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Family and the exercise of rightful human sovereignty

[Part 5 of 8 in the series]

Only one form of human society reliably arises without gang violence- the society instituted by the compliance of people willing, however unwittingly, to accommodate the “compunctious visitings of nature” that entrain their God-ordained responsibility for the preservation of humanity.  This is, of course, the family.  In its service to the preservation of humanity, the family is, in fact, the most obvious paradigm of natural right.  It reflects the interdependence of species and individual.  Except individuals are informed of the common characteristics of the species (information we now know to be conveyed by their DNA), SmallLogoLTLhuman beings cannot exist as such.  But without the existence of particular human beings, humanity would not experience itself in fact.  The natural family preserves both the information and the factual activity that constitutes the human species as a whole.

In the family context individual human offspring survive because of parental respect for the requirements of their existence.  The act of procreation thus be said to represents the first consensus of human social life.  Individual human offspring survive insofar as one or both of the parents act in respect of the results of this consensus, voluntarily caring for the child.  Given the relative powerlessness of the child, no force is involved in the decision to do so except the force of natural compassion.  If both parents deny this compassion, the child will not survive.  The particular extension of the species is thwarted, along with the hope of the species itself in that instance of it.

In this sense, the denial of the obligation to care for the child is the denial of humanity itself, in the instance and, by implication, in a general way.  If the preservation of humanity is acknowledged as the primordial purpose of human activity, this denial of humanity is the wrong course of action.  What is right is what corresponds to that original intention.  But why should particular human beings accept the natural inclination to take on a burden not directly vital to their own individual preservation?  Why they, by and large, respect the original intention that gave rise to the existence of humanity, as long as their own existence is secure?

Whatever the answer to that question, the fact that they do so is unquestionably verified by the whole history of human experience.  Call it instinct, natural impulse or the mystery of love, the effect is undeniable.  In some aspect of their conscious/subconscious selves, most human beings are inclined to seek the responsibility of procreation and accept its consequences.  They respond to this inclination affirmatively, in a way verified by their experience during what seems, at first, to be the aim of the inclination.

“I’ve been missing someone like you in my life.

 When it feels so good you know it’s got to be right”.

It’s an old story, often rehearsed in some song or other.  It accurately reflects the common sense of humanity that recognizes the authority of what St. Paul calls “the law in our members.”  But it seems to be one of the distinctive characteristics of humanity that it does not exist in us as an irresistible force because we are beings of will as well as instinct.  It does, however, force us to deliberate, to respond with a choice that either accepts the inclination for what it promises, or rejects it on account of what we expect it to entail.

This moment of choice and deliberation marks the inception of unalienable right.  For we see ourselves in that moment poised between two possible paths of experience.  We are also poised between two ways of perceiving those paths, each predicated on a different way of perceiving the results of our choice.  The voice of one perception speaks with the force of nature.  The other speaks from self-consciousness of our human nature.  Both are affected by the special understanding that is one of the characteristics of our humanity.

For in addition to the perceptions, impulses and inclinations by which the whole of nature actually impinges upon us, we experience possible perceptions, impulses and inclinations that impinge upon us by way of the understanding of the whole we constitute within ourselves, as we project ourselves into the future with our mind’s imagination, in which project what “will be” waits upon our “will”.

On account of this prospective aspect of our thinking, we are prey to what some argue is the delusion of choice and personal responsibility.  Whether their arguments are cogent or not, none of them are effective enough to dispel the delusion, if it is one.  As a matter of existential necessity, we feel that we must choose, and we cannot escape the sense that we do so even by our inactivity, whether or not we are willing to admit it.

Even the absolute certainty that we are materially powerless to affect the outcome, doesn’t entirely relieve us of this sense, since something in us remains capable, no matter what,  of inwardly protesting against our fate. This is the irrepressible sense of freedom many libertarians mean to evoke when they use the term.  These days it is often used interchangeably with “right”, as though they are identical in meaning.

But the difference between right and freedom is thus negligible only if and when the difference between right and wrong has little or no significance with respect to our choice of action. To be sure, the moment when we commit to one course of action or another is usually accompanied by a sense of release, a sense of permission and affirmation.  It is as if a border guard has stamped the passport that allows us to cross the boundary from the state of deliberation (literally, the suspension or privation of liberty) to the state of action.  But in prospect and/or retrospect (Given our faculty of self-conscious imagination, what is the difference?) the exercise of our freedom is also accompanied by a judgment, which depends on whether, as we contemplate the action, we are moved to accept or reject what becomes of us as a result.

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