There is No Libertarian Eschatology And There Cannot Be One

There is No Libertarian Eschatology And There Cannot Be One

Notwithstanding the interesting observations that Cristian makes in the previous post regarding the metaphysical and religious dimensions of political ideologies, that I share and consider valid as far as they go, I strongly believe that this time he is asking the wrong question and in the wrong way.

Only (some) religions and perverted religious-like ideologies assume the existence of an eschatology, the end of the world as we know it, that is, and the coming of a new, brighter one, better in most or, as is usually the case, in absolutely all regards. But libertarianism is not a religion. It is only a political philosophy. It does not concern itself with the after-life but with the condition under which a free life can be established and maintained in this world, this being actually the basis upon which morality, virtue or even salvation may be attained. It is not the fear of after-life punishment or the promise of after-life reward (which are at best universal but particularly/historically confined categories) that make the case for worldly freedom, on the contrary : freedom is, in this regard, the necessary, tough not the sufficient condition, in order for virtue or after-life reward of any kind to be meaningfully achieved.

Consequently, a libertarian eschatology is nothing but an oxymoron. Moreover, I think that Cristian’s attempt to derive an eschatology from the principles of liberty is entirely akin to the gnostic propensity to formulate a total, complete, flawless vision of human existence that can, once accepted and implemented, actualise the “lost paradise” of our irrepressible nostalgia. The common denominator of all gnostic thinking is to set up a moral trap in which, as he seems to be aware, paradoxically, the moral entity which is the individual is render amorphous, deprived of any moral autonomy, becomes nothing but a “thing” which has no real principle of action and life in itself. If the Gnosis, of whatever form, is right, then the only field left open for the individual is to follow it. He has no other choice, he has no consistency whatsoever, no moral status with regard to “the plan” of the Gnosis. Cristian’s proposal for a libertarian eschatology does exactly the same thing : it depersonalises the human being, destroys his moral autonomy, disregards the fact that the principle of action, in morality and salvation as well as in all other things, is in the individual and not outside him – in short it destroys his liberty.

Libertarianism, as a philosophy of this world, does not and cannot attempt to establish a particular set of metaphysical and religious values, tough of course, as all human thinking, it is not free of metaphysical presuppositions and it is probably true that some religious or metaphysical settings are more conducive for liberty than others and I also agree, on the other hand, that a libertarian order requires the adherence of at least a significant number of people to a series of ethical norms that favour or at least do not reject the libertarian principles of individual freedom and non-aggression.

But these norms remain almost entirely the domain of virtue and personal morality and this is so with absolutely no disconsideration for their validity or importance, on the contrary. The moral trap I think Cristian is setting is the one which disregards and disconsiders them. Tough he disagrees with utilitarianism, his thinking on this point amounts to nothing but a, in my view erroneous, transplantation of utilitarianism into normative ethics and spirituality. His argument is consequentialist – and even a legalistic consequentialism – in the sense that he sees liberty as a consequence of virtue, furthermore, as a consequence of adherence to an eschatologic religion, just as utilitarians defend freedom as a consequence of prosperity. But this amounts to nothing else than to disregard, bypass and avoid the actual realm of morality per se whose very substance is human free will and liberty and it is the very preservation of this liberty that makes virtue (or vice for that matter) meaningful and possible, renders men worthy of praise or – in the case of vice – of contempt.

Moreover, I think Cristian gonflates political freedom with metaphysical freedom. This is in fact, I believe, the source of his disregard for the particular nature of normative ethics, his reductionism of normative ethics to a eschatological legalistic consequentialism overlapped in a ad hoc way with Orthodox Christian faith and the source of his inability to distinguish, in this precise case, between the normative level of ethics and the metanormative/political level of ethics (which is libertarianism) that makes possible and safeguards the complex realm of ethics per se.

I share many of Cristian’s premises, but Cristian’s conclusions do not stand up to careful scrutiny in my opinion. Though the (possible) relation between Orthodox Christianity and libertarianism is a complicated question and one that requires careful and considerable treatment, what I can say for now is that, in my opinion, libertarianism was not and cannot be the “premature child” of the Orthodox Church because, among other reasons, libertarianism is only a metanormative social or political philosophy concerned not with virtue in itself or the ends of morality per se, but with the condition upon which morality, salvation, or prosperity for that matter, can actually be expected to exist – and that condition is liberty, political or social liberty.

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Bogdan C. Enache

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