Monday, February 16, 2009

Neither Aristotle nor Hume

Updating the Mystery Quotation Contest. The Angelic Doctor rules.

“It is proper to justice, as compared with the other virtues, to direct man in his relations with others … on the other hand the other virtues perfect man only in those matters which befit him in relation to himself.” This text from the Summa Theologica [II, 57, 1] has the very same meaning as the textbook adage “lustitia est ad alterum:” Justice is directed toward the other man. The difference, the separateness of the other party is intended more precisely and literally than may appear at first glance.

What distinguishes justice from love is just this: in the relationship of justice, men confront each other as separate “others,” almost as strangers. “Justice properly speaking demands a distinction of parties.” Because father and child are not entirely separate individuals, because the child, instead, belongs to the father, and the father feels toward the child almost as he feels toward himself, “so between them there is not a simpliciter iustum, the just, simply,” not justice in the strict sense. Because the loved one is not properly “someone else,” there is no formal justice between those who love each other. To be just means to recognize the other as other. It means to give acknowledgment even where one cannot love. –- Pieper, Josef. 1954. The Four Cardinal Virtues. New York: Harcourt Brace: 54.


Christian Lindke said...

Thanks for posting this, as it got me to re-examine the quote from earlier. I would love to have a discussion, not online, with you about this very subject.

I cannot say that I agree with Herr Pieper, but I think this is worthy of scotch and conversation -- those great tools of the philosopher.

Certainly, one could argue "where there is love there is no 'need' for justice." But to state that when one loves another, no formal justice can exist is an interesting argument. One that I don't believe Aristotle would agree with, nor would Hume or Adam Smith -- the two great Scottish Moralists.

Generic said...

I told someone that the goal here was to be able to argue that Sam Spade was wrong at the end of The Maltese Falcon; to endorse the "I hope I would have the courage to betray my country" line. That almost certainly isn't what is meant, of course. We're in a Christian context. The love that's being talked about is assumed to go beyond justice; infinitely far beyond it, you could say. It confounds the wise and etc.

Also I think that when I first read this something like 30 years ago I was struck by the idea of a relationship so close that the parties were not properly "someone else" to each other. That would be quite something to find.

Christian Lindke said...

You were "struck by the idea of a relationship so close that the parties were not properly 'someone else' to each other. That would be quite something to find."

Though I wrote that I'd rather have the give and take of natural discussion (and scotch) that this topic deserves, your paragraph here really deserves some small comment -- to be expanded later and in person.

From a theological perspective the purpose of marriage is to create a union that removes the individual from the equation. Those who were two become one by the ritual. It is important to note that marriage is the one sacrament where the "essence" of the sacrament is in the mutual consent of the contracting parties. The sanctity comes from the truth of the union and not from the rituals of the Church -- though Catholics require that the participants be baptized Christians in order for the consent to be sanctified. Hence, a Catholic marriage can be "convalidated." The marriage was always true and valid, but had yet to be recognized by the Church. The two have already become one.

The guidelines above do make "true marriages" a difficult hurdle to pass. How true is the consent in most modern marriages, or historical ones for that matter? But a sacred marriage must have the quality of loving someone else as if they are not an "other."

One of my criticisms of Calvinism and Lutheranism is the arguments by their founders that marriage is a material thing and not a sacrament. Certainly, most weddings fail to achieve the high goal required where the two become as one in essence. But I have never doubted the fact that they can do so.

This is the kind of love described in Sonnet 116. It is rare.