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Metaphysics and Meaning of James Davison Hunter

July 26th, 2010 | 1 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Milliner’s characteristically incisive remarks today include this graph from James Matthew Wilson:

The meaning of the world that we usually describe as constituting culture, or a culture… does not depend primarily upon our social conventions. Rather, the signs of a culture are founded on natural signs, and, indeed, are themselves natural signs in whose fashioning our intellects cooperate, and for whose knowledge and joy they exist. Given how destructive the wars and social changes of the last century have been—above all the change in thought that has tried to reduce even the human person to a fungible fact for exploitation—we should take great comfort in that fact.

Though Milliner’s dealing with the question in an artistic context, metaphysics comes in different forms.  I’m not in the same league as the fellow he mentions, but I’m trying.  The refrain–which was O’Donovan’s before it was mine— “there is an objective order of goods in creation” is simply Milliner’s point in different clothing.

Either a natural order exists, or we impose it.  Either the meaning is tied to the structure of things, or we make it up.

And if the order exists, our options are conformity or rebellion.  There is no middle ground here, despite the ambiguities and uncertainties that we experience in our confrontation with it.  But if we reject metaphysics, our only resource for ethics is our will, and God’s.

And we only need to read James Davison Hunter to see how that turned out.

(Apologies for simply repeating a point I’ve made before, and Milliner’s point.  However, I’m increasingly convinced that this is the notion on which Christianity in the modern world stands or falls.  Which means if I wear myself out trying to make it in different ways and places, well, count it as my attempt at establishing a faithful presence.)