Sunday, October 8, 2017

T. M. Lemos — American personhood in the era of Trump

Why is this important? Liberalism is based on equality of personhood, distinguishing individuals, whose qualities differ in degree, with personhood as universal. Owing to universality of personhood, all are equal before the law, for example.

Equality of personhood underlies the key assertion of liberalism in the Declaration of Independence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

Rights under liberalism are both civil, that is institutionally guaranteed, and also human, transcending governments and institutions.

This liberal conception of rights rests on the foundation of universal personhood as the basis of equality, not numerical but moral. This concept has been extended globally through the United Nations and its charter as the basis for international relations and law.

This view stands in contrast to the evolutionary traits that humans have inherited from the past, primacy of kinship, dominance and submission in relationships, and might is right.

This article suggests that Donald Trump and his followers represent these raw evolutionary traits and as such are anti-liberal.

Some represent this as a form of "traditionalism," and there is reason to hold that view. However, traditionalism is varies over wide range from the extreme of harkening back to animal origins to the most lofty ideals of perennial wisdom.

For example, the liberal view of personhood is based on the concept of the human "soul" derived from traditionalism. The proximate case with respect to liberalism was Christian doctrine. Liberalism was a secularization of the Western intellectual tradition, which was influenced by Greek thought and culture, the Judaeo-Christian religious tradition, Roman law, and the scientific revolution. Liberalism involves the attempt to combine the naturalism of science with the antecedent Western intellectual tradition.

It would be a grave mistake not to make this distinction among different types of traditionalism in approaching traditionalism, just as it is a grave mistake to approach liberalism without distinguishing between individuals, who obviously are different in many respects, from persons that are assumed to be identical in nature.

Liberalism and traditionalism are compatible at one extreme as a result of an exalted level of collective consciousness based on love and incompatible at the other based on evolutionary traits. The historical development of liberalism lies along the range between these extremes in its manifestations to date.

If President Trump should resemble the picture that the author draws, the world may be in trouble.
T. M. Lemos

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