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Friday, 23 June 2017

A Valuable Person



Recently, I read Jacques Maritain's article. 'The Person and the Common Good.' 
Maritain tries to make a case for the political value of the person beyond the individual loosely considered via the Liberal paradigm and the collectivist egalitarian vision. 

One of the compelling principles behind his argument is that person-hood is beyond the individual as a collection of rights and idiosyncrasies. 

Maritain writes, in his classically Thomistic way: 

'Here, in contrast to the expression of Pascal that "the self is detestable," the words of St. Thomas come to mind; "the person is that which is most noble and most perfect in all of nature." Whereas Pascal teaches that "the self is detestable," St. Thomas teaches whosoever loves God must love himself for the sake of God, must love his own soul and body with a love of charity. . . .

What do these contradictions mean? They mean that the human being is caught between two poles; a material pole, which does not concern the true person but rather the shadow of what, in the strict sense, is called individuality, and a spiritual pole which does concern true personality.


It is to the material pole, the individual become the centre of all, that the expression of Pascal refers. St. Thomas' exerpt on contrary refers to the spiritual pole, the person, the source of liberty and bountifulness. Thus, we are confronted with the distinction between individuality and personality.'


What is important to notice about this, is that via Aristotle and his descendants a critical principle made known to us is that the individual person as a valuable and unique entity in a relational sense. This relational sense may arise from social and political relations as Aristotle informs or out of the unique capacity for relations between the individual, community, and God as Aquinas informs. This can be expanded through a broader concept of the individual as the full instantiation of the community in the shape of history, tradition, family, prejudice, faith, and culture more broadly. These are the things worth preserving to conservatives. Because these varied and diverse elements and traditions infuse us with a shared culture and person-hood intelligible to people from a specific time and place. 

These are the elements worth preserving because they create the type of person we would like to see as the bedrock of our societies and politics, and they ask us to consider and think about more than what exclusively pertains to us our values or judgments or our opinions. They ask us to think of how our actions affect others and our political community. Individualism does not see this. It sees the individual as the absolute entity at the expense of all others and in turn undermines the above components of his own personality. The collectivist vision fails because it does not produce a humane community or individual that allows both to mutually benefit one another and produce a viable political community. 

A bit of a hybird article, perhaps a little confused. Still, some thoughts for you. Does conservatism better relfect an undestanding of person-hood that individualism does not? 

--Cole