Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Human Person Matures Through Work


1) Work as “objective”
2) Work as “subjective” – the anthropology of self-determination
a) the need for self-mastery
b) the need for affirmation by another
c) texts of John Paul II on the subjective meaning of work
3) The philosophy of self-determination -
4) Conclusion: only persons work.
5) The giftedness of work shows in quality. This builds faith and trust = the economy
6) The Working Person as Key to the Future Culture

1) Genesis: Work as “Objective: transformation of things: Work is a free human act. It consists in subduing the earth and making it one’s own. The act of subduing the earth changes it. John Paul II calls this work in the “objective” sense.” He clarifies that most of this work is not manual but technological where the machine seems to do the “work.” But in reality there is always a supervising protagonist of intelligence and intention that is always the principal agent of doing it. This supervising protagonist is the “subject.”

2) a- Work as “Subjective:” transformation of self: But man is a created being who must master himself since he is taken from the earth. To own himself, and therefore, to be himself, he must master himself in order to perform any action that is going to be properly “his.” This is the deep meaning of freedom. In order for any action to be properly “his” and ultimately “him,” there must be a strenuous effort to “gather up” all the cosmic forces that clamor from below, be it laziness, sexual urge, hunger, vanity, ego gratification, etc. and direct them by reason and will. To be free, one must be able to decide about oneself.

b- Last month, we saw the need for affirmation by another, that the self had the absolute need to be related to by the affirmation of another that is love. We talked about the process of Adam’s “original solitude” because he had become a “subject” different from the animals. He had crossed the threshold between subject and object. We saw it developed in Ratzinger, in Pieper and Conrad Baars, exemplified in Helen Keller and attested to by Richard Rohr and rendered ascetically by St. Josemaria Escriva and John Paul II. We talked about affirmed persons, and unaffirmed persons.

c- Text of John Paul II on the Subjective Meaning of Work:

“Man has to subdue the earth and dominate it, because as a the ‘image of God’ he is a person, that is to say, a subjective being capable of acting in a planned and rational way, capable of deciding about himself, and with a tendency to self-realization.

[This sentence contains the entire point. To be “capable” is to have been affirmed as a person and therefore able to turn upon oneself. Without that receptive affirmation (love), the "I" is not activated to master itself. The experience of this does not belong just to faculties of intellect and will. It is the whole person deciding about self with sentiment, feeling, fear, truth, past weaknesses, etc. ]

“As a person, man is therefore the subject of work. As a person he works, he performs various actions belonging to the work process: independently of their objective content, these actions must all serve to realize his humanity, to fulfill the calling to be a person that is his by reason of his very humanity…
“And so this ‘dominion’ spoken of in the biblical text being meditated upon here refers not only to the objective dimension of work but at the same time introduces us to an understanding of its subjective dimension. Understood as a process whereby man and the human race subdue the earth, work corresponds to this basic biblical concept only when throughout the process man manifests himself and confirms himself as the one who dominates.’ This dominion, in a certain sense, refers to the subjective dimension even more than to the objective one: this dimension conditions the very ethical nature of work. In fact there is no doubt that human work has an ethical value of it is own, which clearly and directly remains linked to the fact that the one who carries it out is a person, a conscious and free subject, that is to say, a subject that decides about himself.”

3) The Philosophical Account of Gaudium et Spes #24: Karol Wojtyla: “When I am directed by an act of will toward a particular value, I myself not only determine this directing, but through it I simultaneously determine myself as well. The concept of self-determination involves more than just the concept of efficacy: I am not only the efficient cause of my acts, but through them I am also in some sense the ‘creator of myself.’ Action accompanies becoming [of me], moreover, action is organically linked to becoming. Self-determination, therefore, and not just the efficacy of the personal self, explains the reality of moral values [i.e. when you determine yourself to go out of yourself in service to another, you experience the value “good” because you are making yourself “good.”]: it explains the reality that by my actions I become ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ and that then I am also ‘good’ or ‘bad’ as a human being – as St. Thomas so eminently perceived. If we were to stop at an analysis of the will as an intentional act, acknowledging only its horizontal transcendence, then this realism of moral values, this good and evil in the human being, would be completely inexplicable.”[2]

That is, when you do what conscience tells you what is “good,” and you do it, you become “good.” You have an experience of the good as your very self. The will points us outward toward an “object.” Self-determination points inward toward the subject. When we choose the good toward which conscience points us, we become ontologically good or bad in our subjective "I." The "good" of conscience [that comes from the ontological tendency of our created being impinging on consciousness] becomes the ontological reality of "I." We become "good" and therefore can love self "unselfishly." In this we have the whole psychology of the affirmed person: "The know who they are. They are certain of their identity. They love themselves unselfishly. The are open to all that is good and find joy in the same. They are able to affirm all of creatoin, and as affirmers of all beings are capable of making others happy and joyful, too. They are largely other-directed. They find joy in being and doing for others. They find joy in their loving relationship with their Creator. The can share and give of themselves, be a true friend to others, and feel at ease with persons of both sexes. They are capable of finding happiness in marriage or the freely chosen celibate state of life. They are free from psycho-pathological factors which hamper one';s free will and are therefore fully responsible - morally and legally - for their actions" (Conrad Baars, M.D., "I Will Give Them a New Heart" St. Pauls (2008) 190)

4- Conclusion: Only persons work, and this because only persons are capable of determining self and making the gift of self.[3] Self determination is something we all experience that has its root in imaging God. The prototype is Christ who, as divine Person, masters His human will and obeys to death. He gathers himself, owns himself and makes the gift of himself to the Father for us. That is the prototypical meaning of “work.”

Therefore, only persons work since they are the only ones who are subjects who can master self, take possession of self and make the gift. Therefore, animals do not work. Machines do not work. “Work is one of the characteristics that distinguish man from the rest of creatures, whose activity for sustaining their lives cannot be called work. Only man is capable of work, and only man works, at the same time by work occupying his existence on earth. Thus work bears a particular mark of man and of humanity, the mark of a person operating within a community of persons. And this mark decides its interior characteristics; in a sense it constitutes its very nature.”[4]

5- Work as Gift: Quality

The gift that work must give is the very self. The sign of the giftedness of work is its “quality.” Since the work must be a free creative act, the quality of the work is the sign of the presence of the subject. Consider the remarks of John Paul II in this regard:

“In producing a work, artists express themselves to the point where their work becomes a unique disclosure of their own being, of what they are and of how they are what they are. And there are endless examples of this in human history. In shaping a masterpiece, the artist not only summons his work into being, but also in some way reveals his own personality by means of it. For him art offers both a new dimension and an exceptional mode of expression for his spiritual growth. Through his works, the artist speaks to others and communicates with them. The history of art, therefore, is not only a story of works produced but also a story of men and women. Works of art speak of their authors; they enable us to know their inner life, and they reveal the original contribution which artists offer to the history of culture.”[1]
[1] John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” #2.

Quality, as sign of the presence of the person of the artist, inspires trust and confidence on the receiver or consumer. Absent that quality, absent the consumer and, consequently, the decline in the economy. Witness the state of the United States automobile industry in the face of quality built into the Japanese and German cars. Consider, also, the example of the CEO of Hollister Corp. who said: “Our business is to serve customers, both inside and outside. We do not exist to make a profit. This is not an end, but a means by which we can continue as a strong, independently owned company. Our business purpose is to serve our customers and the community as a whole. We’ll serve them with products that are innovative and more efficacious than those offered by our competitors. Quality is delivery of increasingly higher levels of service to our customers. Hollister will also be more personal as a working environment because all associates will be serving one another in a way that creates a sense of community similar to the sense of family that existed when Mr. Schneider was running a smaller company…. In my vision, Hollister associates are person in relationships of service to one another. They’re all untied in a common cause, each contributing his or her indispensable work, well done, so that the individual efforts add up to a collective world-class result.”[6]

Witness, also, the psychological state of any person speaking or performing artistically in public. If one is gift, all is ease, reasonable and creative. If one is turned back on self, self-confidence erodes and disappears. I refer you to the “The Gift” by Lewis Hyde (Vintage, 1983) for the development of this idea in the folkloric of world history.

6- The Working Person as Key to the Future Culture

Consider that Communism and Capitalism are two abstractions of the working person (finding self by gift of self: GS #24). Capitalism seems to have vanquished Communism on an economic level. But as Benedict XVI says:

“The unresolved issue of Marxism lives on: the crumbling of man’s original uncertainties about God, himself, and the universe. The decline of a moral conscience grounded in absolute values is still our problem, and left untreated, it can lead to the self-destruction of the European [American] conscience, which we must begin to consider as a real danger…”

Consider also the assessment of John Paul II on Capitalism: "Can it perhaps be said that, after the failure of Communism, capitalism is the victorious social system, and that capitalism should be the goal of the countries now making efforts to rebuild their economy and society? Is this the model which ought to be proposed to the countries of the Third World which are searching for the path to true economic and civil progress?... If by 'capitalism' is meant an economic system which recognizes the fundamental and positive role of business, the market, private property and the resulting responsibility for the means of production, as well as free human creativity in the economic sector, then the answer is certainly in the affirmative, even though it would perhaps be more appropriate to speak of a 'business economy,' 'market economy' or simply 'free economy.' But if by 'capitalism' is meant a system in which freedom in the economic sector is not circumscribed within a strong juridical framework which places it at the servicie of human freedom in its totality and sees it as a particular aspect of that freedom, the core of which is ethical and religious, then the reply is certainly negative.
"The Marxist solution has failed, but the realities of marginalization and exploitation remain in the world, especially the Third World, as does the reality of human alienation, especially in the more advanced countries. Against these phenomena the Church strongly raises her voice. Vast multitudes are still living in conditions of great material and moral poverty... The collapse of the Communist system in so many countries certainly removes an obstacle to facing these problems in an appropriate and realistic way, but it is not enough to bring about their solution. Indeed, there is a risk that a radical capitalistic ideology could spread which refuses even to consider these problems, in the a priori belief that any attempt to solve them is doomed to failure, and which blindly entrusts their soluton to the free development of market forces.
"The Church has no models to present... The integral development of the human person through work does not impede but rather promotes the greater productivity and efficiency of work iteslf, even though it may weaken consolidated power structures. A business cannot be considered only as a 'society of capital goods;' it is also a 'society of persons' in which people participate in different ways and with specific responsibilities, whether they supply the necessary capital for the company's activities or take part in such activities through their labor..." (John Paul II "Centesimus Annus 42.1, 42,2; 42,3; 43,1; 43,2).

What is the answer? The working person. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) teaches in its 2nd Document on Liberation Theology:

“The culture which our age awaits will be marked by the full recognition of the dignity of human work, which appears in all its nobility and fruitfulness in the light of the mysteries of creation and redemption. Recognized as an expression of the person, work becomes a source of creative meaning and effort (82)

“Thus the solution of most of the serious problems related to poverty is to be found in the promotion of a true civilization of work. In a sense, work is the key to the whole social question (83).

“It is therefore in the domain of work that priority must be given to the action of liberation in freedom. Because the relationship between the human person and work is radical and vital, the forms and models according to which this relationship is regulated will exercise a positive influence for the solution of a whole series of social and political problems facing each people. Just work relationships will be a necessary pre-condition for a system of political community capable of favoring the integral development of every individual… (83)

“A work culture such as this will necessarily presuppose and put into effect a certain number of essential values. It will acknowledge that the person of the worker is the principle, subject and purpose of work. It will affirm the priority of work over capital [true “capitalism”] and the fact that material goods are meant for all [true “socialism’]. It will be animated by a sense of solidarity involving not only rights to be defended but also the duties to be performed. It will involve participation, aimed at promoting the national and international common good and not just defending individual or corporate interests. It will assimilate the methods of confrontation and of frank and vigorous dialogue…. (84)

“A culture which recognizes the eminent dignity of the worker will eiphasize the subjective dimension of work.

“The value of any human work does not depend on the kind of work done; it is based on the fact that the one who does it is a person” (85).

[1] John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens,” #6.
[2] K. Wojtyla “The Personal Structure of Self-Determination,” Person and Community Lang (1993) 191-192.
[3] Gaudium et spes #24: “He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”

[4] Laborem Exercens. DSP p. 5.
[5] John Paul II, “Letter to Artists,” #2.
[6] Michael Winn, “The President’s Vision.”

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