Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Although Maritain didn’t appear to be concerned about this state of affairs, we certainly should be. You and I may agree that we shouldn’t kill John today, but if you think we shouldn’t kill John today because he possesses a natural right to life and I think we shouldn’t kill John today because I’d rather sleep in, this will lead to problems at some point down the line. Our agreement, though real and useful as far as it goes, is a pragmatic rather than a principled one. Maritain’s rather sanguine neglect of this and other profound difficulties introduced by the modern intellectual climate has, moreover, had widespread influence among post-Vatican II Catholics, who are generally more apt to absorb and accommodate than critically examine contemporary intellectual developments.A brief look at why discussing things like rights and responsibilities are so hard if you have a classical idea of how the world works. Also a rare on-topic post for this blog.
Leo Strauss, on the other hand—one of Maritain’s more well-known contemporaries and a fellow Walgreen Lecturer at the University of Chicago in the early ’50s—took a critical stance toward modern intellectual developments and emphasized the radical disjunction between pre-modern and modern understandings of justice, morality, or “natural right.”