Monday, September 09, 2013

Notes on the Ontological Grounding of Moral Theology

Ratzinger (1992): you cannot answer the question what man should do until you know who man is, since doing follows on being. But you can’t know who man is until you know God is, since man has been made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1, 26). And you can’t know who God is until He tells you, since “No one has at any time seen God. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has revealed him” (Jn. 1, 18).

                Christ reveals: “I and the Father are one” (Jn. 10, 30). And yet, “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14, 28). Opposition of relations (relation being the meaning of “person”) is the only way to account rationally for this disclosure of Christ. The Relation that is the Father is to be “the act of engendering the Son.”[1] And the relation that is the Son is on page 1 of your notes, equally from Ratzinger’s “Introduction…” p. 134. Read it and open your mind to it. Everything in Christian morality – which is the morality for everyone since Christ is the meaning of man – depends on this relational dimension from sanctity to sex, from politics to economics.

                And then, you cannot know who Christ is unless you become Christ: “No one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and him to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt. 11, 27). Benedict/Francis’s “Lumen Fidei” #36 says that “God cannot be reduced to an object. He is subject who makes himself known and perceived in an interpersonal relationship.” And therefore He cannot be known except subjectively. i.e., by praying - going out self. Again, “Christ is not simply the one in whom we believe… he is also the one with whom we are united precisely in order to believe. Faith does not merely gaze at Jesus but sees things as Jesus himself sees them, with his own eyes: it is a participation in his way of seeing” (#18) because it is a becoming Him. Finally, “believers become a new creation; they receive a new being; as God’s children, they are now "sons in the Son". The phrase "Abba, Father", so characteristic of Jesus’ own experience, now becomes the core of the Christian experience (cf. Rom 8:15) (#19).

What is Moral Theology: Veritatis Splendor: Dialogue between Jesus and the Rich Young Man. We have within us the consciousness of the good because we have an ontological tendency within us that  is us. Go to p. 88: last 2 paragraphs of Ratzinger’s “Conscience and Truth” that grounds the notion of the good in us ontologically. Since the Diving Person of Christ is relational, to image Him is to be relational, i.e. to tend. And this “tending” is what is meant by “natural law.” But notice that it is not “nature” as “source” of activity, but the whole of the human person as imaging the Divine Person (Son) as “Relation” to the Father.  
Christ tells the rich young man: “if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Mt. 19, 18). The boy responds: “All these I have kept; what is yet wanting to me” “The commandments of which Jesus  reminds the young man are meant to safeguard the good of  the person, the image of God, by protecting his  goods.. ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness’ are moral rules formulated in terms of prohibitions. These negative precepts express with particular force the ever urgent need to protect human life, the communion of persons in marriage, private property, truthfulness and people’s good name.

            “The commandments thus represent the basic condition for love of neighbor; at the same time they are the proof of that love. They are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting point. ‘The beginning of freedom,’ Saint Augustine writes, ‘is to be free from crimes… such as murder, adultery, fornication, theft, fraud, sacrilege and so forth. When once one is without these crimes… one begins to lift up one’s head towards freedom. But this is only the beginning of freedom, not perfect freedom…’”

            It is most interesting that at this point., John Paul II (#14) moves the gospel text from the rich young man to the lawyer who asks similar questions but now Jesus refers him to the two commandments of love of God and love of neighbor (Lk. 10, 25-27) “very much like the one asked by the young man,” but now it is about the love of God and love of neighbor. And the lawyer asks: “And who is my neighbor?” What is significant is that the teaching moves from the morality of protecting one’s own goods, to morality of giving them away. And it is here that there is perfection (divinization).

VS #13 shows that the 10 commandments are the basic condition  for love of neighbor; at the same time they are proof of that love. They are the first necessary step on the journey towards freedom, its starting point.”

            Why is love of God and neighbor inseparable? Because the Son of God became my neighbor. God took on human flesh, the same flesh my neighbor has. Therefore, when you do it to the least of my brethren, you do it to me, since I am you neighbor. Notice the key to the moral theology. Morality cannot be reduced to rules and principles because it is relation. The rich young man: I have kept the laws and the rules but I am still not good. To be good, I have to give myself to the poor who have Christ’s flesh. Therefore, we keep the rules and obey the laws, but “Nescio vos,” I don’t know you.

            Notice that the answer to “who is my neighbor” is: whomever you see and come across in need is your neighbor. And notice that the officially religious, “a certain priest” and “a Levite,” who attended and served in the Temple and the community’s approved sacrificial rites, and both pass him by “on the other side.” “Then comes a Samaritan, a person whom Jesus’ listeners would have identified as an enemy, a despised outsider from the northern kingdom of Israel who did no worship at the temple. And this Samaritan turns to the wounded one, picks him up, takes him in his arms, dresses his wounds and brings him to an inn where he pays for his convalescence.”[2]
            Moral perfection consists in self-giving. Cf. VS #17 (notes p. 12. And it is meant for everyone (#18). Note that Moral perfection consists in loving the way God loves: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Thou shalt love they neighbor, and shalt hate thy enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute and calumniate you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun to rise on the good and  the evil, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans do that? And if you salute your brethren only, what are you doing more than others? Do not even the Gentles do that?

   “You therefore are to be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.

[1] J. Ratzinger, “Introduction to Christianity,” Ignatius (1990) 132.
[2] D. Cayley “The Rivers North of the Future – The Testament of Ivan Illich” Foreword by Charles Taylor, Anansi (2005) 50.  Illich extends the point being made in VS #14: “This doctrine about the neighbor, which Jesus proposes, is utterly destructive of ordinary decency, of what had, until then, been understood as ethical behavior… The Greeks recognized a duty of hospitality towards xenoi, strangers who spoke a Hellenic language, but not towards the babblers in strange tongues whom they called barbaroi. Jesus taught the Pharisees that the relationship which he had come to announce to them as most completely human is not one that is expected, required, or owed. It can only be a free creation between two people, and one which cannot happen unless something comes to me through the other, by the other, in his bodily presence. It is not a relationship that exists because we are citizens of the same Athens, and so can feel a duty towards each other, nor because Zeus also throws his mantle over the Corinthians and other Hellenes, but because we have decided. This is what the Master calls behaving as a neighbor.” Illich continues: “(W)e are creatures that find  our perfection only by establishing relationship and that this relationship may appear arbitrary from  everybody else’s point of view, because I do it in response to a call and not a category, in this the call of the beaten-up Jew in the ditch. This has two implications. The first is that this ‘ought’ is not, and cannot be reduced to a norm. It has a telos. It aims at somebody, some body; but not according to a rule. It has become almost impossible for people who today deal with ethics or morality to think in terms of relationships rather than rules. The second implication… is that with the creation of this new mode of existence; the possibility of its breakage also appears. And this denial, infidelity, turning away, coldness is what the New Testament calls sin, something which can only be recognized by the light of this new glimmer of mutuality.”
                In the light of this, consider Ratzinger’s remark in “Dogma and Preaching” p. 9 that Christ asks far more from us in His preaching as recorded in the Gospel than the Church can demand in rules and regulations. And consider his (Ratzinger’s) observation that Anthony of the Desert and Francis of Assisi did read and hear the Gospels, took it at face value (as the rich young man did not, Mk. 10, 1), and established the canonical religious life (understood today as “the consecrated life” involving leaving the world, and taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience). Until St. Josemaria, no one proclaimed the universal call to holiness in the world and made it stick legally and canonically in the Church. Notice that Opus Dei is a liberation from the categories of “religious life” as state in life with rules and regulations of that state. Rather we are free as birds with the fulfillment of that freedom consisting in the total gift of self to Christ (VS #85) and to the others in any state of life. The liberation of Opus Dei is the liberation of self, and total gift to the

Philosophic Development Necessary to Account For the Above:

Subjectivity and the Irreducible in the Human Person

Karol Wojtyla


Selected  Essays

Translated by Theresa Sandok, OSM


Peter Lang

Subjectivity and the Irreducible in
the Human Being

The problem of the subjectivity of the human being seems today to be the focal point of a variety of concerns. It would be difficult to explain in just a few words exactly why and how this situation has arisen. No doubt it owes its emergence to numerous causes, not all of which should be sought in the realm of philosophy or science. Nevertheless, philosophy—especially philosophical anthropology and ethics—is a privileged place when it comes to clarifying and objectifying this problem. And this is precisely where the heart of the issue lies. Today more than ever before we feel the need—and also see a greater possibility—of objectifying the problem of the subjectivity of the human being.

In this regard, contemporary thought seems to have more or less set aside the old antinomies that arose primarily in the area of the theory of knowledge (epistemology) and that formed an as though inviolable line of demarcation between the basic orientations in philosophy. The antinomy of subjectivism vs. objectivism, along with the underlying antinomy of idealism vs. realism, created conditions that discouraged dealing with human subjectivity—for fear that this would lead inevitably to subjec­tivism. These fears, which existed among thinkers who subscribed to realism and epistemological objectivism, were in some sense warranted by the subjectivistic and idealistic character—or at least overtones—of analyses conducted within the realm of "pure consciousness." This only served to strengthen the line of demarcation in philosophy and the op­position between the "objective" view of the human being, which was also an ontological view (the human being as a being), and the "subjec­tive" view, which seemed inevitably to sever the human being from this reality.
Today we are seeing a breakdown of that line of demarcation—and for some of the same reasons that gave rise to it in the first place. By "some of the same reasons" I mean that this is also happening as a result of phenomenological analyses conducted in the realm of "pure conscious­ness" using Husserl's epoché: bracketing the existence, or reality, of the conscious subject. I am convinced that the line of demarcation between the subjectivistic (idealistic) and objectivistic (realistic) views in anthropology and ethics must break down and is in fact breaking down on the basis of the experience of the human being. This experience auto­matically frees us from pure consciousness as the subject conceived and assumed a priori and leads us to the full concrete existence of the human being, to the reality of the conscious subject. With all the phenomenologi­cal analyses in the realm of that assumed subject (pure consciousness) now at our disposal, we can no longer go on treating the human being exclusively as an objective being, but we must also somehow treat the human being as a subject in the dimension in which the specifically human subjectivity of the human being is determined by consciousness.

And that dimension would seem to be none other than personal sub­jectivity.

This matter requires a fuller examination, in the course of which wemust consider the question of the irreducible in the human being—thequestion of that which is original and essentially human, that which ac­counts for the human being's complete uniqueness in the world.

Traditional Aristotelian anthropology was based, as we know, on the definition o anthropos zoon noetikon, homo est animal rationale. This definition fulfills Aristotle's requirements for defining the species (human being) through its proximate genus (living being) and the feature that distinguishes the given species in that genus (endowed with reason). At the same time, however, the definition is constructed in such a way that it excludes—when taken simply and directly—the possibility of accentuating the irreducible in the human being. It implies—at least at first glance—a belief in the reducibility of the human being to the world. The reason for maintaining such reducibility has always been the need to un­derstand the human being. This type of understanding could be defined as cosmological.
The usefulness of the Aristotelian definition is unquestionable. It be­came the dominant view in metaphysical anthropology and spawned a variety of particular sciences, which likewise understood the human being as an animal with the distinguishing feature of reason. The whole scientific tradition concerning the composition of human nature, the spiritual-material compositum humanum—a tradition that came down from the Greeks through the Scholastics to Descartes—moved within the framework of this definition and, consequently, within the context of the belief that the essentially human is basically reducible to the world. It cannot be denied that vast regions of experience and scientific knowledge based on that experience reflect this belief and work to confirm it.

On the other hand, a belief in the primordial uniqueness of the human being, and thus in the basic irreducibility of the human being to the natural world, seems just as old as the need for reduction expressed in Aristotle's definition. This belief stands at the basis of understanding the human being as a person, which has an equally long tenure in the history of philosophy; it also accounts today for the growing emphasis on the person as a subject and for the numerous efforts aimed at interpreting the

personal subjectivity of the human being.1

In the philosophical and scientific tradition that grew out of the defini­tion homo est animal rationale, the human being was mainly an object, one of the objects in the world to which the human being visibly and physically belongs. Objectivity in this sense was connected with the general assumption of the reducibility of the human being. Subjectivity, on the other hand, is, as it were, a term proclaiming that the human being's proper essence cannot be totally reduced to and explained by the proximate genus and specific difference. Subjectivity is, then, a kind of synonym for the irreducible in the human being. If there is an opposition here, it is not between objectivism and subjectivism, but only between two philosophical (as well as everyday and practical) methods of treating the human being: as an object and as a subject. At the same time, we must not forget that the subjectivity of the human person is also something objective.2

I should also emphasize that the method of treating the human being as an object does not result directly from the Aristotelian definition itself, nor does it belong to the metaphysical conception of the human being in the Aristotelian tradition. As we know, the objectivity of the conception of the human being as a being itself required the postulate that the human being is 1) a separate suppositum (a subject of existence and action) and 2) a person(persona). Still, the traditional view of the human being as a person, which understood the person in terms of the Boethian definition as rationalis naturae individua substantia, expressed the individuality of the human being as a substantial being with a rational (spiritual) nature, rather than the uniqueness of the subjectivity essential to the human being as a person. Thus the Boethian definition mainly marked out the "metaphysical terrain"—the dimension of being—in which personal human subjectivity is realized, creating, in a sense, a condition for "build­ing upon" this terrain on the basis of experience.


The category to which we must go in order to do this "building" seems to be that of lived experience. This is a category foreign to Aristotle's metaphysics. The Aristotelian categories that may appear relatively closest to lived experience—those of agere and pate—cannot be identified with it. These categories serve to describe the dynamism of a being, and they also do a good job of differentiating what merelyhappens in the human being from what the human being does.3 But when the dynamic reality of the human being is interpreted in Aristotelian categories, there is in each case (including in the case of agere and pate) an aspect not directly apprehended by such a metaphysical interpretation or reduction, namely, the aspect of lived experience as the irreducible, as the element that defies reduction. From the point of view of the meta-physical structure of being and acting, and thus also from the point of view of the dynamism of the human being understood meta-physically, the apprehension of this element may seem unnecessary. Even without it, we obtain an adequate under­standing of the human being and of the fact that the human being acts and that things happen in the human being. Such an understanding formed the basis of the entire edifice of anthropology and ethics for many cen­turies.

But as the need increases to understand the human being as a unique and unrepeatable person, especially in terms of the whole dynamism of action and inner happenings proper to the human being—in other words, as the need increases to understand the personal subjectivity of the human being—the category of lived experience takes on greater significance, and, in fact, key significance. For then the issue is not just the metaphysical objectification of the human being as an acting subject, as the agent of acts, but the revelation of the person as a subject experiencing its acts and inner happenings, and with them its own subjectivity. From the mo­ment the need to interpret the acting human being (I'home agissant) is expressed, the category of lived experience must have a place in anthropol­ogy and ethics—and even somehow be at the center of their respective interpretations.4

One might immediately ask whether, by giving lived experience such a key function in the interpretation of the human being as a personal subject, we are not inevitably condemned to subjectivism. Without going into a detailed response, I would simply say that, so long as in this in­terpretation we maintain a firm enough connection with the integral ex­perience of the human being, not only are we not doomed to subjectivism, but we will also safeguard the authentic personal subjectivity of the human being in the realistic interpretation of human existence.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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