self-evident. If the “we” changes, so too does what we hold to be self-evident. Satanism and other forms of radical evil were out because they were out, not because they were carefully considered and rejected on Kantian grounds.

Thus, while I agree with Arkes’s goals, and even his description of the problem, I ask: In a society with no shared concept of reason, how do we awaken one?

Andrew Kloster
arlington, virginia

Hadley Arkes says that the plaintiffs fighting the Obamacare mandates that require the provision of insurance for abortifacients and contraceptives should be arguing for respect of the universal moral law, which resides in conscience, rather than asking for an exemption for sincerely held religious beliefs. While his argument is intellectually attractive, reliance upon it in court will result in defeat.

Lawyers and judges do not (and should not) engage in philosophical discussions about what they (in their individual consciences) consider to be morally right. We don’t really want the Supreme Court to ignore the actual wording of the laws they interpret and go rooting around in the legislative shadows—the so-called “penumbras”—to get a particular result that the plaintiffs may favor. That’s the kind of judicial activism that produced Roe v. Wade.

That is not to say that the natural moral law, which applies to all men regardless of religious creed, has no bearing. If the plaintiffs lose in court, this is the standard to determine if conscientious men will engage in civil disobedience and ignore the mandates in question.

One hopes that the Supreme Court will interpret the word “religion” broadly to cover the moral teaching of religious bodies as well as worship and rituals. This would not be Arkes’s ideal resolution, but it would come close.

Jan Hicks
oak ridge, tennessee

Hadley Arkes replies:

I appreciate the willingness of Andrew Kloster and Jan Hicks to write, but the best thing I can do in answering their concerns is to refer them to a book of mine that may be familiar to readers of this journal: First Things (Princeton, 1986). I explain there the moral ground of the law, and the classic connection between the logic of morals and the logic of law.

When we move to the level of a moral judgment, we move away from statements of merely personal taste and private belief; we speak of the things that are more generally or universally right or wrong, just or unjust, for others as well as ourselves. A law sweeps away personal taste and private choice; it imposes a rule binding on all. When we speak of “justifying,” showing the rightness or justice of a law, we speak about nothing less than establishing its moral ground.

But for both of my correspondents, this understanding would seem to come as news, if it comes at all. Hicks writes: “Lawyers and judges do not (and should not) engage in philosophical discussions about what they (in their individual consciences) consider to be morally right.” She seems not to have noticed that that is exactly what the law is about at every stage—or that it is precisely what she is about when she offers to us her own emphatic views on what is the rightful or wrongful ground of the law.

For Kloster: I’ve sought to explain in First Things,and my other books, that moral principles find their ground in the canons of reason. The American founders and Lincoln understood that the case against slavery was grounded in nature, and the moral case would be the same in all “cultures” where that nature remained the same. There is a certain discipline of reason that can indeed supply some moral truths; truths do not depend for their validity on the things “we hold” in any particular moment in our culture. Kloster asks: “In a society with no shared concept of reason, how do we awaken one?” But his very posing of the question makes no sense unless he is asking us to give him nothing less than “reasons” to explain how we reason about things when we disagree.

I was making an argument in my piece for a jurisprudence that can give a morally coherent account of itself. Hicks apparently doesn’t realize that she says nothing to meet that argument—that she rather confirms it—when she notes that, in the current state of things, that kind of argument “will result in defeat.” But she seems not to have recalled that portion of my essay in which I point out that an argument along the lines I’ve made has already succeeded in federal courts. And she seems not to recall that I was invoking principles that have long been recognized in our law.

There was nothing novel, then, in what I was offering. The only novelty may come in breaking away from the clichés that have come to pervade our discussion of law and in recovering what judges used to understand as the axioms of reason that supplied the grounds of their judgments.

Conservatism Contested

I fear that Roger Scruton is attempting to lecture a straw man “conservative.” The targets of his criticism in “The Good of Government” (June/July) are clearly libertarians, and not conservatives. The overwhelming consensus of both public and plebeian conservatives in no way fits the description given in the article.

Scruton is spot on in the opening paragraphs as he describes the encroachment of government, and it is that encroachment that conservatives are against. Most conservatives accurately sense that an increasingly bloated and heavy-handed government is slowly suffocating and making anemic those middling institutions like family, church, Boy Scouts, and all the rest.

Conservatives do, in fact, see government as good, when properly and constitutionally ordered. I think this is what Scruton means when he talks of “a government [which] is not imposed from outside.” He goes on to note that conservatives are seeing much that is imposed from the outside, as if from an “occupying power.” This angers and frightens conservatives because the good of government and the good of other traditional institutions are crumbling before their very eyes under an assault by a corrupt and rootless governmental system.

Rather, it is precisely those on the other side of the ideological and political aisle who devalue government, which Scruton describes well as “an expression of those extended loyalties over time, which bind generation to generation in a relation of mutual commitment.” In our day, government has left aside most of the “mutual” components in favor of a pure will to power, which Scruton mistakenly sees as a danger primarily in familial and tribal associations.

Reno’s “Empire of Desire” (June/July) was much more prophetic and prescient, while Scruton’s concerns rang hollow and irrelevant. Scruton simply gets it wrong when he states, “Conservatism should be a defense of government against its abuse by liberals.” I’m not sure what “conservatism” he is reprimanding for having failed in this endeavor; and I’m not sure it exists at all except in a few fringe factions. Chastising conservatives has long been a national pastime, but our current situation ­demands that such misdirected criticism between fellow defenders of “good government” be set aside for larger, more consequential battles.

Rich Wollan
columbus, indiana

Roger Scruton makes the novel claim that “The emergence of the welfare state was therefore a more or less inevitable result of popular democracy under the impact of total war.” And I don’t disagree, entirely. But what about the economic collapse of the 1930s, which predated the Second World War as a contributing factor?

Would social insurance systems (unemployment, retirement, medical) fall under the wartime compact (Hayek, I believe, said as much)? Or would these be impositions, as most of the right contends?

Jon Kinnaman
tuftonboro, new hampshire

Roger Scruton seems to believe, as do most of those who deplore the welfare state, that “welfare policies may lead to the creation of a socially dysfunctional underclass.”

I have worked at places where those with families continued to qualify for welfare even when working fifty-two hours a week. When a person working that much can’t pay for basic necessities without a government bailout, then there is indeed a problem with the cohesion of society, in that a group of employers gets the entire society to underwrite their labor costs via government “handouts.”

And society blames too often the victimized workers rather than the businesses paying less than a living wage. If the country really wanted to put an end to this abuse, it could charge employers for the benefits their employees receive and the costs of providing them, thereby eliminating the necessity for the rest of us to pay for them. And while that would be government interference in commerce, it would probably also get the government out of most of the welfare business because companies would realize they could provide those benefits to their employees more cheaply than the government could. It would also help rebuild social cohesion and increase public spirit by helping the working poor to feel more a part of society and less the scapegoat for our country’s problems.

Sue Korlan
notre dame, indiana

Roger Scruton’s affirmation of government as an honest good rather than a merely useful good is very timely and necessary. But I think that he does not go far enough in his defense of government. St. Paul writes of submitting to rulers because they have authority from God, and before the Enlightenment, Christian thinkers saw the ruler as being like a father, who intends the good of his children and educates them in virtue.

Scruton is wary of a paternalistic, educative understanding of government, and not without reason since, as he points out, paternalistic liberalism is so oppressive in our day. Such a government is, he argues, “imposed from outside, like the government of an occupying power.” He argues that a government that is not imposed from outside involves accountability and consent. Perhaps, but is this really the most fundamental thing about just government?

According to the aristocratic mainstream of Greek philosophy, further developed by Christian thinkers such as Augustine and Aquinas, the legitimacy of government comes from its being ordered to what is really good for its subjects. Reason is able to know the true good, and law is an ordinance of reason ordered to that good. Such a government is not “imposed from the outside,” because it tells me what I “really want”—my true good—and thus it educates me, leads me to the virtues that enable me to achieve what I truly (deep down) want. I think that the problem with contemporary paternalistic liberalism is not that it is paternalistic and educative, but rather that it has a false conception of the good, and thus leads its subjects toward their destruction.

But the Enlightenment tradition, the best features of which Scruton embodies so well, holds that any submission to an authority other than the self is tyrannical. As Kant put it, “a Government founded upon the principle of Benevolence towards the people—after the analogy of a father to his children, and therefore called a paternal Government . . . would be the greatest conceivable Despotism.”But is this a teaching that a Christian can accept? I do not think so.

In Diuturnum Illud, Pope Leo XIII rejected the idea that government is legitimated through consent and argued for a parallel between paternal and political authority, since “different kinds of authority have between them wonderful resemblances, since, whatever there is of government and authority, its origin is derived from one and the same Creator and Lord.” Is it an accident that the Enlightenment, which rejected any authority not reducible to consent of the governed, is also thought to have led to the secularization of the world?

Pater Edmund Waldstein
stift heiligenkreuz, austria

Roger Scruton replies:

My correspondents raise important questions about exactly what conservatives should be defending, in response to the massive expansion in recent decades of the powers, the agenda, and the budget of central government. My point was to argue that it is not enough to say that government should be reduced in scope; it should also be confined to its legitimate place in a modern body politic. And it is in defining this legitimate place that the hard work of political theory begins.

We conservatives must have a clear idea of the distinction between civil society and state, and a way to determine what belongs to civil society and what to the state. Education, for example: Is it the state’s concern? Or is it up to us, the citizens, to combine in pursuit of it? In almost all countries today education is compulsory: a fact that leads automatically to its confiscation by the state as enforcer and provider. And what the state provides is less and less education, and more and more a form of rough and ready crowd control, usually shaped by egalitarian principles, and calculated to prevent the emergence of an educated middle class. That is the kind of development that conservatives need to ponder, asking themselves how education can be rescued from the state, without reducing it to a privilege that only a few can afford, and without abandoning the children of wastrels to their fate.

The same goes for welfare, planning, infrastructure, and environmental management: Which bits can be left to the people, and which require some measure of top-down control? The environment provides an excellent illustration of this, since it shows the way in which left-liberals spontaneously reach for the top-down solution, in order to curtail the activities of the “big players” in a market. It is this knee-jerk reaction that has caused the vast and ever-expanding system of regulations, and the confiscation of the responsibility for environmental protection from those who have the knowledge and the readiness to take charge of it.

The great question for conservatives is: What is the alternative? It is fine for Rich Wollan to argue that my “conservative” is a straw man; maybe no one is guilty of the faults that I describe. But if that is the case, why are there so few public statements, with the “conservative” label attached to them, that tell us exactly what policy should be in the matter of education, welfare provision, environmental protection, planning law, urbanization, infrastructure, and everything else that matters to the ordinary citizen? I suspect I would be sympathetic to Sue Korlan’s proposal, that the welfare business should be privatized, if I saw it fully spelled out and shaped as policy. At least, that is the kind of thing I was asking for.

As for Fr. Waldstein’s theological vision of the good of government, I can only respond as Burke responded to the Reason advocated by the French Revolutionaries. He wrote: “We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.”

Advocates of natural law in the Catholic tradition have often told us that the good is discoverable to reason, and that we have only to consult it. But they tend to be as reluctant as Waldstein to define who is doing the consulting, and how. Burke’s view, that there is a kind of reason that emerges through civil association, and which is both conserved in our traditions and irretrievably dispersed by the attempt to make it explicit, offers, to my mind, a better model of the place of reason in government. On Burke’s view, rational solutions emerge from below, by an invisible hand, and are not imposed from above by those who claim to have privileged knowledge of the natural law. (The same point is made in other terms by Hayek, in his defense of the common law.) One can agree with Kant’s warning against paternal government without thinking that “any submission to an authority other than the self is tyrannical.” As I understand it, the art of living in ­society is precisely the art of submitting to authority—but doing so willingly, and in the little platoons that we ourselves create. 

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