Freedom of Conscience (V)
The Parlor Game


I shall conclude on an Aristotelian point . . . The polis offers the opportunity for full actualization of human nature.  The fully actualized man is the spoudaios, the mature man, who has developed his dianoetic excellences and whose life is oriented by his noetic self.  This is the decisive issue in a philosophy of politics, the issue that the distinguished authors whose work we have discussed studiously avoid.

Under pretext of respect for the freedom of conscience they ignore the fact that conscience, however "good" it may be putatively, can only be as good as the man who has it.  A theory of conscience that shies away from ontology, and in particular from a theory of the nature of man, is empty;  it is a parlor game in which one can indulge as long as the surrounding society contains enough Christian substances to make at least the worst sort of good consciences socially ineffective;  but even under such favorable conditions (as they still exist in England) this nihilistic theory of conscience contributes to the intellectual and moral confusion that paves the way for the best of all consciences, viz., that of the totalitarian killers.

All men are equal, to be sure, or they would not be individuals of one species;  but sometimes it is forgotten that the point in which they most certainly are equal is their capacity for evil.  Enough of that evil is rampant;  and this is no time to pat the viciously ignorant on the back for being "sincere," or abiding by their "conscience."  This is a time for the philosopher to be aware of his authority, and to assert it, even if that brings him into conflict with an environment infested by dubious ideologies and political theologies — so that the word of Marcus Aurelius will apply to him: "The philosopher — the priest and servant of the gods."

CW VOL 11,
The Oxford Political Philosophers , pp 45-46.

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