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.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

De Testimonio Quatuor Testibus: Terribiliter Magnificasti Me

“I WILL WORSHIP YOU, for I am fearfully, wonderfully made,” says the Psalmist to his God. (139 (138):14). And the Psalmist thus introduces us to the third of Budziszewski's witnesses to the existence of the self-evident, undeniable principles of the natural moral law. It is the awareness that "every part of us has meaning," from our bodies, to our emotions, to our mind, to our life in common in the family and in civil society; both spirit and flesh and communion speak to us of our own design and purpose. We cannot ignore the obvious teleologies of our bodies, or our broader nature, whether they relate to us as individuals or us as a species. It is in the teleologies of man as a species that Budziszewski focuses upon in identifying the quality of man's moral design.

It is almost a commonplace to observe that man is made to live in common. Man is a political animal as Aristotle noted long ago, and one who is satisfied in living alone is either a beast or a god, but certainly not man. "It is not good for man to be alone" is a truth that covers the conjugal communion which is but one of many societies that man is called to form by nature. In looking at this tendency in man to live in common, Budziszewski identifies four social qualities of man at the level of the species: (1) interdependence; (2) complementarity; (3) spontaneous order; and (4) subsidiarity. Budziszewski (2003), 87-94.

The interdependency of man is manifest. Man needs to rely on his fellow creatures, and even such apostles of individualism as the "ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed" Henry David Thoreau had to have a Bronson Alcott from whom to borrow an axe so as to build his cabin at Walden Pond. He also had something less than five pounds of money, which is worth less than the paper the notes were printed on unless there were others with which to engage in commerce. Such interdependence involves more than just the body. It also involves the intellect. How, for example, could Thoreau find any value in his considerable writing skills if he had not had the social interaction which gave him his English to begin with? Even our very existence is dependent upon others: without Cynthia Dunbar and John Thoreau, his parents, it is highly unlikely Thoreau would have seen the light of day. It is thus obvious that man depends upon his fellows for his procreation, for his nurture and education, for his culture, for his material and intellectual needs, for his language, for his identity, his morals, even his religion. And this dependence upon man upon his neighbor does not even address the dependence of man upon God.

We are not all made the same, and though we are interdependent, that interdependence is one of complementarity. We are not interdependent as if we were a bunch of identical worker bees. Most notable is the biological, physical, and psychological complementarity between man and woman which shows itself in the conjugal union and leads to familial life and the nurture and procreation of the human species. But this sort of complementarity is also part of the daily activities and functions of men. Our individual talents, abilities, training, education allow us to complement those of others.

By the term spontaneous order, Budziszewski means that man as a species spontaneously, that is without guidance or extrinsic imposition, quickly form Burkean "little platoons," which is to say we form "a rich array of associations such as families, neighborhoods, villages, businesses, vocational groups, religious societies, schools," and so forth. This includes the political community, although the political community is secondary in the sense that it is not necessarily a relationship of individuals in partnership with a state, but it is a relationship of man already in his primary associations with a state, and so the political community is a "secondary association--and association of associations, a partnership of partnerships." Budziszewski, 91. It seems, however, that as one moves up the hierarchy of associations from the conjugal communion and family to the nation state, there is a "diminishing spontaneity," a reduction in "connaturality," "greater need for contrivance," a lesser reliance upon pure natural impulse toward one based upon convention. To be sure, the institutions of higher order ought not be unnatural, they should "function like a second nature, not fighting first nature, but filling the outline that first nature provides." It is in this feature that Budziszewski finds the fourth quality of man living together as a species: the principle of subsidiarity:
The higher rungs ought to protect and cooperate with the spontaneous lower rungs--but just because they are less spontaneous, they may not. The risk implies a rule. Higher rungs should be permitted to supply only those aspects of the common good which the lower rungs cannot This, finally is the principle of subsidiarity, which applies across the entire span of civil society . . . . The principle of subsidiarity reaffirms to social design of the species, corrects both its individualist denial and its collectivist perversion, and champions the rights and dignity of all those in-between associations which, if only allowed, will take root and flourish, filling the valley between State and Self with fruit and color.
Budziszewski (2003), 93, 94.

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