This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

NOTICE:
This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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Freedom, natural law, and the body

Our discussion would not be complete if we failed to take into account the body as it pertains to freedom. In the eyes of natural law, the body acts as a fundamental part of morality and the exercise of freedom, but as freedom became doctrinaire, considered more and more in terms of liberal and libertarian ideologies, the body became irrelevant—a mere vehicle for use by the person trapped within it, a piece of property owned by the self, to be used according to whim and fancy, with nothing more to tell us about right conduct. This becomes blatantly obvious in systems where freedom is viewed as absolute, at which point the body is deprived of all objective meaning and is treated as chattel or property:

A freedom which claims to be absolute ends up treating the human body as a raw datum, devoid of any meaning and moral values until freedom has shaped it in accordance with its design. Consequently, human nature and the body appear as presuppositions or preambles, materially necessary for freedom to make its choice, yet extrinsic to the person, the subject and the human act…This moral theory does not correspond to the truth about man and his freedom. It contradicts the Church’s teachings on the unity of the human person, whose rational soul is per se et essentialiter the form of his body. The spiritual and immortal soul is the principle of unity of the human being, whereby it exists as a whole — corpore et anima unus — as a person. These definitions not only point out that the body, which has been promised the resurrection, will also share in glory. They also remind us that reason and free will are linked with all the bodily and sense faculties.[1]

The body, because it has meaning, also has the ability to inform us as to the content of natural law, and as such it is never a hindrance but a created good, ready to assist man in the pursuit of the truth. Because of this it is an error to reduce morality to a spiritual and abstract thing, as if man were not both body and soul:

A doctrine which dissociates the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition. Such a doctrine revives, in new forms, certain ancient errors which have always been opposed by the Church, inasmuch as they reduce the human person to a ‘spiritual’ and purely formal freedom. This reduction misunderstands the moral meaning of the body and of kinds of behaviour involving it…body and soul are inseparable: in the person, in the willing agent and in the deliberate act, they stand or fall together.[2]

It is only through these precepts that the meaning of the natural law can be properly grasped:

The natural moral law expresses and lays down the purposes, rights and duties which are based upon the bodily and spiritual nature of the human person. Therefore this law cannot be thought of as simply a set of norms on the biological level; rather it must be defined as the rational order whereby man is called by the Creator to direct and regulate his life and actions and in particular to make use of his own body.[3]

The natural law does not allow for any division between freedom and nature, but rather acts as a harmonizing principle between the two.[4]

[1] VS, 48.

[2] VS, 49.

[3] DV, Introduction, 3.

[4] VS, 50.

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