Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Natural Law's Modern Cousin Germain: The Common Good and the Larger Community

THE FAMILY IS A FUNDAMENTAL, essential form of association, but it is not whole and complete within itself. A family that interbreeds will soon find itself in a genetic mess heap. Moreover, though a family may be large, it will still lack the economic robustness and specialization to flourish. Families need other families. "So there emerges the desirability of a 'complete community', an all-around association in which would be co-ordinated the initiates and activities of individuals, of families, and of the vast network of intermediate associations." NLNR, 147. Individuals, families, etc. are all better off in coordinating themselves, in placing themselves with this greater society than they would be without it, though it also necessarily comes with restrictions. The "ensemble of conditions" required for proper co-ordination necessarily requires both positive and negative (restrictive) co-ordinating principles--customs, rules, and laws, for example. This self-sufficient community Finnis calls the "political community" or the "body politic." It is within this political community or body politic strictly so called that we find politics and law in their fullness.

[T]he common understanding of the unqualified expressions 'law' and 'the law' indicates [that] the central case of law and legal system is the law and legal system of a complete community. That is why it is characteristic of legal systems that (i) they claim authority to regulate all forms of human behaviour . . . (ii) they therefore claim to be the supreme authority for their respective community, and to regulate the conditions under which the members of that community can participate in any other normative system of association; (iii) they characteristically purport to 'adopt' rules and normative arrangements (e.g., contracts) from other associations within and without the complete community, thereby 'given them legal force" for that community.

NLNR, 148. The coordination required for the life of this political community or body politic necessitates, as a requirement of practical reasonableness, law. Law participates in practical reasonableness and in its requirements that there be impartiality between persons, impartiality and openness to the basic values, and so forth. The political community, like all groups, must have a "sharing of aim," a sharing of aim with some stability over time, something more than just a "multiplicity of interaction," which gives them a sense that they are a "group." And this group aim and the coordination of the community with that group aim must accord with the requirements of practical reasonableness. NLNR, 153. The requirement of practical reasonableness upon law under the "ensemble of empirical conditions" under which the political community operates takes us into the area of "justice," distributive and commutative. Ultimately, the norms of practical reasonableness applied to coordination of this community lead to the "point" of the common good:
[The norms, practices, usages, conventions] of that arise in the coordination of a group] will be then be thought of as norms of and for the group, and the leader(s) will be thought of as having authority in and over the group. The 'existence' of the group, the 'existence' of social rules, and the 'existence' of authority tend to go together. And what makes sense of these ascriptions of existence is in each case the presence of some more or less shared objective or, more precisely, some shared conception of the point of continuing co-operation. This point we may call the common good.
NLNR, 153.

The concept of "common good" must not be thought of in a utilitarian sense (greatest good for greatest number). The vacuous, indeed irrational, consequentialist or utilitarian formula is made no better by taking it from the individual vantage point and expanding it into the political community. Rather, the common good** may be defined thus:

[The common good is] a set of conditions which enables the members of a community to attain for themselves reasonable objectives, or to realize reasonably for themselves the value(s), for the sake of which they have reason to collaborate with each other (positively and/or negatively) in a community. . . . [the common good being] the all-around or complete community, the political community subject to . . . the incompleteness of the nation state in the modern world.

NLNR, 155-56. The common good, broadly so defined, may also be called the "general welfare" or the "public interest."

The modern state seems overweening. "But we must not take the pretensions of the modern state at face value." NLNR, 149. We may be confronting not a norm, but an anomaly. [T]here are relationships between men which transcend the boundaries of all poleis,* realms, or states." And these relationships not only are within the boundaries of the modern state, but the relationships also go beyond the modern state into the global realm. The nation must not be so absolutized as to adversely affect these internal relationships nor to sever or minimize the international community into which nations must be coordinated.

What is the content of the common good of the political, or even the international, community? What is it that justifies (and perhaps limits!?) the functions and aspects of the political community we call states? The answer to this question--what is the content of the common good--takes us into the realm justice, authority, and positive law.
*Plural for polis (Greek for city-state).
**There different "explanatory levels" of the common good. NLNR, 156. There is a "common good" more generally defined as encompassing human beings generally, "inasmuch as life, knowledge, play, aesthetic experience, friendship, religion, and freedom in practical reasonableness are good for any and every person." NLNR, 155. There is also the "common good" in the sense that each of these basic human values may be called a "common good," "inasmuch as it can be participated in by and inexhaustible number of persons in an inexhaustible variety of ways or in an inexhaustible variety of occasions." Finnis, however, uses the notion of "common good" in a way that is specific to the political community, but which does not contradict the first two broader notions. In fact the first two senses seem to inform the third sense which is quoted above.

1 comment:

  1. W Lindsay WheelerApril 1, 2011 at 9:22 AM

    Do Catholics hate "race"? I really got to wondering because it seems that Catholics talk in deracintated terms. The word "blood", kinsmen, never are uttered. This affects 99% of all Catholics I hear. You know I hear this "Old Order" and I hear "order", and yet, it seems one of the most basic ingredients of order in the cosmos is race, and yet Catholics can't seem to talk about it except to denigrate it.

    From above The political community, like all groups, must have a "sharing of aim," a sharing of aim with some stability over time, something more than just a "multiplicity of interaction," which gives them a sense that they are a "group." ***sharing a aim***** Really? Is this intelligent, and right?

    No. In Aristotle, the correct term is "SOCIAL animal" what does "sharing an aim" have to do with "social"? Is a family built on "sharing an aim" or is it built on BLOOD relationship?

    THE FIRST relationship, the first "social" is blood relationship. This "sharing an aim" is the Novus Ordo of the Enligthenment and not the basis of the Old Order. The Old Order has for its basis BLOOD Relationship and NOT "sharing an aim".

    Are Catholics about defending the Old Order, the Logos, or is it about teaching the Novus Ordo and Enlightenment crap. I really wonder about Catholics, are they all just a bunch of Marxists?

    Screw your head on right! Where is race, where is blood? Where is Kinship? If the Family is built on Blood and Kinship---is not the larger community built on Blood and Kinship as well? Is this not what "social" means in the first place?