Metaphysical Realism in Modern Society

Was Daniel Berrigan’s putatively unsanctioned theft of the draft office, during the 1960’s, an attempt to uphold the idea of separation of church and state? Is the method (in this case a robbery of government information) by which he creates an anticlerical movement within the Peace Movement considered a rejection of realism or an anti-realist mind-state?

I have been debating whether or not this was an anticlerical movement within the anti-war movement of the time. The more obvious example of this type of movement is Henry the 8th’s dismantling of the Church of England.

We can break this down and try to answer these questions if we define anticlerical movements as the following: “opposed to the involvement by the church or clergy in politics and public affairs”[1]. The first state being clerical in the sense an unsanctioned member of the clergy has involved himself in a robbery that would create a second state of “anticlerical” in an anti-war movement by removing the names of church members and supporters from draft lists and therefore preventing the church’s involvement in political scandal with Vietnam.

In regards to Daniel Berrigan’s anti-realist mindset we can use Deontic Logic to help illustrate the mind-state that most Americans would agree is the law-abiding mind-state (If there are penalties for theft then Daniel Berrigan should not steal). In a society, that isn’t under duress from fratricidal or internecine conflict, this mind-state is possible to keep at all times if the free agents* of society try to maintain it. In a melioristic society the action of the law-abiding free agent actually makes society better and improves the living conditions within it.

*In America some would argue that everyone who can vote for whom they choose is free. Daniel Berrigan may have had an argument here. If a supposed free agent is drafted are they really free? Which brings me to my next contestation.

We could argue that his rejection of this reality regarding the penalties in the United States for theft is an anti-realist mind-state. Social constructivists might say however that “social factors shape interpretations of the world” and that “some significant portion of the world is somehow constituted by theories, practices and institutions.”[2]

During the 1960’s America was under duress from internecine conflicts with Vietnam and that the separation of church and state that Mr. Berrigan tried to create involved breaking the law but that the freedoms of Americans were being taken away by the draft created a state of altered reality where anti-realist mind-states are sane.


[1] Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

[2] Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, Second Edition page 855


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