Edward Feser Profile picture
Aug 25, 2022 23 tweets 4 min read Read on X
1/23 Plato’s Republic on how democratic liberty and equality yield the tyrannical soul (Desmond Lee translation): “[As] oligarchy change[s] into democracy… the rulers, owing their power to wealth as they do, are unwilling to curtail by law the extravagance of the young
2/23 and prevent them from squandering their money and ruining themselves; for it is by loans to such spendthrifts or by buying up their property that they hope to increase their own wealth and influence” (555c)
3/23 “It should then be clear that love of money and adequate self-discipline in its citizens are two things that can’t coexist in any society; one or the other must be neglected” (555 d)
4/23 “The money-makers, bent on their business… continue to inject their poisoned loans wherever they can find a victim, and to demand high rates of interest on the sum lent, with the result that the drones and beggars multiply” (556 a)
5/23 “The oligarchs reduce their subjects to the state we have described, while as for themselves and their dependents – their young men live in luxury and idleness, physical and mental, become idle, and lose their ability to resist pain or pleasure…
6/23 And they themselves care for nothing but making money, and have no greater concern for excellence than the poor” (556 c)
7/23 “The young man’s mind is filled instead by an invasion of pretentious fallacies and opinions… [He] call[s] insolence good breeding, license liberty, extravagance generosity, and shamelessness courage…
8/23 [He] comes to throw off all inhibitions and indulge[s] desires that are unnecessary and useless” (560 c - 561 a). “If anyone tells him that some pleasures, because they spring from good desires, are to be encouraged and approved
9/23 and others, springing from evil desires, to be disciplined and repressed, he won’t listen or open his citadel’s doors to the truth, but shakes his head and says all pleasures are equal and should have equal rights” (561 c)
10/23 “An excessive desire for liberty at the expense of everything else is what undermines democracy and leads to the demand for tyranny” (562 c)
11/23 “Democracy… reserves its approval, in private life as well as public, for rulers who behave like subjects and subjects who behave like rulers. In such a society the principle of liberty is bound to go to extremes” (562 d)
12/23 “It becomes the thing for father & son to change places, the father standing in awe of his son, & the son neither respecting nor fearing his parents, in order to assert what he calls his independence; & there’s no distinction between citizen and alien and foreigner” (562 e)
13/23 “The teacher fears and panders to his pupils… and the young as a whole imitate their elders, argue with them and set themselves up against them,
14/23 while their elders try to avoid the reputation of being disagreeable or strict by aping the young and mixing with them on terms of easy good fellowship” (563 a)
15/23 “The minds of the citizens become so sensitive that the least vestige of restraint is resented as intolerable, till finally, as you know, in their determination to have no master they disregard all laws, written or unwritten…
16/23 This is the root from which tyranny springs” (563 d - e) “From an extreme of liberty one is likely to get, in the individual and in society, a reaction to an extreme of subjection…
17/23 and if that is so, we should expect tyranny to result from democracy, the most savage subjection from an excess of liberty” (564 a)
18/23 “[Citizens] are then accused by their rivals of plotting against the people & being reactionaries and oligarchs, even though in fact they may have no revolutionary intentions… There follow impeachments and trials in which the two parties bring each other to court” (565 b)
19/23 “All the pleasures of a dissolute life… produce… the sting of mania. Then the master passion runs wild and takes madness into its service; any opinions or desires with a decent reputation and any feelings of shame still left are killed or thrown out,
20/23 until all discipline is swept away, and madness usurps its place… A very complete description of the genesis of the tyrannical man. Isn’t this the reason… why the passion of sex has for so long been called a tyrant?” (573 b)
21/23 “Then a precise definition of a tyrannical man is one who, either by birth or habit or both, combines the characteristics of drunkenness, lust, and madness…
22/23 When a master passion within has absolute control of a man’s mind, I suppose life is a round of extravagant feasts and orgies and sex and so on… his large brood of fierce desires will howl aloud, and he will inevitably be stung to madness by them” (573 c - e)
23/23 “Under the tyranny of the master passion he becomes in his waking life what he was once only occasionally in his dreams, and there’s nothing, no taboo, no murder, however terrible, from which he will shrink. His passion tyrannizes over him” (574 e)

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More from @FeserEdward

Feb 2
1/5 🧵for those interested in what I’ve written on the classical natural law approach to sexual morality. “The Metaphysical Foundations of Sexual Morality,” from The Palgrave Handbook of Sexual Ethics (pp. 19-35), via Google Books: google.com/books/edition/…
2/5 “In Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument,” from my collection Neo-Scholastic Essays: drive.google.com/file/d/0B4SjM0…
3/5 “The Politics of Chastity,” from the Fall 2021 issue of Nova et Vetera: stpaulcenter.com/07-nv-19-4-fes…
Read 5 tweets
Jul 6, 2023
1/9 A common error in Catholic circles today is to suppose that the literal meaning and strict logical implications of a formula are alone relevant to upholding orthodoxy. This evinces a naïveté and wishful thinking on the part of the orthodox that is exploited by the heterodox.
2/9 It is also contrary to the traditional practice of the Church, which has condemned not only formulations that are clearly and explicitly heretical, but also those that are “proximate to heresy,” “rash,” “ambiguous,” “offensive to pious ears,” “dangerous to morals,” and so on.
3/9 A statement could fall short of strict heresy, and a practice could be given some non-heretical rationale, and yet be worthy of condemnation all the same because it exhibits one of these other failings and thereby aids and abets heresy.
Read 9 tweets
Jun 19, 2023
1/10 Annett’s position has nothing to do with either natural law or Catholic moral theology & in fact is contrary to both. His view of possession is essentially liberal individualist, and his view about the use of property is essentially socialist. He misses the middle ground
2/10 perspective of natural law and Catholicism, which is that property exists first and foremost for (and thus is held by and used for) the family, not the individual and not society as a whole. Hence, consider pp. 145-47 of vol. 2 of Michael Cronin’s The Science of Ethics, a
3/10 work from a century ago that represents standard traditional Catholic and natural law thinking on these matters. I’ve scanned and posted the pages, and especially relevant are the passages I’ve marked in red. As Cronin notes, morally speaking a father holds ImageImageImage
Read 10 tweets
Jun 12, 2023
1/15 Whether the ideology represented by the pride flag counts as a religion (by some plausible philosophical or legal definition of “religion”) is one question, and an important one. But there is another, more fundamental issue too often ignored by those focused on that one.
2/15 The reason liberalism opposes establishing a religion is that it holds this threatens the realization of a just peace. Fellow citizens of a pluralistic society, says liberalism, can’t agree to abide by legislation, election results, legal decrees, etc. they dislike unless
3/15 they perceive these to be the outcome of principles they acknowledge to be just. But if these principles reflect some religion not every citizen shares, then not all citizens will be able to accept the outcomes as just. The most they’ll be capable of is grudgingly putting up
Read 15 tweets
Jun 10, 2023
1/5 Aristotle famously distinguishes the weak-willed man (the akrates), who regrets his wrongdoing and can reform, from the licentious man (the akolastos), who is so thoroughly in love with immoral pleasures that he is incapable of perceiving, much less willing, what is good.
2/5 Aquinas modifies this distinction insofar as he takes even the latter to be capable of repentance before death. All the same, he notes that the sins of the licentious man are more grave than those of the weak-willed man, & that his repentance is more difficult and less likely
3/5 Those who today loudly insist on more lenient treatment of wrongdoers – both in the secular context, with respect to dealing with criminals, and in the religious context, with respect to those in thrall to sexual vice and the like – routinely ignore this crucial distinction.
Read 5 tweets
Jun 10, 2023
1/5 Depends on the nature of the premises a particular argument appeals to. For example, suppose a premise was “Such-and-such a study shows that second hand smoke poses no serious health risk,” and it turned out that the study was funded by the tobacco industry.
2/5 Then I’d say that it would of course be reasonable to take the study with a grain of salt until it could be established that it met the usual scientific standards, that other studies were considered to see if they were consistent with this result, etc.
3/5 But suppose instead that an argument appealed to more abstract philosophical premises about the right to take risks with one’s own health, etc. Then, whatever one thought about such arguments, who funded the writing up of them really isn’t relevant.
Read 5 tweets

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