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.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Universal Ethic-Theoretical Foundations 3-Nature, Man, God

3.3. Nature, Man, and God: From Harmony to Conflict

69. The concept of natural law proposes the idea that nature is the bearer of an ethical message for man, and constitutes an implicit moral norm which human reason actualizes. The vision of the world, within which the doctrine of natural law has developed and finds still today its sense, implies the reasoned conviction that there exists a harmony between the three essences which are God, man, and nature. Within such a perspective, the world is perceived as an intelligible whole, unified, by common reference from the beings which compose it, to a founding divine principle, a Logos. Beyond the impersonal and immanent Logos proposed by Stoicism and presupposed by modern natural science, Christianity affirms that the Logos is personal, transcendent, and creative. "It is not the elements of the cosmos, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person.”(68) The divine personal Logos—the Wisdom and the Word of God—is not only the intelligible transcendent Origin and Model of the universe, but also the one than maintains it in a harmonious unity and which conducts it towards its end.(69) With the dynamism that the He has inscribed within being, the Creative Word orients it toward its full realization. This dynamic orientation is none other than the divine government which carries out in time the plan of Providence, that is to say, of the Eternal Law.

70. Every creature participates in its manner in the Logos. Man, since he is defined by reason or logos, participates in the Logos in an eminent manner. In fact, through reason, he is in a position of internalizing freely the divine intention manifested in the nature of things. He expresses it for himself in the shape of a moral law that inspires him and orients him to proper acts. In such a perspective, man is not “the other” of nature. To the contrary, he establishes with the cosmos a bond of familiarity founded upon a common participation in the divine Logos.

71. For different historical and cultural reasons, that are in particular associated with the evolution of ideas during the late Middle Ages, such view of the world has lost its cultural preeminence. The nature of things is no longer law for modern man and is no longer a reference for ethics. In the metaphysical level, the substitution of the concept of the univocity of being to the concept of the analogy of being and then nominalism has undermined the foundation of the doctrine of creation as a participation in the Logos which provided the reason for a certain unity between man and nature. The nominalist universe of William of Ockham reduces itself to a juxtaposition of individual realities without profundity, because every real universe, that is, all the principles of communion between beings, is denounced as a linguistic illusion. On the anthropological level, the developments of voluntarism and the correlative exaltation of subjectivity, defined as the freedom of indifference in front of every natural inclination, dug a chasm between the human subject and nature. Presently, some think that human freedom is essentially the belief that what man is by nature does not count for anything. Therefore, the subject ought to refuse whatever meaning he did not personally select, and that to decide for oneself is that which defines man. Man, therefore, has more and more understood himself as a "denatured animal," an anti-natural being that, the more he opposes himself to nature, the more he affirms himself. Culture, proper to man, is then defined not as a humanization or transfiguration of nature with spirit, but as a negation, pure and simple, of nature. The principle result of such evolution is the schism of the real into three separate, or rather opposed, spheres: nature, human subjectivity, and God.

72. With the eclipse of metaphysics of being, the only metaphysics capable of founding upon reason the differentiated unity of the spirit and material reality, and with the growth of voluntarism, the realm of the spirit was placed in radical position to the realm of nature. Nature was not considered any longer as an epiphany of the Logos, but rather “the other” of the spirit. It was reduced to the field of bodiliness (corporeity) and strict necessity, a bodiliness (corporeity) without depth, because the world of the body was identified with extension, certainly regulated by intelligible mathematical laws, lacking any teleology or immanent end or finality. Cartesian physics, and then Newtonian physics, spread the image of inert matter that obeys passively the laws of universal determinism which the divine Spirit imposed on it and which human reason can recognize and master perfectly.(70) Only man can infuse a sense and a direction to this amorphous and insignificant mass that he manipulates with technology toward its proper end. Nature ceased to be patroness of life and of wisdom, and became the place in which man affirmed his Promethean powers. This vision seemed to give value to human freedom, but in fact, opposing both freedom and nature, robbed human freedom of any objective norms for its conduct. This led to the idea of a human creation of total arbitrariness, or rather, to nihilism pure and simple.

73. In such a context, where nature does not contain any longer any immanent teological rationality, and seems to have lost all affinity or relations with the world of the spirit, the logical passage from knowledge of the structures of being to moral obligations appears to be effectively impossible, and falls under the criticism of “natural sophism or paralogism (naturalist fallacy)” as denounced by David Hume, and later, George Edward Moore in his Principia Ethica (1903). In fact, the good is divided from being and from truth. Ethics is separated from metaphysics.

74. The evolution of the understanding of the relation of man with nature has also translated itself in the revival of a radical anthropological dualism which opposes the spirit and the body, since the body is in whatever way the “nature” of every one of us.(71) Such a dualism manifests itself in the refusal to recognize any human and ethical significance in the natural inclinations that precede the decisions of individual reason. The body, a reality adjudged extraneous to the subjectivity, becomes a pure "to have," an object manipulated by technology as a function of the interests of the individual subjectivity.(72)

75. Besides, through the emergence of a metaphysical conception in which human acts and divine acts enter into competition, because they are understood in a univocal way, and are placed, wrongly, on the same level, the legitimate affirmation of the autonomy of the human subject implies that God has excluded himself from the sphere of human subjectivity. Every reference to a norm coming from God or from nature as an expression of the wisdom of God, that is, “heteronomy,” is perceived as a threat to the autonomy of the subject. The notion of natural law appears then incompatible with the authentic dignity of the subject.

(69) Cf. also Athanasius of Alexandria, Traité contre les païens, [Against the Pagans] 42 ["Sources chrétiennes", 18, 195]) : "Like a musician who accords the lyre in unison with the the art of sharp notes with flat notes, middle notes with other notes, in order to perform one melody, such is the Wisdom of God, the Word, who tends to the universe as if it were a lyre, uniting beings of the air with those of the earth, and the beings of the sky with those of the air, combining together the parts; leads all things with by its command and with its will; produces so all beauty and harmony, one world and one order of the world.”

(70) The physis of the ancients, taking action upon the existence of a certain non-being (matter), preserved the contingency of earthly reality and resisted the pretensions of human reason to impose upon reality a purely rational deterministic order. So it left open the possibility of a real action of human freedom in the world.

(71) Cf. John Paul II,
Letter to Families to , n. 19: The philosopher who formulated the principle of "Cogito, ergo sum,” "I think, therefore I am," also gave the modern concept of man its distinctive dualistic character. It is typical of rationalism to make a radical contrast in man between spirit and body, between body and spirit. But man is a person in the unity of his body and his spirit. The body can never be reduced to mere matter: it is a spiritualized body, as man's spirit is so closely united to the body that he can be described as an embodied spirit.

(72) The ideology of gender, that denies any anthropological or moral meaning to the natural difference of the sexes, is based upon this dualist perspective. Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,
Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Man and of Woman in the Church and in the World, n. 2: “In order to avoid the domination of one sex or the other, their differences tend to be denied, viewed as mere effects of historical and cultural conditioning. In this perspective, physical difference, termed sex, is minimized, while the purely cultural element, termed gender, is emphasized to the maximum and held to be primary. . . . While the immediate roots of this second tendency are found in the context of reflection on women's roles, its deeper motivation must be sought in the human attempt to be freed from one's biological conditioning. According to this perspective, human nature in itself does not possess characteristics in an absolute manner: all persons can and ought to constitute themselves as they like, since they are free from every predetermination linked to their essential constitution.”

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