Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Social Problems and the Self

Patrick Deneen has a wonderful post exploring the ideas of Fr. James Schall, Yves Simon, and what he sees as the most difficult lesson to teach to our current culture:

We have come to understand our "selves" to be what we truly are, and the effort to satiate the appetites of our selves as the only legitimate pursuit against which no obstacle - neither self-mastery, nor familial or cultural norms, or even law - can stand against. At the deepest level, all the various aspects of the contemporary culture that we decry - on the Right, the loss of family values, on the Left, the environmental crisis - come back to our inability to understand and accept this truth to which Fr. Schall points us: the truth that human freedom consists in a form of self-mastery, aided by the customs and laws of our families and communities. The ways that we currently degrade both the culture and the natural world is directly attributable to our inability to govern ourselves, to see our "selves" as a source of our problems rather than some kind of external phenomenon or cause. To use a wonderful example from Jason Peters, we are prone constantly to complain how bad traffic is without considering for a moment that we were part of what constituted the gridlock.

Deneen explains further:

My constant attention to the problems we face is not intended as a wake up call for innovation and invention: it's rather to insinuate the possibility that we are destroying ourselves by degree because we refuse to govern our appetites or even see these appetites as problematic. I'm highly dubious that we will "invent" our way out of the need to govern ourselves, and am dead certain that nature and the order of the world will not indefinitely brook our misbehavior. We should be mindful that our near-automatic response to the fact of depletions that surround us - that we MUST find other means to continue running our current way of life - is directly the result of our unwillingness to understand that "the disorder of the world originates in disorder of soul". The problem is not intrinsically the various depletions we face (but, boy, are they problems): the problem lies in the more fundamental motivation of our thoughtless response that avoids considering whether our behavior has anything to do with the problems we face, and might in fact further exacerbate those problems, as well as create greater ones, the longer we refuse to face this possibility.

Rod Dreher comments that "the most important political task for Americans is not whether we will choose to be governed by Republicans or Democrats. Rather, it's whether or not we will govern ourselves and our insatiable appetites."   


Vischer, Rob | Permalink

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