Saturday, October 06, 2012

Preamble to The Year of Faith

The Grounding of Reason On the Experience of the Self Transcending Self (Ultimately, Faith)

 "The most difficult element to convey in articulating the foundation of morality, is... the sense of ultimate rightness that underpins it. No matter how persuasive we may be in framing arguments, whether based on teleology, irreducible axioms, or natural law, they remain ineffective until we can respond to the Nietzschean question: Why should I regard such principles as right? Arguments beg the question, for they always bring us back to the problem of justifying the choice of starting point. The ideological mass movements may in a certain respect be regarded as an expression of desperation, the pathetic inclination to latch on to something, anything, greater than ourselves, in order to infuse our actions with a sense of reality and purpose. As Nietzsche understood, human beings would rather will nothing than not will. When no ultimate foundation to existence can be found, then we will throw ourselves into false absolutes rather than admit the vacuum within ourselves. Even the futility of an illusory foundation is preferable to living without a sense of ultimate rightness. Although Nietzsche was unsuccessful in his search for this more authentic reality, he nevertheless pointed the way. Unless we recover a sense of what is transcendentally right, then our actions will be neither moral nor effective.

   "It is not enough to assert the rightness of one's principles. Their rightness must be grasped as an overwhelming truth within the experiential movement toward transcendent reality. This is why Voegelin abandoned his work on the history of political ideas, and sought to penetrate to the underlying experiences behind the symbolic forms. He did not regard a restoration of natural law or of the classical right by nature to be sufficient, because in such dogmatic formulations the link with the engendering experience is no longer present. Instead he emphasized the recovery of that original experience. By reconstructing the infrastructure of classical philosophy he discovered that the science of ethics and politics, which the Greeks invented, was not based on propositions about order. It was rooted in the living experience of the soul making its ascent toward the divine Good, which is 'beyond being,' exceeding it in dignity and power' (Republic, 509b).

David Walsh, "After Ideology" CUA Press (1995) 194-195.

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