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, March 31, 2011

Natural Law's Modern Cousin Germain: The Common Good and Friendship

MAN IS A SOCIAL ANIMAL, a ζῷον πολιτικόν or homo politicus. It follows that the requirements of practical reasonableness will take this reality into consideration. Practical reasonableness is not solely focused on self-constitution, self-realization, self-fulfillment to the point of self-centeredness or selfishness. Practical reasonableness recognizes that there must be a balance between self-regard and regard for others. (This part of the natural law is entrenched in Scripture: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." (Luke 6:31) or "Love your neighbor as yourself" (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31 )).

Indeed, regard for others sometimes leads to significant self-sacrifice, even the sacrifice of oneself. Greater love no man has than to give his life for his friends. (John 15:13) We hold those who give their lives for others--e.g., the firemen, policemen, caregivers, and even the priest at 9/11 who gave their lives helping others, St. Maximilian Kolbe at Auschwitz who trade his life for the life of a married man, the soldier receiving the Medal of Honor posthumously in defending his fellows and his country--in such high honor surely not irrationally?

Finnis finds humans always aggregated in communities. He looks at communities as the product of relationships between human beings, and identifies four irreducible "orders" of such communities or sets of unifying relationships: a physical or biological order (relationships in the physical realm), an intellectual order (relationships of common thinking), a cultural order (community of shared language, technology, techniques, etc.), and a voluntary or psychological order (relationships of corroboration, co-ordination, cooperation arising from common action or a common pursuit or interest). It is this last order with which Finnis is most concerned and with which the requirements of practical reasonableness have most to do.

"Friendship" by Picasso

This relationships of corroboration, co-ordination, and cooperation give rise to common enterprises and therefore bring forth the concepts of common good. This order of community may be further subdivided (using largely Aristotelian insights) into communities that relate to utility ("business" communities), communities that relate to pleasure ("play" communities). Also to be distinguished are those communities that go beyond mere utility or pleasure, those that deal with amity, with friendship. In these kinds of relationships, the good of the other is, at least in part, defining of the relationship or community. In this sort of relationship of corroboration, "there is a community . . . not only in that there is a common interest in the condition [of that corroboration], and common pursuit of the means, whereby each will get what he wants for himself [as there is in those relationships of utility and/or pleasure], but also in that what A wants for himself he wants (at least in part) under the description 'that-which-B-wants-for-himself', and vice versa." NLNR, 141. One is clearly outside the ideas of self-fulfillment, self-constitution, self-realization--that self-fulfillment, self-constitution, self-realization includes the self-fulfillment, self-constitution, self-realization of another or of others. A father is miserable if he cannot provide for the needs of his wife and his children. His self-fulfillment comes, in great part, from the self-fulfillment of those under his care. More generically, a friend regards the good of his friend as part of his well-being. He relishes in the successes of his friend, and grieves at his friend's suffering.

So we leave the area of relationships of utility and of pleasure into the area of relationships of friendship (with the concept of friendship broadly understood). The notion of friendship is essential to the classical understanding of natural law which is not the individualistic self-regarding state of nature envisioned by Hobbes or Rousseau.

[C]ertainly there is no possibility of understanding the classical tradition of 'natural law' theorizing . . . without first appropriating the analysis of friendship in its full sense.

NLNR, 141. The "dialectic" of the core of friendship is a requirement of practical reasonableness because it participates in the basic value, the self-evident value of friendship: A has B's interest and not his own in view; reciprocally, B has A's interest and not his own in view; such "reciprocity of love does not come to rest at either pole." NLNR, 142-43.
Thus self-love (the desire to participate fully, oneself, in the basic aspects of human flourishing) requires that one go beyond self-love (self-interest, self-preference, the imperfect rationality of egoism . . . ). This requirement is not only in its content a component of the requirement of practical reasonableness; in its form, too, it is a parallel or analogue, for the requirement in both cases is that one's inclinations to self-preference be subject to a critique in thought and a subordination in deed.
NLNR, 143.

Friendship, then, is a sort of governor or a sort of counter to self-interest, and, in an almost paradoxical way, it is one's self interest which requires one to disregard one's self-interest as a fundamental sine qua non for participating in the good of friendship. If we focus on self-interest to the exclusion of friendship, we harm our self-interest. Our self-interest, then, requires us to have due regard for others. Friendship allows us to step outside ourselves.

Strict friendship is "the most communal though not the most extended or elaborated form of human community." NLNR, 143. There are friendships, attenuating in character, that extend and elaborate further out, rippling out of friendship in the strict sense and family to one's greater community, including one's neighborhood, city, state, country, nation, and even the global community.* But even in its greatest expanse, some sense, however attenuated, of the common good exists. That is why, when we see the plight of the Japanese after the tragic earthquake we have the felt need to provide them with help though we are "friends" with them in only the most weak of ways. There is a certain "friendship" that we have with the entirety of the human race.

*However, "communism in friendship," one that seeks "the widest sharing in friendship" to the detriment of intermediate familial and other communities, frequently seen in Utopian schemes, such as those suggested by Plato in his Republic are to be disdained as a travesty of friendship. It is fatal to real friendship which must be other-regarding and personal, since it requires commitment to the other and an ability to give of one's self or one's own to the other. NLNR, 144-46. If one does not have something of one's own to give, it follows that there can be no friendship. The more an individual has (and the less the state or the commonality has), the more he can give in friendship. Friendship cannot exist if one is nothing more "than a cog in big wheels turned by others." NLNR, 147. Subsidiarity must exist in friendship as in the allocation of other aspects of community (power, decisions to allocate resources, etc.).

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