Passing bull 183 – Changing the way we think


It is one thing to change your mind.  It is altogether a different thing to change the way you think. Historically, the English have viewed the world differently to those over the Channel.  This has led to tension and to the drive to get England out of Europe.  In seeking to do that, the English have acted more like Europeans than the English.  That has got them into an almighty mess.

The study of thinking that we call philosophy tends to divide into two broad schools of thought – those who begin with or focus on the mind and those who begin with or focus on the world outside.  The first tends to stress thinking and logic; the second stresses the external world and our experience of it.  People who do philosophy tend to label the first type rationalist (or metaphysical) and the second empirical.  At an even greater level of abstraction, the first type of thinking is associated with deductive logic, and the second with inductive logic.  Europeans tend to associate with the rationalist tradition, and the English with the empirical tradition.

All laws are made by people; law is therefore the product of history.  The common law and the English constitution have been evolving by trial and error since the Germans replaced the Romans as the rulers of England.  They developed their own national common law – law deriving from custom and precedent – and they resisted their adopting – the process is referred to as ‘receiving’ – Roman law.  Europe did not experience either of those developments.  France did not have a law common to France before the revolution, but the Civil Code has been broadly in place since Napoleon introduced it.  The German nation was not created as a distinct political entity until the 19th century, but its civil code has remained broadly in place since 1900.  Both those civil codes derive a lot from Roman law and, at least in theory, European courts pay much less attention to judicial precedent.

The law of England mainly came from the precedents of the judges with occasional interference from the parliament.  The common law derived from custom and precedent and at once underlay but could be overridden by parliament.  The law of France and Germany tends to derive from legislated codes with occasional contributions from judicial precedent.  One tends to grow from the ground up; the other is what we now call top-down.

Just compare the English Revolution of 1689 to the French of 1789.  The English evicted their king and later a philosopher, John Locke, sought to justify it.  In France, those leading the revolt sought to follow the teaching of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who went into for large statements like ‘Men are born free.’

In seeking to leave Europe, the English have followed the French example.  Instead of inquiring about how in fact the break might be effected, they talked loftily about why in theory it should be done.  Rousseau – whom Carlyle called the Evangelist – would have been proud of them.  Instead of asking how to avoid a hard border in Ireland they talked grandly about ‘freedom’ and ‘sovereignty’ without asking just what differences they might expect to achieve – and at what cost.  They were like spoiled boys in a lolly shop.  We can now see better why England is in such a mess – and some of those boys have been badly spoiled.

First, the English allowed the impulse for divorce to be driven by people who put ideas above evidence and theory over experience.  They gave in to ideology.  They went back on all their history since they left the German forests.

Secondly, they allowed a nation-splitting issue to be decided by a bare majority.  The constitutions of sensible countries and corporations require a lot more.  They ensured and locked in indecision and recrimination.

Thirdly, the two party system is hopelessly inadequate for this job.  They needed a government of national unity like those that won their wars.  Having owned the problem, their parliament is now unfit to resolve it.  The mother of parliaments has become a dismal cat house.

Fourthly, the bare majority was got on a simple lie.  ‘You can control immigration and not be worse off.’

Fifthly, they have hardly a decent leader in sight.  The only person left with any dignity is their Prime Minister.  The rest could not run a chook raffle – and barely one engine driver among them.  The result is a majority against each option.

One of England’s greatest historians – a Jewish migrant from Eastern Europe – said: ‘Restraint, coupled with the tolerance that it implies and with plain human kindness, is much more valuable in politics than ideas which are ahead of their time…’


‘I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that He wanted Donald Trump to become president,’ Sanders said, according to CBN News. ‘That’s why he’s there and I think he has done a tremendous job in supporting a lot of the things that people of faith really care about.’

CNN News 31 January, 2019

Can we ask whether Muslims are ‘people of faith’ or would that be too silly for words?  As silly, in fact, as saying that the President is a person of faith.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s