Butler, thanks for that very revealing post regarding Paul Johnson, a learned man who can’t seem to keep his own opinions at bay while producing countless semi-scholarly works on just about anything.
What Johnson doesn’t mention is this: for most of history (but not recently), most of the world’s civilizations have recognized that man is not perfectible. Aristotle, after long and learned descriptions of moral actions, knew that the truly moral man, the spoudaios, was rare — in fact, he’d never met one!
That changed a couple of hundred years ago. Modern man – Western man — believes (a real act of faith) that man is indeed perfectible. All the true believer needs is more power to force man to be perfect. In that, all tyrants are Rousseau’s godchildren — they all long to “force us to be free.”
Christians gave the pre-modern (as opposed to postmodern) West the simple explanation for the fact, duly observed by Johnson, that mankind has not progressed morally since its beginning: every individual, is fallen from the perfection that God wants for him. This world, and the people in it, will never be perfect, no matter how many people are killed to achieve perfection by “advanced” imperialist governments run by smart guys, whether we hate them (Soviet Russia, National Socialist Germany) or love them (My Country ‘Tis Of Thee.) Johnson’s central problem is this: his critical analysis ends when he deals with historical figures he happens to agree with.3:47 pm on February 7, 2010 Email Christopher Manion