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Monday, November 29, 2010

Thomas and TEA

Is Catholicism incompatible with the TEA party ethic?  Many prominant churchmen and the usual CST drones say no. Frederick Copleston's A History of Philosophy,Volume Two says of Aquinas,

"If this principle, that the part is ordered to the whole, which represents St.Thomas's Aristotelianism, were pressed, it would seem that he subordinates the individual to the State to a remarkable degree;  but St. Thomas also insists that he who seeks the common good of the multitude seeks his own good as well, since one's own good cannot be attained unless the common good is attained, though it is true that in the corpus of the article in question he remarks that right reason judges that the common good is better than the good of the individual.  But the principle should not be overemphasized, since St. Thomas was a Christian theologian as well as an admirer of Aristotle, and he was well aware, as we have already seen, that man's final end is outside the sphere of the State:  man is not simply a member of the State, indeed the most important thing about him is his supernatural vocation.  There can, then, be no question of 'totalitarianism' in St. Thomas, though it is obvious that his Aristotelianism would make it imposssible for him to accept such a theory of the State as that of Herbert Spencer:  the State has a positive function and a moral function.  The human being is a person, with a value of his own;  he is not simply an 'individual'."

The first remark I would make is that Aristotelianism cuts both ways.  Maybe Aristotle wasn't Ayn Rand or Herbert Spencer, but he was certainly no collectivist either.  Read the Politics, and you will see somebody who thought that spending money on others was praiseworthy, but always saw private giving as a sign of moral worth, and certainly never would have endorsed a monolithic government of spoils and largesse.

The second remark I would make is that St. Thomas also would never have approved of tolerance for Protestant sects, much less the easy access to pornography that distinguishes modern America.  In other words, Thomas's dream of a government that helps us to Heaven is rather inconsistent with the American system.  If government is supposed to get us to heaven, how do public schools and housing projects do that, other than by seperating our bodies from our souls? 

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