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The Examined Life

  • Natural Right, Natural Law, and Positive Law: Aristotle’s Influence on St. Thomas Aquinas

    Since Thomas Aquinas, most arguments concerning natural right and natural law find their way back to Aristotle. Indeed, Aristotle pioneered a new concept of rights that were never discussed before his time. Whereas Plato bound the individual to his duty within the organ of the state, Aristotle argued that the individual deserved the right to enjoy an equality based society (Miller 87). Each individual had rights that existed within nature by definition (natural law). In addition to the discussion of natural law, Aristotle is credited for giving a detailed account of positive law as well.

    Many common interpretations of Aristotle’s theory on natural right, natural law, and positive law are seen through the eyes of Aquinas; however, this approach has drawn much criticism. There is no question that Aquinas was heavily influenced by Aristotle, but there are several convincing arguments that question whether an accurate view of Aristotle is seen through the lens of Aquinas’ interpretation; in other words, “we must be wary of reading back into Aristotle Aquinean doctrines” (Shiner 188).

  • Silent Enim Leges Inter Arma

    Over two thousand years ago, Marcus Tullius Cicero observed that “in times of war, the law falls silent”(Silent enim leges inter arma) (Cicero 17). Today, political philosophers, policy makers, and political leaders argue over this same topic: What laws, if any, are applicable during war? More specifically, what laws, if any, apply to war itself? These questions presuppose a shifting ethical relationship between individuals, societies, and states during a time of war that do not exist in peacetime. But the important question is whether Cicero is necessarily correct – can there exist a time and place where the law is not silent in times of war?

    For nearly as long as mankind has maintained written records, it has argued over the ethical actions of war – the idea of a just war is not a Western concept. The ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, and Chinese all discussed various forms of just war. The Egyptians were known for showing great moral restraint in battle (Wilkinson 274), and Laotse – a Chinese philosopher – argued that war is undesirable and should never proceed beyond a minimal objective (Laotse 154). The Babylonians, under Sennecherib, displayed the modern jus in bello notion of distinction, when they would not destroy innocent non-combatants but they would only fight against active soldiers (Friedman 3). Even the Bible establishes the Israelite rules-of-war against the Canaanites in Deuteronomy 20. These examples appear to negate any necessary claim to Cicero’s observation.

  • On Idle Faith and Idol Prophets

    The personal and individual experience of “following the prophet” can only happen through having an active testimony in Jesus Christ. When a testimony of Jesus Christ suffers and a personal and individual relationship of continued revelation with God is decreased, the ability of the individual to follow the prophet is gone. Mere physical compliance to prophetic counsel is not enough to obey the command to “follow the prophet”; an active testimony and relationship with Jesus Christ is imperative. Otherwise, the relationship of the individual to the prophet becomes idolatrous. Faith can only exist in Jesus Christ, which in turn lends to trusting the words of his prophet. Without faith in Jesus Christ, the individual’s placement of faith solely in a man’s word becomes idolatrous.

  • ETB: An Enemy Hath Done This, Chapter 8: “The Proper Role of Government,” pgs 125-148

    Ezra Taft Benson, An Enemy Hath Done This, Chapter 8: “The Proper Role of Government,” pgs 125-148.
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    I have said, very many times… that no man believed more than I in the principles of self-government; that it lies at the bottom of all my ideas of just government,; that it lies at the bottom of all my ideas of just government, from beginning to end… I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other’s rights — that each community, as a State, has a right to do exactly as it pleases with all the concerns within that State that interfere with the rights of no other State, and that the general government, upon principle, has no right to interfere with anything other than the general class of things that does concern the whole (Abraham Lincoln, July 10, 1858; Collected Works 2:493).

    My fellow Americans: I stand before you tonight humbly grateful to God for the blessings we all enjoy as citizens of these great United States of America. I am grateful for our founding fathers who were raised up with the courage to give their lives, with the unselfishness to give their fortunes, and the vision to pledge their sacred honor, in order to establish a new kind of government of their own choosing where men might be free. I am additionally grateful that these founding fathers had the faith and humility to accept the divine inspiration so necessary in setting for a Constitution as the foundation for their new Republic.

  • “Render Unto Caesar…”

    The example of Christ’s “rendering unto Caesar” is a topic that I have studied but never written about. As it inevitably comes with any discussion concerning the philosophy of liberty and scripture, I have recently seen the benefit of writing on the subject. Whereas this passage of scripture is typically spoken of in discussions concerning government’s legitimate/illegitimate ability to lay taxes upon its people, I believe that there is a more profound and typically ignored message that often answers the taxation argument implicitly. The taxation argument is as old as government itself, and, quite frankly, I am bored with it – so, hopefully I can present a coherent message concerning this scripture without getting bogged down in the never-ending discussion of taxation.

    “Choose ye this Day…”

    Throughout the scriptures, the Lord has always asked his people – even his children – to choose a side. In all instances, God always allows man’s moral and free agency to choose his own will – whether to captivity and death or to liberty and life (2 Ne 2:27).

  • The Final Stage of Testimony

    In a previous article I wrote concerning the nature, order, and power of a true testimony. A testimony is an account given by a witness who has firsthand knowledge, and whose testimony is made true through sure evidence. As the world classifies and substantiates various forms of evidence, the Holy Ghost is the sure witness of a true and eternal testimony. It is through the evidence of the Holy Ghost that knowledge becomes truth. Once truth is established, there is a fundamental process through which the possessor of truth will follow.

  • Hugh Nibley: Preventive War and the Book of Mormon

    The YouTube video(s) (part 1, and part 2) of Hugh Nibley’s discourse on preventive war and the Book of Mormon has been posted in various places. However, it is difficult to find a definitive source that offers a text of Nibley’s statement. I found a text, and I am re-posting it here for those interested in reading it.

    Is Preemptive War A Christian Principle?

    By Hugh Nibley

    There is no possibility of confrontation here between Good and Bad. This is best shown in Alma’s duel with Amlici. The Amlicites are described as coming on in all the hideous and hellish trappings of one of our more colorful rock groups, glorying in the fiendish horror of their appearance (see Alma 3: 4-6). Alma on the other hand is the “man of God” (Alma 2: 30) who meets the monster Amlici “with the sword, face to face” (Alma 2: 29), and of course wins.

  • The World’s Need for a True Testimony

    In what is often called “Alma’s soliloquy,” an ancient prophet of God once spoke of his desire to express his testimony:

    O that I were an angel, and could have the wish of mine heart, that I might go forth and speak with the trump of God, with a voice to shake the earth, and cry repentance unto every people!

    Yea, I would declare unto every soul, as with the voice of thunder, repentance and the plan of redemption, that they should repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth. (Alma 29:1-2).

    What good is a testimony?

    As with all gospel principles, a testimony is an entirely individualistic witness gained from personally obtained evidence, yet it is necessarily communal in its bearing and witness. In other words, as we learn in the parable of the ten virgins (Matt 25:1-13), we must obtain our own spiritual and testimonial oil to light our symbolic fires, yet our testimony — to be a real testimony — is gained in its witness to others. It is interesting this dualistic nature of the gospel, that while we are to wear out our lives in good causes individually, we necessarily need our brothers and sisters to accomplish our individual growth.

  • The Beginning

    Over the last several years, many people have asked why I have not written a book or published my thoughts in a more canonized venue than what I have on Facebook. I have always struggled to express my feelings concerning my lack of desire to do so, and I typically respond that I simply do not have the time. This, however, is not true. If I would lend even a partial amount of time to writing a book that I have given over the last few years to commenting on Facebook, I would have a volume of text written and published by now.