A Great Day for Justice
United States Senator Dianne Feinstein, upon hearing the announcement yesterday that Sonia Sotomayor would be the 111th person to sit on the supreme court, proclaimed: “It’s truly a great day for the United States of America. A great day for justice and the law.” Now, maybe it’s just because I’m just a bitter, headstrong conservative, but this comment really eats at me. Senator Feinstein talks about justice being brought about, but I wonder what she means by that. What does someone so far left think that justice really is?
I would have to insist that no real conception of justice could exclude an idea of human nature. Since justice must lead to a proper treatment of human beings in accordance with the dignity that they deserve, one could not have the faintest clue of that that proper treatment would include unless they had a rather firm grasp on human nature. Now, I would like to make a rather rash suggestion. So called progressive modernists such as Senator Feinstein, and Justice Sotomayor, by virtue of the principles inherent to their worldviews, have denied the existence of human nature and are thereby incapable of consistently enacting justice. I’m not simply trying to bash liberalism here, but it does genuinely appear that when the idea of human nature is removed, that justice becomes impossible, and that the only place that we see a persisting notion of human nature is in the idea of conservatism as enshrined in the Western tradition.
The idea of conservatism is a member of a somewhat unusual breed of concepts. Like every other word it carries both denotative and connotative implications, but it appears to be unique in that, somewhere in the course of recent history, its denotative meaning seems to have gotten lost. Because of this disconnect from its actual definition, it has taken on a very vague meaning and is used typically to refer to anyone who resists the notion of “progress” suggested by modernity. A conservative is someone who reminisces about how great things used to be and who, on the whole, resists change. This is not just a definition imposed upon conservatives by their adversaries either; most conservatives themselves are not quite sure what it is that they’re conserving. They just know that in their day, marriage was between a man and a woman, government was small, abortion was illegal, and that’s the way it should stay. But conservatism is not just an abstract clump of crotchety opinions, it’s about the principles from which those opinions derive, and that is an understanding of human nature a real and concrete thing which must be treated as such.
Maybe an analogy would help. Trying to understand and treat human beings in accordance with their nature is somewhat like understanding and treating a VCR in accordance with the parameters set out by its manual. We know that a VCR has a certain range of capacities and limitations and we know that it will operate best if we understand these capacities and treat it accordingly. To continue with the analogy, I would say that the conservative method of VCR use would be to plug it in to a wall socket which supplies the proper voltage and amperage, to feed it VHS tapes, and to connect its output plugs to their appropriate locations in the back of the TV. And only when you have treated the VCR in accordance with its intended purpose do you become the most free to watch movies on it; you accomplish its purpose, you enact VCR justice. Now consider a means of VCR usage which disregards its nature and defines VCR freedom as the ability to cram it full of peanuts and use it underwater. This sort of use is based on a concept of a kind of freedom, that is, it affords one the greatest number of possible uses of the VCR. For instance, under the conservative method of VCR use, one was limited to only a single kind of thing that he might put into it, that is, a VHS tape. But the secular humanist view, since there is no limit to the sorts of things that one could put into the cassette deck, the user experiences a greater amount of VCR freedom, right?
The point is that, in the sense in which progressives talk about it, the radical freedom espoused by Feinstein and Sotomayor is of course a type of freedom, their justice is a type of justice. It allows for the ability to do any of a variety of things: abortion, contraception, gay marriage, public healthcare, etc. But it allows this at the expense of the dignity which is intrinsically tied to human nature, and nothing which denies humans this dignity could ever be called just.