Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

12/4/2012 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

So what should Catholics and all other men and women of good will do?

As Josef Pieper put it in his essay Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power, when language is unmoored from truth, from reality, communication is impossible.  There can be no dialogue.  There can only be monologue, only "fine speeches," something at which our pro-abortion and pro-homosexual-"marriage" President, who has unmoored himself from moral truth for the sake of power, seems to have mastered. 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

12/4/2012 (1 year ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

Keywords: Zheng ming, Andrew M. Greenwell, truth, language, political discourse, abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - The Chinese sage Confucius taught a perennially true concept called Zheng Ming or Cheng ming.  It is a principle applicable in all reality, whether it be moral, theoretical, or religious.  But, in our day, it is particularly important in politics. 

Confucius insisted that language must be grounded in reality, and that the abuse of language for the purpose of advancing an ideology was the bane of life in common and a sign of bad governance.  In short, Confucius insisted that the common good required that we should call a spade a spade, and then continue to refer to it as a spade.  And (to continue using the gardening tool metaphor) if someone begins to call a spade a shovel, or, even worse, a hoe, then, before one can get back to good gardening, one must begin by rectifying names.  The spade must be called a spade, and not a hoe, or gardening goes awry.

In Book 13, Verse 3 of the Analects of Confucius (Lun yu), we find the concept elegantly put during the course of a dialogue between the disciple Tsze-lu and Confucius:

Tsze-l said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?"

The Master replied, "What is necessary is to rectify names [Zhng mng]."

"So! indeed!" said Tsze-l.  "You are wide of the mark!  Why must there be such rectification?"

The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Y!  A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.  If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.  If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.  When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish.  When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.  When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.  Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately.  What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."

Confucius was insistent that language needed to be used correctly, and that if language was abused by those in power, it spelled disaster in morals, in the arts of governance, and in justice.  Ultimately, the failure to use language correctly resulted in intellectual, moral, and political confusion.

This principle is not solely an Eastern concept.  It is a human concept.

We find it quite central in Plato's and Aristotle's struggle against the Sophists.  The Sophists violated the principle of the Zheng Ming.  Protagoras was, of course, one of the chief offenders.  It was Protagoras's and his fellow sophists' refusal to abide by the truth, and instead to "make the weaker reason appear stronger," as Aristotle put it in his Rhetoric (1402a223-5), which merited their condemnation. 

As an aside, there seems to be a relationship between sophistry and disbelief in God.  Protagoras, it might be remembered, believed that man, and not God, was the measure of all things.  Those who believe in God, on the other hand, seem to have a greater respect of language and a greater concern for its fixity: after all, they believe in dogma, which is truth expressed in human language, and so language is naturally tied to truth.  It seems to bear out that if man is considered to be the measure of all things, then there is no measure of things, since the measurer and the measured are the same.  In such instances, language becomes a tool for the powerful, and so is subject to fluctuation at the whim and advantage of the ruler.

The Zheng Ming principle is quite settled in Scripture as well.  Words are important to sacred writ; after all, St. John's Gospel famously begins with: "In the beginning was the Word."  The Word, which is Truth, is preeminent.  "If you abide in my word, you are my disciples indeed."  (John 8:31)  God's language is always true, and needs no rectification.

But humans are called to conform to the never-changing Word.  St. Paul demands from the Galatians and Colossians that they avoid sophistry and shun those who use sophistry.  (Gal. 3:1; Col. 2:4).  St. Paul admonishes that deacons should not be "double-tongued," which of course all sophists are.  (1 Tim. 3:8)  The Lord, of course, admonished us that our "Yes" should be "Yes," and our "No" should be "No," therefore avoiding any ambiguity or equivocation in our speech. (Matt. 5:37)

With the loss of its moral moorings and its embrace of moral relativism, our society and so also our political environment have rejected the principle of "rectification of names."  In fact, the opposite seems to have come about, a "de-rectification" of names is de rigueur

Dishonest use of words is endemic in our political debate.  We live in an age of political euphemisms (words that make things seem better than they are) and dysphemisms (words that make things seem worse than they are), of "political correctness," and of "double speak."  From a political standpoint it is not only disconcerting, it is foreboding.

As Josef Pieper wrote in his essay Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power:

"The degradation, too, of man through man, alarmingly evident in the acts of physical violence committed by all tyrannies (concentration camps, torture), has its beginning, certainly much less alarmingly, at the almost imperceptible moment when the word loses its dignity.  The dignity of the word, to be sure, consists in this: through the word is accomplished what no other means can accomplish, namely, communication based on reality."

Do not think we have not gotten to the point of tyranny.  To some extent, tyranny is in the eye of the beholder.  According to the cries of the millions of children murdered in their mother's womb each year (don't think God or those with well-formed consciences don't hear it), tyranny reigns in this country.  Naturally, this crime against humanity is shrouded in political euphemisms, and we can even see that phenomenon that Steven Pinker called the "euphemism treadmill."

The "baby" in utero was first depersonalized to its medical term, "fetus" (which means "child" in Latin), and then "product of conception" or even "blob of tissue."  By the use of such euphemisms, the truth is covered up.

Advocates of "child slaughter," of course, would resist such a frank name, and so they called themselves "abortion rights" or "women rights" advocates (conveniently neglecting the victim), or even the more attenuated "pro choice" advocates.  With each euphemism reality is further disguised.

We see it in other areas as well.  Sodomy, which is an unnatural act and used to be a criminal offense, was softened to homosexuality, and then to gay, or, even more innocuously, someone with an alternative sexual orientation.  Each of these euphemisms is further and further away from reality.

Murder of the sick was changed to "euthanasia" (Greek for "good-death"), then to "mercy-killing," and now "death with dignity."  With each link in the euphemistic chain reality becomes more clouded.

Sometimes it works the other way.

Catholic bishops, who this election year took a particularly courageous stand against abortion and homosexual marriage, used to be referred to as "Most Reverend," or "Very Reverend," but now, in a rather quick de-rectification of names, they have been called "bigots" by such groups as the Rainbow Sash Movement (National LGBT Catholics).  I have also seen them called "pedophile pimps."  One can trust that such a dyphemisms will soon make it into the mainstream, if they are not there already.

We must unmask such pretensions of the de-rectifiers.  Truth demands it, for if we do not resist the trend to call things not as they are, but as we might wish to perceive them, then truth perishes.

As Josef Pieper put it in his essay, when language is unmoored from truth, from reality, communication is impossible.  There can be no dialogue.  There can only be monologue, only "fine speeches," something at which our pro-abortion and pro-homosexual-"marriage" President, who has unmoored himself from moral truth for the sake of power, seems to have mastered. 

So what should Catholics and all other men and women of good will do? 

Why, follow the advice Confucius gave to Tsze-l to his question, "What will consider the first thing to be done?" 

"What is necessary is to rectify names." 

Zheng Ming.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More Politics & Policy

The man behind the mess of Obamacare wants you to encourage abortion! Watch

Image of John Gruber, the man behind Obamacare, is an ardent supporter of abortion.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The architect of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), John Gruber, has made a fool of President Obama and the Democrats in his administration once again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Gruber has been recorded numerous times admitting that the ACA was written and ... continue reading


Should Obama be able to use the IRS as a weapon to target conservative opponents? Watch

Image of President Obama has used the IRS as a weapon to target Tea Party and conservative opponents.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It should come as a surprise to no one that fraud and power abuse is rampant in President Obama's White House, and the new scandal fall on the heals of the old IRS tax scandals of the last few years. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Treasury Inspector ... continue reading


Medicare, Social Security - all for illegal immigrants, thanks to Obama Watch

Image of In other words, those who work, which includes payroll taxes -- also known as FICA, as they are collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In President Obama's new plan to protect millions of illegal immigrants from deportation, many of these same individuals will be eligible to receive Social Security, Medicare and a wide array of other federal benefits. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - ... continue reading


Obama's war on America continues with secret Thanksgiving regulations dump Watch

Image of President Obama is going to release a new set of regulations over the Thanksgiving holiday, when many Americans are unlike to notice.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Not content to listen to the voice of the American people after the 2014 midterm election, President Obama is set on continuing his power grab, and forcing his will whether Americans like it or not. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The White House is getting ... continue reading


Sen. Graham: Benghazi report misses information and is 'garbage' Watch

Image of Sen. Graham said he will take a 'hard look' at the new report.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has blasted the Benghazi report recently released by the house Intelligence Committee. Graham says the report, released on Friday, is inaccurate, and called it "full of crap." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Saying he thought "the ... continue reading


Seventh terrorist suspect released from Guantanamo in two weeks; Republicans protest Watch

Image of Muhammad al-Zahrani, became the 13th prisoner released this year and the seventh in just two weeks.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Saudi Arabian man has been released from the terrorist holding facility Guantanamo Bay. He was the seventh such suspect in two weeks to have been transferred from the United States to another nation. The practice has created a great hue and cry among Republicans, who ... continue reading


The Immigration Conflagration and the Dangers of a Benevolent Dictator

Image of

By Keith A. Fournier

There is no question that comprehensive immigration reform is needed. Most people acknowledge this as a fact. However, the truth is President Obama could have participated in such reform, and he knows it, by working with the 114th Congress which will soon be sworn ... continue reading


Running out the door, Republicans too busy with Thanksgiving to address laws Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

With Thanksgiving turkeys dancing in their heads, many Republican lawmakers are running out the door in lieu of considering a plethora of new legislation. Republican members have discussed resolutions of disapproval and censure. One unnamed lawmaker was ... continue reading


The TOP 10 list of countries where slavery is most prevalent. DO YOU BENEFIT FROM SLAVERY? You might be shocked! Watch

Image of Poor Haitians are commonly enslaved by wealthier family members.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Last week it was announced that some 36 million people around the world live in slavery, a number that is higher than at any time in history. While most Americans feel that slavery is a distant problem, which has little or no effect on their lives, the sad fact is that ... continue reading


Raking in the dough: Obamacare 'architect' worth millions Watch

Image of Jonathan Gruber has a lucrative connection with the Department of Health and Human Services.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Jonathan Gruber's good fortune would make lots of college students change their majors to economics. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with his firm Gruber Microsimulation Model has raked in millions. Gruber's chief function is estimating the ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter