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.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Universal Ethic-Theoretical Foundations 1-Experience to Theory

Chapter 3:

The Theoretical Foundations of the Natural Law

3.1. From Experience to Theory

60. The spontaneous acquisition of fundamental ethical values which express themselves in the precepts of the natural law constitutes the point of departure of the process that leads the moral subject through the judgment of conscience which formulates what are the moral requirements that impose themselves in his concrete situation. It is the competence of the theologian and of the philosopher to take up this experience of the acquisition of first principles of ethics so as to establish its the value and found it upon reason. The recognition of these philosophical or theological foundations does not, however, make conditional the spontaneous adherence to common values. In fact, the moral subject can carry out practically the orientations of the natural law without being capable, on the ground of some particular intellectual conditioning, of comprehending explicitly the natural law’s ultimate theoretical foundations.

61. The philosophical justification of the natural law presents two levels of coherence and of depth. The idea of a natural law is justified first of all on the plane of observation as reflected in the anthropological constants that characterize a humanization of persons and a harmonious social life. The reflected experience, transmitted by traditional wisdom, philosophy, or from the human sciences, presents agreement as to some of the required conditions because some demonstrate better the proper human capacity in his personal and communal life.(59) So it is recognized that certain behaviors express an exemplary excellence in the way of life and are better able to realize one’s authentic humanity. These define the broad lines of a properly moral ideal of a virtuous life “according to nature,” that is to say, in manner that conforms to the profound nature of the human subject.(60)

62. Nevertheless, only the assumption of the metaphysical dimension of the real is able to provide to the natural law its fullness and complete philosophical justification. In fact, metaphysics proposes to understand that the universe contains within itself the ultimate explanation of its existence, and manifests the fundamental structure of what is real: the distinction between God, the self-existent Being, and those other beings that obtain from Him their existence. God is the Creator, the free and transcendent source of all other beings. These receive from Him, "by measure and number and weight" (Wisdom 11:20), existence according to a nature that defines them. Creatures are therefore the epiphany of the wisdom of a personal creator, of a foundational Logos that is expressed and is revealed in them. "Every creature is a divine word, because it is a word of God," writes St. Bonaventure.(61)

63. The Creator is not only the beginning of the creatures but also the transcendent end towards which they tend by nature. So creatures are enlivened by a dynamism that carries them to realize themselves, each it is own fashion, in the union with God. Such dynamism is transcendent in the measure in which proceeds from the eternal law, that is to say, from the plan of divine providence that exists in the spirit of the Creator.(62) But it is also immanent, because it is not imposed from the outside upon creatures, but it is inscribed in their very nature. The purely material creatures realize spontaneously the law of their essence, while spiritual creatures realize it in personal manner. In fact, they internalize the dynamisms which define them and orient them freely towards their own complete realization. These express themselves as fundamental norms of their moral acts—properly said, it is the moral law—and they freely undertake the effort to realize it. The natural law is defined as a participation in the eternal law.(63) It is mediated in part by the inclinations of nature, expressions of the creator’s wisdom, and in part by the light of of human reason which interprets and which is itself a participation created by the the light of the divine intelligence. The ethics thus presents itself as if it were a “participated theonomy.”(64)

(59) For example, experimental psychology highlights the importance of the active presence of the parents of one and the other sex for the harmonious development of the personality of the child, or still the decisive role of the paternal authority for the construction of his or her identity. Political history suggests that the participation of all in decisions that regard the community is generally a factor that favors social peace and political stability.

(60) At this first level, the expression of the natural law sometimes makes abstraction to an explicit reference to God. Certainly, being open to transcendence has a part in virtuous behaviors that ought to attend a complete man, but God is not necessarily recognized as the foundation and the source of the natural law, nor as the last end that mobilizes and hierarchizes the different virtuous behaviors. This inexplicit recognition of God as ultimate moral norm, seems to like moral rule last seems to prevent the "empirical" approach to the natural law of constituting itself as a moral doctrine properly so called.

(61) St. Bonaventure entarius in Ecclesiasten, cap. 1 («Opera omnia, VI», ed. Quaracchi, 1893, p. 16): "Verbum divinum est omnis creatura, quia Deum loquitur."

(62) Cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, Ia-IIae, q. 91, art. 1: “Law is nothing else but a dictate of practical reason emanating from the ruler who governs a perfect community. Now it is evident, granted that the world is ruled by divine providence . . . that the whole community of the universe is governed by a divine plan. Wherefore the very idea of the government of things in God the ruler of the universe has the nature of law. And since the divine plan’s conception of things is not subject to time but is eternal . . . therefore it is that this kind of law must be called eternal. (Nihil est aliud lex quam quoddam dictamen practicae rationis in principe qui gubernat aliquam communitatem perfectam. Manifestum est autem, supposito quod mundus divina providentia regatur [...], quod tota communitas universi gubernatur ratione divina. Et ideo ipsa ratio gubernationis rerum in Deo sicut in principe universitatis existens, legis habet rationem. Et quia divina ratio nihil concipit ex tempore, sed habet aeternum conceptum [...], inde est quod huiusmodi legem oportet dicere aeternam).”

(63) Cf. ibid, Ia-IIae, q. 91, art. 2: "Unde patet quod lex naturalis nihil aliud est quam participatio legis aeternae in rationali creatura.”

(64) John Paul II, Encyclical Veritatis splendor, n. 41. "The teaching on the natural law as the foundation of an ethics is accessible by reference to natural reason. History attests to it. But, in fact, this teaching reached its full maturity only under the influence of the Christian revelation. First of all, because the understanding of the natural law as a participation in the eternal law is closely bound to a metaphysics of creation. Now, this, although it is of accessible by philosophical reason, it is truly presented and explained only under the influence of biblical monotheism. And then because Revelation, for example through the Decalogue, explains, confirms, refines and entire the fundamental principles of the natural law.” {editor's note: This quotation is not from Veritatis splendor, n. 41}

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