Serendipity, means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”, not some new hair product or a sugar free treat. It continues to be one of the best things about the internet, because while there is lots of drek and evil crap on the web, there are also lots of good things.
Today I came across a contemporary in both age and view. J. Budziszewski (born 1952)
He is professor of government at the University of Texas, Austin, where he has taught since 1981. He specializes in ethics, political philosophy and the interaction of these two fields with religion and theology.
Budziszewski has written widely, in both scholarly and popular venues, about a variety of moral and political issues including abortion, marriage, sexuality, capital punishment, and the role of judges in a constitutional republic. His principal area of publication is the theory of natural law. He has been a leading advocate for natural law theory over the past twenty years.
In this context, he has given particular attention to the problem of moral self-deception: What happens when human beings tell themselves that they don’t know what they really do. Among his research interests are also virtue ethics and the problem of tolerance.
Now anyone who has read more than a couple of my posts knows that moral self deception is one of my favorite whipping boys. In many ways half the population on the planet are moral and intellectual three year olds having temper tantrums. One of Budziszewski’s research interests has been to analyze what he regards as general human tendency to self-deception.
The problem arises from a theoretical tenet defended by Thomas Aquinas, who said “we must say that the natural law, as to general principles, is the same for all, both as to rectitude and as to knowledge.” This claim amounts to saying that the most general principles of right and wrong are not only right for everyone but known to everyone, even though the same cannot be said of their remote implications.
According to Budziszewski, Aquinas is right. He argues that often, even when people appear to be ignorant of the moral basics, the hypothesis that they are self deceived provides a better explanation of their actual behavior. My own view on that based on personal experience is that we are “happy in our sin” and don’t want to sit up and fly straight just yet, we want to satisfy our concupiscence, not cure it.
I just listened to him in a half hour talk on the satellite, which is also available here.
It is only 35 minutes long and truly worth every minute you spend listening. Sometimes it is just plain smarter to stop talking and just listen.
disclaimer for the nit pickers: we take pride in being incomplete, incorrect, inconsistent, and unfair. We do all of them deliberately