Page 8, 4th June 1937

4th June 1937
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Page 8, 4th June 1937 — Things New And Old
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Organisations: Christian Church
People: Baldwin

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Things New And Old

Logic And Politics

From a Correspondent in his last speech as Prime Minister Mr. Baldwin characteristically praised illogical

ity. He was referring particularly to the British Empire and the British Constitution, but gratuitously added that it was by attempting " to define" that the Christian Church was split into fragments.

The whole thesis, with its complacent view of English character and its travesty of Christian history, has been stated thousands of times before in schoolboy and undergraduate essays and, when repeated by an " Elder Statesman," is still good for a round of applause from imperialists who havelunched well and for a fulsome leader in The Times the next morning. In other words, it is ninety per cent. sheer claptrap. There remains, however, a residuum of meaning worth analysing. In so far as his praise of illogicality is not simply a boast that he is an irrational animal, the Baldwinian Englishman seems to mean two things by it.

Religion Without Logic

One is that the subject matter of any particular argument or definition may be something altogether remote from life's realities, like a chess problem or a theorem about four dimensional space. And the

Englishman who regards himself as religious " in a sensible way" thrusts into this category all those questions concerning the nature and Person of Christ, the meaning of the sacraments and grace, and even the nature of God Himself on which the

heresies have arisen, He holds that it is really of no importance to arrive at true answers to these questions or even to ensure that the same answers are given by those who teach in the same Church. "It is

character that matters." How character is to be formed without true beliefs is not considered.

Hence Mr. Baldwin's contempt for those who let their co-religionists secede, or excommunicated them, rather than tolerate ambiguous or mutually contradictory versions of revealed truth. (As a matter of fact it was always the heretics who forced the C'hurch into progressively more precise definitions, which they made the excuse for secession, not the Church who took the initiative and thereby split herself), Constitutional Illogicalities So much for the praise of illogicality in what are regarded as purely speculative ;netters. But the political Englishman praises it equally freely in what is supposed to be a practical working plan such as a political constitution. He likes to say that his Constitution, or the Constitution of his Empire. is full of mutually contradictory provisions which would bring about a deadlock if pressed to their logical conclusions.

Alternatively, if he is given a coherently constructed political scheme to administer he will pride himself on disregarding its logic.

But if he can safely paw as illogical in practical questions it is because he is falling back on concealed logic somewhere. Sometimes his schemes exist chiefly on paper and those who really rule get their way in daily practice by a hidden but coherent system of tacit understandings and disguised pressure.

Politicians plume themselves on political wisdom when they deviate from the logic

of the Constitution. But in so far as the Constitution is well planned it is not good to evade it, and if it must be evaded it is well to say so plainly and speak openly of the alternative which is being aimed at. For nothing is more dangerous politically than a political system the logic of which is kept out of sight. And every political system has logic in it somewhere or it would not work at all.

The Logic of Trctdition Nevertheless. the millions of Englishmen for whom Mr. Baldwin speaks hold it almost as an article of faith that British institutions are divorced from any logic. And if they are asked to account for their stability they say that they conform to something called the English tradition.

Now. it is undoubtedly true that where there is a genuine national tradition of political and social life, active and fertile, there is no need for a written constitution or even of a logical scheme consciously

formulated. But that is not because the tradition can do without logic but because it is inherently logical, rooted in universal principles of justice and reason logically, if unconsciously, applied to the legitimate idiosyncracies of the national temperament. In that case it can be safely followed intuitively or by mere habit.

The Logic of the Traditionless

There was once an authentic English political tradition, but successive catastrophes have reduced it to fragmentary memories, universal secular education has eaten away its spiritual foundations, the pattern of civic life is being drawn afresh by a civil service concerned chiefly with its professional status, and policy is directed by men whose very identity is not publicly known.

Under such circumstances it becomes desirable to think out the political and social structure afresh, and to do so with the utmost rigour of political logic. In no other way can ambitious and self-seeking men be exposed in their hidden manipulation of political machinei y according to the logic of private or class ends and peevented from sheltering themselves behind the plea of rising superior to logic.

It is true that there is such a thing as rising superior to logic, hut it is only attained by those who have first learnt and practised the art of applying first principles logically either by intellectual effort or truly spiritual intuition.




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