Wednesday, November 6, 2013

"Distributive Justice"?, XII: Will or Intellect?


In his analysis of the rise of the philosophy that ultimately led to the Nazi tyranny, The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy (1936, German; 1947, English), the solidarist political scientist and jurist Dr. Heinrich Rommen traced the foundation of the modern totalitarian State and socialism to the abandonment of reason (intellect) as the basis of the natural law (lex ratio), and acceptance of the will (lex voluntas).

Echoing Fulton J. Sheen (probably unconsciously), Rommen — a student of the great Father Heinrich Pesch, S.J., renowned as the founder of solidarism — contended that the abandonment of Thomism and its emphasis on the primacy of the Intellect, in favor of distortions of the philosophy of Duns Scotus with its emphasis on the primacy of the Will led to the creation of a global culture favorable to the rise of the all-powerful Nation State, and from there to the utter destruction of society.  As Rommen explained,

“For Duns Scotus morality depends on the will of God.  A thing is good not because it corresponds to the nature of God or, analogically, to the nature of man, but because God so wills. Hence the lex naturalis could be other than it is even materially or as to content, because it has no intrinsic connection with God’s essence, which is self-conscious in His intellect.  For Scotus, therefore, the laws of the second table of the Decalogue were no longer unalterable. . . . an evolution set in which, in the doctrine of William of Occam(1) (d. cir. 1349) on the natural moral law, would lead to pure moral positivism, indeed to nihilism.” (Heinrich Rommen, The Natural Law.  Indianapolis, Indiana: Liberty Fund, Inc., 1998, 51.)

(1) Condemned as a heretic in 1326.

The restoration of sound philosophy (meaning Aristotelian-Thomism) as the basis of individual and social life was, in substance, the point that Chesterton attempted to convey to his followers in Saint Thomas Aquinas: The “Dumb Ox” (1933), and that Sheen, as he and his biographers make clear, made the focus of his entire career.  Accounting for the congruence in thought that many people have observed, this is also a theme we see in the work of Pesch.

While credited with being the founder of solidarism, Pesch should more accurately be viewed as its “redeemer,” although, in light of what is often promoted as “solidarism” today, hardly its savior.  Pesch began with the collectivist/fascist-socialist version of solidarism developed by Émile Durkheim that embodied an overtly statist orientation and an abolition of the natural law.  By bringing Durkheim’s concepts into conformity with the rational (as opposed to faith- or will-based) principles of Aristotelian-Thomism, Pesch transformed solidarism from a statist/totalitarian philosophy, into a natural law, “person centered” system, but without making it a form of individualism.

As further developed by Pius XI with the addition of a completed doctrine of social virtue (the “act of social justice,” vide Ferree, op. cit.), Pesch’s reformed Aristotelian-Thomist solidarism laid the groundwork for John Paul II’s personalism.  The lack of a completed doctrine of social virtue had, in part, hampered full development of solidarism as a feasible system.  Other problems in solidarism included the absence of a sound system of finance based on the banking principle instead of the currency principle, and a clearer statement of the principles of economic justice.  (Infra)

We must carefully distinguish John Paul II’s personalism from the related (but radically different in some critical respects) personalism of Emmanuel Mounier. (Emmanuel Mounier, A Personalist Manifesto.  London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1938.)  As is the case with Pesch, Mounier’s work (which seems to reflect influence from Pesch) appears not to take into account Pius XI’s completed social doctrine and its particular act of social justice.

This is hardly surprising.  Mounier published the results of years of work in 1938.  Pius XI presented his completed social doctrine in Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, and Divini Redemptoris, 1937.  Ferree’s analysis was not published until 1942, four years after the appearance of A Personalist Manifesto.

The act of social justice, however, is a key feature of John Paul II’s personalism.  John Paul II’s personalism, therefore, while clearly based in many important respects on the work of both Pesch and Mounier, differs from both as radically as Pesch’s solidarism differs from that of Durkheim.

Nevertheless, even though John Paul II’s personalism has an impeccable intellectual pedigree, it is not presented or explained explicitly as a completed theory or doctrine, even though “it’s all there” implicitly.  John Paul II’s personalism fails to integrate a clear statement of the principles of economic justice of equally impeccable lineage discerned by Louis O. Kelso and Mortimer J. Adler, and presented in Chapter 5 of the egregiously mistitled The Capitalist Manifesto (1958).  There is also the lack of any hint that a financial system embodying the banking principle is both morally and practically superior to any system based on the currency principle.

What this means is the subject of the next posting in this series.

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