Edited by



















This volume is dedicated to Prof. H.D. Lewis, the first President of The International Society for Metaphysics. His open vision and creative spirit enabled the Society rapidly to undertake the coordinated program of research in metaphysics throughout the world of which this series is the fruit.


Grateful acknowledgement is made to The University of Hawaii Press, for permission to reprint Masao Abe, "The Problem of Evil in Christianity and Buddhism," from Paul O. Ingram and Frederick J. Streng, eds., Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: Mutual Renewal and Transformation (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, l986), pp. 139-154.




1. Person and Community, Individual and Society,

Reformation and Revolution

by Richard McKeon 3-16

2. Confucius, Aristotle, and Contemporary Revolutions

by Ellen Chen 17-27

3. Person, Personality and Environment

by Peter A. Bertocci 29-38

4. Individual and Society in Metapysical Perspective

by Ivor Leclerc 39-48

5. Self-Awareness and Ulitimate Selfhood

by Seyyed Hossein Nasr 49-57

6. Buddhism and the Way of Negation

by Toshimitsu Hasumi 59-61


7. The Development of Community

by Robert O. Johann 65-75

8. Community in the Process of Development

by Mieczyslaw Gogacz 77-79

9. Person as a Unique Universal Social Being

by Mihailo Markovic 81-89

10. Homo Creator: Solving the Problem of Human


by Janusz Kuczynski 91-99

11. The Extension of Human Rights and the

Advancement of Society

by Augustin Basave Fernandez del Valle 101-108

Comment by Abraham Edel 109-113

12. The Role of Reason and Its Technologies in

the Life of Society

by Alwin Diemer 115-123

13. The Problem of Evil in Christianity and


by Masao Abe 125-142

Index 143-145


It has been the triumph as well as the agony of the 20th Century to have come to a newly developed sense of the person. This has implied in social relations both creative liberation and destructive oppression. It is the task of metaphysics as described by Aristotle to know the good or the end toward which human striving should be directed. Hence, after its study on Person and Nature,1 The International Society for Metaphysics has carried out this study on Person and Society. A third, correlated study on Person and God2 follows.

By seeing social crises as the classical problem of the one and the many in contemporary terms, the study searches for ways to deepen the understanding of the person, not in opposition to society, but precisely within it and in terms of it. On this basis it seeks to evolve a deeper and more adequate metaphysical understanding of the nature of society and of its implications for the development of contemporary social life in its legal structures and technological implementation.

The study draws upon the resources and the experiences of the world's many cultures. Part I works out a more adequate notion of the person for contemporary life by looking for new insights in the psychology of the person and the dialectical tensions within society. It then develops a metaphysics of the person as social in terms of the various Eastern and Western horizons whether as transcendent or as the ground of being.

Part II concerns the person in society, focusing upon the nature of the person in relation to the development of community and social praxis. It draws conclusions regarding human rights, appropriate applications of the burgeoning technological capabilities and the problem of evil.

Upon completion of these studies on the person, the International Society for Metaphysics undertook a series of investigations regarding society, in terms of unity, truth and justice, and the good. Further, having studied intensively both person and society it extended the investigation to the field of culture and cultural heritage understood as personal creativity in community and in history. In this manner the work of the ISM has constituted a cohesive and coordinated investigation of metaphysics as a living discipline in our day.


1. George F. McLean, ed. (Washington: University Press of America and The International Society for Metaphysics, l988).

2. George F. McLean and Hugo Meynell, eds. (Washington: University Press of America and The International Society for Metaphysics, l988).




Person and Community,

Individual and Society,

Reformation and Revolution




Inquiries concerning the nature of man and society and programs of action bearing on their formation and change have undergone reformations and revolutions which parallel in sequence and purpose contemporaneous revolts against metaphysics and projections of architectonic substitutes. Again and again, the apparently endless proliferation of warring theories about being and the nature of things and of occurrences has led philosophers to abandon metaphysics in order to investigate how we know, hopeful that knowledge of mind and knowing might enable them to establish principles and uncover methods of knowing being and what is. When their epistemic investigations, in turn, have travelled many paths into many regions of thought and feeling, it has seemed plausible, again and again, that examination of what we say and do might provide a key to meanings and references and to beings and existences.

Such revolutions have marked off the turns of the ages since the ancient Greeks laid down the pattern and established the vocabulary of culture and philosophy in the West. Inquiry concerning truly fundamental questions of being and existence, thought and feeling, action and expression faces, as a consequence, the need to make initial and usually unexamined choices which determine the statement and the examination of the questions. The choice of semantic and substantive presuppositions may be schematized in two dimensions. Perpendicularly, one might choose to begin with beings or with existences, with ideas or with experiences, with symbols or with actions. Horizontally one might ground one's choices in metaphysical principles of things, or in epistemological methods of critical judgment, or in analytical interpretations of statements or processes.

Aristotle made a characteristic contribution to the construction of this variable matrix of symbols and significances. He formed a vocabulary of univocal scientific and philosophic terms by giving words in ordinary usage strict definitions and by inventing technical terms or terms of art to transform the original ambiguity of words into a dynamic structure of interrelated terms and meanings. This vocabulary of univocal words entered into the languages of philosophy, science, and policy in the West. But its terms seldom retained the meaning by which Aristotle defined them or the applications with which he used them, and progress or even simple changes in all fields were often announced and developed accompanied either by citation or by refutation of Aristotle. Changing interpretations of Aristotle are among the significant characteristics by which successive ages in the West may be interpreted.

Perpendicularly Aristotle opted for self-sufficient subtances, self-evident first principles, and natural potentialities and action. Horizontally he formulated an architectonic theoretical science of being and of first principles, an architectonic practical science of political and moral actions, and a productive science which might be put to architectonic uses to order processes and products of artistic and mechanical making. Aristotle's theoretic science of being, which came to be called metaphysics, related the sciences--theoretic, practical, and productive--and the arts--particular and universal--by their first principles or their commonplaces. But in the inquiries and analyses of his followers and opponents it ceased to be a science; it became a belief about being and reality and principles, formulated and reformulated in antagonistic idealisms and materialisms and disavowed and refuted in a variety of skepticisms.

The forms which arts, sciences, and culture take are determined by the circumstances, times, and communities in which they arise and develop. Aristotle's practical science of politics is a single science of human action, individual and social, treated in two parts: from the perspective of the grounds of individual moral action in the Ethics and from the perspective of the grounds of political organization in the Politics. Its purpose was practical: to lead men to perform good actions, not theoretic, to discover and demonstrate the final good. In the inquiries and analyses of his followers and opponents, it ceased to be a practical: science and became a theoretical science of the good, or a physico-biological science of nature, and human nature, or a rhetorical art of inducing actions, good or bad. Aristotle's productive science of poetics can be given an architectonic function, since the statement of what is thought to be and the formation of human associations and communities may be treated as products of arts of making or artificial objects. But from the beginning his followers and opponents turned, from poetic science and the investigation of form and matter in art objects, to the rhetorical art of using words to produce effects in feeling, conviction, and action.


This is still the vocabulary of discussion and the strategy of action. We tend to begin with the vocabulary in which questions are formulated and to dispute concerning significances and applications. We use rhetorical arts to secure agreement in the reformation and revolution of statements of questions and of principles, and in the establishment of communications and of communities. We seek to be objective by beginning with what men say and do rather than with presupposed things grounded in nature or with alleged facts grounded in knowledge. We expect natural things and warranted knowledge to emerge from the reinforcement or resolution of claims of individuals and groups in opposition.

Nature is a product not a principle; the examination of man and society as disclosed by what they say and do can take over the functions once exercised by metaphysics in determining the nature of things and the principles of knowledge, morals, and policy. Men are still formed by the communities in which they are reared, and these are still formed by the men who constitute them and live in them. Justice and equality are still sought in the relations of man and society, and in the relations of men to men and of societies to societies. The meanings of `nature' have changed, however, and nature operates differently in processes and in explanations. It is no longer used as a principle to establish the `nature' of man and society and of justice and equality in their interrelations. Instead the nature of rights and duties, and of man and society in general, are derived as products and sequences of what men say, and do, and make.

From the beginning of Western philosophical speculation, two theories of the relations of men and society have developed in opposition and in mutual adjustment. Plato analogized man and society; the virtues of man can be discovered writ large in the state. They form a single mutually defining whole or a single virtue. The associations and communities of men differ only in size, not in nature. Aristotle made univocal distinctions between the virtues of men and the institutions of societies. He sought a basis for discovering and investigating the `nature' of man in the nature of his faculties and in their natural functions and habituations. The `nature' of the associations of men form a hierarchy from the household, the simplest community required for mere living, to the state, the inclusive community required for living well. The virtues of man, based on his nature, provide him a second nature. The institutions of states, based on natural relations of men and things, constitute a nature prior to the nature of individual men, which orders the relations of ruling and being ruled. Justice is a virtue in individuals, an order in states, and a bond between individuals and states.

Aristotle begins his Politics with a refutation of the theory that human associations differ only in size and in the number of their members. This is a preliminary to formulating the theory that their differences are found in the nature and function of their ruler and ruled in ordered sequence from simple autonomous to inclusive free community. Aristotle based the simplest community on two natural relationships, the generation of the immediate family on male and female, the formation of the economy or household on master and slave. Two further relationships arise with products of these relations, father and son, and owner and property.

The relation of male and female in the generation of children is a relation of two rational beings. Aristotle likens it therefore to `constitutional' rule, that is, to the true form of the rule of many called by the very name of `polity' or `constitution', as contrasted to the degraded form called `democracy.' The relation of father and son in the education of the young is a relation in which unformed rational potentialities are formed and developed; it is likened therefore to `royal' rule. The relation of master to slave in the formation and operation of the household economy is a productive relationship in which the workers lack by nature the power to make decisions concerning their own welfare and that of the community. Thus, it is likened to `despotic' rule. The relation of owner to property is a relation between man and the things he makes; it operates therefore in production and use. In the household slaves are animate instruments of action, while property consists of products and inanimate instruments of production.


Aristotle's formulation of the natural relations which underlie the family and the more inclusive communities, the village and the state--into which it enters as an element and from which it derives its most characteristic social functions--are the source of four doctrines attributed to Aristotle and almost unanimously condemned as egregious Aristotelian errors: a conception of property, of slavery, of youth, and of women. They are all errors concerning the `nature' of men in social relations. They are misinterpretations of Aristotle, for they neglect the distinction between the meanings Aristotle gave to `nature' in practical and in theoretic sciences. Nevertheless as widely accepted interpretations, they take on characteristic forms in successive ages and make his distinctions available to frame new interpretations of man and society, science and knowledge, and action and statement.


Aristotle differentiated the political order from the economic order; he made economic self-sufficiency of the household a prerequisite to the political organization of the state; and he subordinated economic to political objectives. Politics became inseparable from economics in political economy, and political theory and history were given new economic forms. They came to be seen as theories of property and production--or of the freedom and rights of men--and as histories of the development and interactions of cultures--of the generation of communities and their acquisition of power.

With these changes in economics and in its relation to politics Aristotle's conception of the nature of property and of production became egregious errors, but they provided the vocabulary for their own correction. Like Plato, Aristotle recognized that existing Greek cities were in reality two cities rather than one: a city of the rich and a city of the poor. Therefore he changed his definition of democracy from the rule of the many to the rule of the poor. Moreover, he maintained that of all possible constitutions only two actually existed, usually in mixture, oligarchy and democracy. These balanced and opposed the pursuit of wealth and the pursuit of freedom as ends of the state. He separated questions of ownership, production, and use of property. He argued for private as opposed to common ownership, and he sought criteria and limits of production in use. The determinant role of use and consumption in the household led him to distinguish the economic order of the family from the political order of the state. He differentiated property which is an instrument of production from wealth which is accumulated and used for exchange but not for further production. This distinction earned him repeated criticism and refutation for failure to understand the productivity of capital and the justification of interest.

Locke began his Second Treatise on Civil Government by distinguishing the power of magistrates over subjects, fathers over children, master over servants, husbands over wives, and lords over slaves. This was in refutation of Filmer's reduction of the commonwealth to the family in his Partrarcha or the Natural Power of Kings. In this Locke was similar to Aristotle who had begun his work on Politics by distinguishing the rules of statesmen, kings, householders, and masters in refutation of Plato's reduction of the republic to the family. Where Locke sought the foundations for society in natural powers, Aristotle sought them in natural relations. Aristotle's refutation of the reduction of the state to the family was for the purpose of distinguishing politics from economics. Locke's refutation of that reduction permitted him to assign the name `property' to "the mutual preservation of lives, liberties, and estates" and to make the enjoyment of property the end of civil government.

Modern political revolutions have been economic revolutions, conflicts of rich and poor, haves and have-nots. Resolution has been sought in common ownership of the means of production as a stage to the disappearance of politics and the withering away of law and the state. Resolution has been sought also in private ownership of the products of one's labor as a stage to the extension of rights from the economic to the social and cultural and the withering away of divisive nationalisms in the community of mankind. In the one, dispossessing the dispossessor is the road to freedom and well-being; in the other, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness became a synonym for life, liberty, and property. Among nations, have-not nations came into existence liberated from imperialisms and colonialisms, and seeking to form a third world independent of the worlds of communism and of capitalism. Within nations, have-not groups, minorities and majorities, took form to vindicate their economic, civic, social, and cultural rights.

Aristotle's natural relations have ceased to be generative principles of interdependent societies. But they have reappeared as principles of opposition in existing men and emerging societies, whose clashing purposes and claims may lead to the formation of equal and just societies and men. The rejection of Aristotle's argument that wealth is not productive is usually on the grounds that he confused economic with biological productivity. It is seldom remarked that the argument depends on the sense which `nature' takes on in a practical science there the nature of a political association orders and relates the activities of men and communities that function within it. Its nature defines and delimits the pursuit and accumulation of wealth lest unlimited accumulation take precedence over all other social ends and activities and transform the political community.


Aristotle's exposition of the natural relation of master and slave is the source of the attribution to him of a doctrine no less offensive to modern sensibilities and repugnant to accepted opinions than his condemnation of the art of money-making. It is chrematistike, the doctrine that some men are by nature slaves. We have since learned that all men are by nature equal, but in making that discovery we have abandoned again Aristotle's distinction between a practical and a theoretic, a political and a psychological, sense of `nature.' In the controversy between those who think slavery is natural and those who think it is contrary to nature, Aristotle chooses his position by expounding the nature of the rule of master over slave, rather than the individual nature of the slave or the particular science of the master. For the production and use of property in the household or the economy, instruments of two kinds are needed: inanimate instruments of production or make and animate instruments of action or doing; that is, tools and materials that are used and workers who use instruments in production according to the directions of a master craftsman or architecton who relates making to doing. The rule of master over slaves has two aspects. One is an economic aspect, which leads us to recognize the continued existence of "wage-slaves" even after the abolition of slavery: the other is a social aspect, which leads us to recognize that in actual social situations there are many slaves who lack the power to make fundamental decisions bearing on their own welfare or that of the community of which they are members. Communities of the unprivileged are formed on the model or as instances of communities of the dispossessed.

The vocabulary of natural relations in ruling and being ruled supplies the distinctions of kinds of suppression in discriminations based on race, nation, religion, age, sex, or any other association or co-existence. The change is from natural generative relations to antagonistic oppositions in which the victims of discrimination struggle to achieve equality of individuals, of groups, and of nations. Paradoxically the achievement of equality of men and of societies requires two steps. First, the underprivileged group must be integrated into a group with recognized unity and dignity. Secondly, liberated and established groups must be reintegrated in the just and equal functioning of more inclusive associations and nations in a world community. In the first step integration and dignity are sometimes sought by `demonstration,' not in the sense of proving utility or worth, but in the sense of exhibiting and calling attention to injustice and inequality. In the second step desegregation and community are sometimes sought by assigning "quotas" according to the number of the disfavored group, without consideration of the abilities and functions required for the successful operation of the larger inclusive group. Indeed, demonstrations at conventions, legislatures, administrative bodies, or international organizations may be for the purpose of impeding their operation. Active participation with other groups may be for the purpose of changing the functions, the membership, or the constitution of the inclusive body.

The operation of the societies of men depends at once on mutual trust and antagonistic opposition. If one distinguishes the political and the moral, the collective and the individual, senses of `nature', some men are by nature slaves in the societies in which they function, but all men are by nature free and equal in their individual integrity and activities. On the other hand, if the political and social natures of associations are reduced to and derived from the physical, biological, and psychological natures of individual men, all men are equal. This equality is not in their powers and abilities, but in the rights and freedoms, which they realize in societies. These include: to live, to satisfy their needs and wants, to form and take care of families, to participate in other associations, to think and to express their thoughts and feelings, and to share in the economic and cultural, technological and scientific achievements of society.


Aristotle used the natural relation of father to son for the formative education of the young for participation in household and in other communities. This was transformed and inverted to add a cultural antagonism of old and young to the economic antagonism of rich and poor, and the social antagonism of privileged and repressed. Paideia means both education and culture, both a process and a product, individual and social. The education of a man in a society is to acquire a comprehension of the knowledge available and an appreciation of the values esteemed in the society. Cultures endure and change. The culture of an age of innovation or of revolution is found, not in a body of knowledge and a canon of commitments, but in attitudes and abilities which enable men to use what is know to investigate what is unknown, to turn from representations to presentations. Tradition and revolution are natural constituents in any human association. But society sometimes functions as a cohesive whole in which different cultural conceptions and aspirations are adjusted to each other and influence each other. At times revived, reviewed, or newly imagined cultures function to reorder society and to reform man.

The revolt of the young has been generalized from a revolt against parents to a revolt against established forms of education and all establishments. From a revolt of children against their father, as it was in the family as Aristotle treated it, it became the revolt of the generation gap, as it was in the family made into state in the Republic of Plato. It became the revolt of young societies, young states, young ideas, arts, sciences, philosophies, religions, modes of production, and policies of action. If education in its broadened sense of culture is not the transmission of the known and the accustomed, but the formation of arts and abilities to go beyond them, the young are clearly right in their criticism of the establishment. The accustomed answer to their criticisms, that they do not yet have the education requisite to judge what they are taught or to propose changes or improvements is inapposite, since such knowledge does not exist in the minds of either young or old and depends on instituting new cultural institutions and designing new modes of education.


Aristotle's use of the natural relation of male and female for the generation of children and the formation of the family is the source of a doctrine, attributed to him, of the natural inferiority of women. Here, as in the other natural relations, Aristotle distinguishes between the sense of `nature' proper to theoretic sciences like physics, biology, and psychology, and the sense of `nature' proper to practical sciences like politics and ethics. In biology male and female are members of the same species, and they do not differ in any of the biological functions investigated except generation. The terms `male' and `female' occur only in the On the Generation of Animals as the two principles operating in all generations as form and matter in the semen and the catemenia. In order to emphasize the continuity and the difference of the functions, Aristotle says that in the operation of those principles the female is an immature or an impotent male. His interpreters, favorable and unfavorable, generalize such statements to make them apply to all functions, biological, psychological, and social, of male and female. In the controversies of the time, Aristotle did not derive the offspring from the sperm of the father, and he did not attribute a kind of sperm to the mother. He was an epigenecist, and held that the embryo arises from a series of successive differentiations from a simple homogeneous mass, anticipating in all its essential features the doctrine of Harvey.

The natural relation of male and female in the Politics is a relation of rule. It is a "constitutional" or "political" rule in which ruler and ruled both participate in ruling and contribute to the generation of the family. In this the male differs from female in providing the initiation of the process of formation. In the Nichomachean Ethics there is no differentiation of male and female virtues, but in the Politics the differentiation of functions provides a basis for distinguishing the virtues of a mother from the virtues of the father. When political natural relations are reduced to individual natural powers and functions, women are constituted a deprived group or species, alienated economically, enslaved socially, and curtailed culturally.



The vocabulary of natural relations was formed by Aristotle to provide principles for the action of man and society in the context of nature and the cosmos. This has been transformed in meaning and inverted in application to a vocabulary of existential situations in which men form antagonistic groups which seek in actions and statements to liberate men and to form just societies. The vocabulary of universal natural relations which are generative of moral man and civil society has become a vocabulary of particular natural rights to be acquired by constituting societies in which the aspirations of men are realized. Natural relations are univocally distinct; natural rights are ambiguously intermingled and analogically interdependent.

Economic rights extend beyond production and consumption for the satisfaction of material needs and felt wants based on economic relations of ownership and property. They include participation in and enjoyment of, whatever has been made or done by man in society that might contribute to a fuller life and even, in turn, protection of nature and the cosmos for the continuation of life and the advancement of well-being and happiness. Social rights extend beyond freedom of action and cooperation based on social relations of workers and supervisors of work. They include decision-making in general, not only concerning one's own actions and those of others, but also concerning beliefs and values, facts to be accepted and the knowledge to be credited. Freedom of choice (the combination of feeling and knowledge in desiderative reason or rational desire) is transformed from a freedom to do as one should in accordance with the order of society, to a freedom to do as one pleases to achieve individual satisfaction in a community based on mutual confidence, in cooperation with other communities moving to a world-community of free and equal men.

Cultural rights extend beyond education and cultivation of what is known and what is valued based on cultural relations of old and young, teacher and learner, establishments and processes of formation. They begin to include as well the development and transmission of arts and disciplines designed to use the known as a basis for inquiry into the unknown, and what is perceived and experienced as a basis for discernment of the previously unperceived and intuition of the previously unfelt and unappreciated. They spread, diversify, and deepen culture into a plurality of cultures and societies which is the community and culture of mankind. Political rights extend beyond legislative and judicial institutions for the formation and rectification of economies, societies, and states based on political relations of ruler and ruled grounded in erotic loves and concupiscences. They begin to include other forms of love and attachment, including charity (agape) between God and man, and friendship (philia) between equals who share without distinction of mine and thine. They embrace a world-state which will control and prevent conflicting appeals to force, and recourse to war, as well as a stateless world-society without need for domination and law.

The natural relations of men, in a word, provide distinct principles for the generation and continuation of the family and for the formation and operation of the household on which other associations and communities are based. The natural rights of men, on the other hand, are formulated in universal bills of human rights, which overlap as expressions of the single right to live, claimed by existing men and societies of men. They set forth and differentiate rights as objectives to be sought in the development of man and of society and of the relations between them.

Aristotle made ethics and politics parts of a single science of politics, but he carefully distinguished between the scientific treatment of the virtues of man and the institutions of the state. He did not reduce ethics to politics or politics to ethics. The intricate vocabulary in which he made these distinctions has been used to transform virtues into duties in systems of moral laws, and to direct political actions to moral ends ordered in a hierarchy of priorities established by the principles of moral virtue. In the portion of the science of politics concerned with communities, Aristotle distinguished economics from politics by basing the family and the household on natural relations of men. He treated the more inclusive communities based on them as `natures' prior to and determinative of the natures of individual men in themselves and in relation to each other. In like fashion, in the portion of political science concerned with the actions of individual men, he sought grounds for the examination and organization of the virtues of man in the nature and operation of his psychological faculties and by treating the virtues which constitute the characters of men as their `second natures.'

The faculties of man provide two basic distinctions for the scientific examination of moral action. The first is the distinction between faculties which are, and those which are not, subject to habituation, since virtues are habits formed by actions such as they in turn produce. The second is the distinction between the irrational faculties which share in rational principles which form moral virtues and character, and rational faculties which have a rational principle and contribute to the formation of moral virtues.

Moral virtues have two interdependent characteristics. One is that they are determined relative to the passions and actions of individual men; the other is that they are determined by universal rational principles, as a prudent man would determine them. The rational faculties are likewise of two kinds. One is calculative and grasps rational principles of variable things; the other is scientific and grasps rational principles of invariable things. The calculative faculty is the source of two intellectual virtues: art, the virtue of making, and prudence, the virtue of doing. The scientific faculty is the source of the three intellectual virtues of knowing, the virtues of scientific proof, intuition, and wisdom. Prudence has its applications and exemplifications in the state and in the individual. When it is concerned with the individual man himself, it is called `prudence.' But as man exercises prudence it may be called economics, legislation, or politics; politics, in turn, is divided into deliberative and judicial prudence.

These basic distinctions set up univocal differentiations between choice, which is concerned with means, and wish, which is concerned with ends; and between character and rational principles, of desire and reason, as the sources of virtue. They have been merged by the reduction of the invariable to the variable and by the consequent transformation of scientific into calculative virtues. `Deliberation,' `choice,' and `decision' are no longer limited to things which are contingent and within our control. They are used also to know things which are variable but not in our control, and things which are invariant and under our control; they have taken over the functions of `demonstration,' `intuition' and `proof.'

Aristotle distinguished arts, prudence, and science as the intellectual virtues of making, doing, and knowing; but the scientific analysis of those virtues did not determine the scientific methods of the productive, practical, and theoretic sciences. We have adapted the vocabulary of those distinctions to reduce intellectual virtues and scientific methods to moral virtues. We have done so by introducing man and his decisions into the processes and the nature of art, policy, and science, and then by reconstructing them according to the rules and choices of games.

Justice occupies a crucial place in the relations of man and society, in the formation and activation of men by societies, and in the constitution and operation of societies by men. Aristotle emphasizes the univocal character of that distinction by remarking that `justice' is an equivocal term whose meanings are as far apart as those of `key' as the collar-bone of an animal and the instrument to lock a door. It is a universal virtue since a man is formed in all his virtues by living in accordance with the laws of his society. It is a particular virtue since societies are formed and regulated by the agreements and decisions of men concerning equality. `Justice' is equivocal because there is no relation between the formation of men by societies and the formation of societies by men.

There are two forms of the particular justice by which equality is established and maintained in societies. One is distributive justice which establishes a proportion between persons and the functions and possessions assigned to them. The other is a rectificatory justice which establishes a proportion in transactions, voluntary and involuntary, between man and man. This focuses on the character of injuries done without consideration of the characters of those who injure or are injured by treating men as equal before the law. These distinctions of justice in man and in society now provides a vocabulary by which to deny those distinctions in the recognition of kinds of existing injustices to be rectified. In a time of newly emerging nations, rectificatory justice takes precedence over and determines distributive justice. The antagonistic oppositions of underprivileged and dispossessed groups in established nations make use of rectificatory justice to win assent to new forms of distributive justice. As a consequence no difference remains between universal and particular justice, for the virtues of universal justice imposed by the establishment are injustices to be rectified when rectificatory justice establishes a new distributive justice to take the place of established inequalities and injustices.

Metaphysics as a science of being and first principles provides principles and causes operative in sciences of man and of society and applicable to problems of individuals and communities. Metaphysics as an art of statement and action takes its beginnings, its materials and its motivations, rational and emotional, from the oppositions of particular men and societies. A vocabulary of univocal terms is no less useful in an art of metaphysics than in a science. A science of first principles fixes their meanings and references by the scientific methods of the various sciences. An art of grounding one of two opposed statements or actions or of assimilating them in a more comprehensive statement or more inclusive action opens up new meanings and moves to new references.

The relation, man and society, as disclosed by what men say and do is heuristic in its orientation and concrete in its foundations. Insight into the relations of persons and communities breaks the dogmatisms which are the source of antagonistic oppositions and leads to revolutions and reformations in the communications and cooperations of men. It preserves a plurality of cultures by reviving them in statement and in action in an embracing world culture whose unity is the community it establishes for the development and enrichment of a diversity of cultures. It finds a basis for the establishment of justice in existing injustices in men and in societies, and in a rectificatory justice which establishes new distributions of function and property in which men seek equality, not in powers, but in rights, and freedom, not in acquisition, but in activity. It looks toward in a just society which seeks common realization for individuals and communities not in overcoming oppositions, but in assimilating to each other innovations and achievements in art, science, and policy.

University of Chicago

Chicago, Illinois




Comment on Professor McKeon's

"Person and Community, Individual and Society,

Reformation and Revolution"




In his illuminating paper Professor McKeon provided a synopsis of the architectonic structure of Aristotle's philosophical enterprise which, as the culmination of Greek thought, had "laid down the pattern and established the vocabulary of culture and philosophy in the West."  He has also delineated the changing interpretations of Aristotle in the successive ages in the West, and drew a careful picture of the dynamic state of affairs on the contemporary social, national and international scene. The central thrust of Professor McKeon's paper is a defense and clarification of Aristotle's position against criticisms of his conceptions of property, slavery, youth and women. Of these four issues on which Aristotle's opinions have been considered wrong the issue of property in its economic aspect is generic and inclusive of the other three: slaves, youths and women were properties of men who were masters, sires and lords. I shall therefore not enter into the issue of property in its economic aspect; but rather, regarding the economic aspect as pervading the other three, I shall address myself to the issues of slaves, youth and woman on which modern revolutions have been based.

In view of the renewed interest on Confucius in China, it is opportune, while commenting on the issues that have turned the moderns against Aristotle, also to comment on Confucius' ideas on the same issues which also have been attacked in modern times. In this way it can be seen that the new metaphysical awakening which has brought about the contemporary revolutions is not limited to the West, but is a universal phenomenon bringing changes to cultures and traditions far apart. Consequently my reflections will cover the following three points:

1. The justice of modern criticisms against Aristotle by arguing that Aristotle's treatment of master-slave relation which serves as model for the male-female and father-son relation, is reflective of his entire enterprise from physics to metaphysics.

2. A study of Confucius' distinction between the "chu n tzu," literally, the princely man who is destined to rule, and the "hsiao jen," the little man who is destined to be ruled, is comparable to Aristotle's views on the master-slave relation; that Confucius' contempt for women goes far beyond Aristotelian machismo; and that the Confucian emphasis on filial piety has had a stifling effect on the creative impulse of the young and in no small degree has contributed to the conservative character of Chinese culture.

3. The metaphysical significance of today's liberation movements.



According to Professor McKeon, criticisms of Aristotle's conceptions of property, slavery, youth, and women are "misinterpretations of Aristotle, for they neglect the distinction between the meanings Aristotle gave to `nature' in practical and in theoretic sciences." The purpose of ethics and politics was "practical, to lead men to perform good actions, not theoretic, to discover and demonstrate the final good." Thus according to Aristotle, practically, politically and economically, some men are slaves, even though theoretically, psychologically and according to nature, no men are slaves.

My question is: can a practical science stand on its own without being supported by its theoretical foundation? Either Aristotle has to abandon the unity of the sciences, or admit the disjunction of theory and practice in his system. Neither, I maintain, is the case.

The parallel between Aristotle's ethics and politics and his physics and metaphysics is unmistakable. The serious recognition and study of motion in his physics eventually points to the motion that moves least as best, motion being a sign of dependency and restlessness. The study of substances in his metaphysics begins as a study of general ontology (ens commune) inclusive of physical substances, but eventually it centers on the study of those pure eternal forms transcending the physical realm, and finally upon the contemplation of the one self-enclosed Thought-Thinking-Itself. In the same way the study of man and society in his ethics and politics begins with acceptance of man as social (he is neither god nor beast), but ultimately it exalts those values that enable man to be independent of society. In every subject matter, whether physics, metaphysics, ethics or politics, self-sufficiency is the highest norm for Aristotle.

Unlike Plato for whom the only just life is the life of the philosopher, Aristotle begins his inquiries into ethics and politics by treating every level of human life on its own terms. But it is a question whether Aristotle had consistently carried out his promise. Whitney J. Oates says:

Take, for example, his insistence that the man of practical wisdom should have nothing to do with anything other than that which is specifically human. Hence he is divorced from the man of philosophic wisdom who is supposed to be absorbed in things higher than human and therefore will not be involved in the tensions of ethical inquiry. And yet, when Aristotle makes his final "argument" for the end of ethical endeavour, the contemplative activity of happiness, the man of philosophic wisdom appears as the king . . . .1

While allowing man to be by nature social, self-sufficiency remains for Aristotle the highest value even in ethics and politics. As a physical being man is not self-sufficient, only the state is self-sufficient. Thus the citizen has his nature fulfilled in the state. This means that according to Aristotle sociality as a value is subordinated to self-sufficiency or a-sociality. Sociality in the nature of incomplete beings, i.e., the citizens, is for the sake of forming the self-sufficient individual, the state, which is by nature a-social. (Hence the necessary business of making war in the very definition of a state).

When Aristotle says that man is by nature social, he is looking at man as man, neither god nor beast. But when he says that contemplation is the most self-sufficient activity, which would be the true happiness for man, he is speaking of man as aspiring to the life of god. As a thinking being man can be self-sufficient. If liberality, justice, courage and temperance all require external means for completion, contemplation requires nothing but solitude. In the final analysis the man of philosophical wisdom can rise above sociality and above the human condition. He alone is the true master.

Clearly there is in Aristotle a built-in tension between what is by nature and what is the best for man, for if man lives according to nature he will not attain the best. In the end happiness consists not in the fulfillment of what is properly human, but it resides in the activity of his thinking power alone. This is why the slave, though a man and by definition having a rational soul, since his mode of existence is primarily that of the body, has to enter into a relationship of inequality with the master. Thus in the actual social context the unity of man undergoes a bifurcation: the master whose activity is supposedly mind moves from being a man to a god, while the slave whose activity is mainly that of the body moves from being a man to a beast. This bifurcation applies equally to the relation between male and female, with the male compared to the form, agent, and final cause while the female performs only the function of the material cause; and between the father and the son, with the father as the actualized form toward which the son as the potentiality in process of actualization is moving.

Just as what Aristotle considered to be science and demonstrative knowledge was no more than reasoned beliefs, what he took to be "natural human relations" in his ethics and politics were not natural, but certainly conventional. The distinction between physis and nomos consists in this: nomos was based on man's understanding of physis, hence a change in nomos indicated a new insight into physis. All the so-called "natural relations" have been historically conditioned; in that sense nature is a product, not a principle. In this light, the shift from viewing human relation based on "natural relations" in Aristotle to "natural rights" in modern times has been a giant step toward the liberation of mankind, for the concept of "natural rights" provides the corrective for what is wrong in the practice of "natural relations." There is truly a sense, according to Rousseau, that we move through history to nature, and that even now we are groping toward the nature of things. Following Rousseau we may say that many "natural relations" maintained in the past have been indeed most unnatural, and it takes all the task of civilization to make man natural.



If today people identify themselves with the oppressed side of their parentage, this was not Confucius' way. Confucius was born to a concubine of an official. Not unlike the motion of Eros in Plato's Symposium, Confucius desired only the qualities of his father whose manners and life style he adopted. In the Analects we read that he refused to relinquish his carriage to be exchanged for an outer coffin for his favorite disciple Yen Yuan, who died at the age of thirty-two, offering his own noble lineage as an excuse.

When Yen Hui died his father asked for the Master's carriage for an outer coffin. The Master replied: `Talented or not, everyone speaks of his own son.' When Li (Confucius' son) died, he had a coffin but not an outer one. I did not go about on foot in order to provide him with an outer coffin, for I am the son of a grand official, it is not proper for me to go about on foot. (11:7)

Confucius was a native of Sung, and a descendent of the Shang, who were conquered by the Chou. Yet his conscious and unconscious thoughts were filled with the glory of the conqueror's culture, exclaiming: "How admirable is its culture, I follow Chou" (Analects 3:14). Living at a time when Chou was already on the decline, Confucius took it to be his life's mission to revive the power of Chou. He even dreamed often of his idol the Duke of Chou, founder and consolidator of Chou culture and institutions as well as Chou political power, and interpreted the fact that as his years advanced he no longer dreamed of the Duke to be a sign of his own failing mission. (Analects 7:5)

Aristotle speaks of slaves as by nature beasts of burden. Confucius divides human beings into two categories: the "chu n tzu," the princely man who uses his mind and thus is destined to govern others, and the "hsiao jen," literally the little man, i.e., the commoner who labors with his muscles, who is destined to be governed by others. For Confucius, the "hsiao jen" is by definition morally inept, he can never aspire to the virtue (te, i) of the "chu n tzu": "Some `chun tzu' may be lacking in virtue, but there is no case that a `hsiao jen' can be in possession of virtue" (Analects 14:7). There was in Confucius' mind no idea that the educational process could be a means of liberation for the oppressed mass. While it is to be admitted that "in teaching there is no class distinction" (Analects 15:38), when the "hsiao jen" is given an education, the net result is that he becomes a more docile servant: "When the `chu n tzu' learns the way he loves man, when the `hsiao jen' learns the way he becomes more easily commanded" (Analects 17:4).

Aristotle's attitude toward women was condescending; Confucius' statements on women verge on the contemptuous. He spoke of women and "hsiao jen" and of "hsiao jen" and thief, in the same breath:

Only "women" and "hsiao jen" are hard to deal with. If you get close to them, they lose their respect for you. If you keep them at a distance, they turn resentful. (Analects 17:25)

The Master said: `He who assumes a stern appearance while being inwardly indulgent to himself can only be compared with the "hsiao jen.' Is he not like the thief who sneaks over the walls? (Analects 17:12)

It is true that the distinction between the "chu n tzu" and "hsiao jen" was by no means clear-cut in Confucius. The various meanings he gave to these terms show that they were undergoing a process of transformation in his own mind. From having been naturalistic terms designating birth right and hereditary title they are on the way to becoming value terms standing for the result of a man's moral choice. Thus the "chu n tzu" is not only the princely man, but also the man whose choice is virtue and the universal good, while the "hsiao jen" is the common laborer as well as the selfish man unwilling or incapable of choosing the higher good. Eventually the "chu n tzu" stands for a virtuous man, the man with a pure heart and an inner rectitude, regardless of whether he holds a title or not, and the "hsiao jen" an evil or morally weak person no matter how exalted his position. Still, the antagonism between mind and muscles or virtue and labor is not resolved in Confucius. There is no doubt in Confucius' mind that a man who aspired to virtue was above the concerns of certain occupations:

Fan Ch'ih requested to be taught agriculture. The Master replied: `I am not as good as an old farmer for that.' Then he asked to be taught gardening. The Master answered: `I am not as good as an old gardener for that.' After Fan Ch'ih left, the Master said: `What a `hsiao jen' is Fan Hsu!' (Analects 13:4)

Just as in Aristotle virtue and menial labor cannot be found in the same person, for Confucius farming and gardening are not proper occupations for the "chu n tzu." "The `chu n tzu' is not a mere vessel" (Analects 2:12); one is first and foremost a human being, before one is a farmer or gardener. The tension here is between the universal and particular calling of man. Confucius prides himself for being a teacher of man in respect of his universal calling. Politics, or the art of government, is the learning of how to be a universal man. Thus he calls those "hsiao jen" whose goal in life is no larger than a particular calling, and who mistook him for a mere teacher of a trade.

There is an inherent tension in Confucius' conception of man. He could not reconcile his ideal of the virtuous man with the many cruel and uncultured activities performed by a man of labor. For instance, since a man of humanity (jen) neither kills nor can bear the sight of killing, Confucius advised: "The `chu n tzu' stays away from the kitchen," a kitchen at his time being also a slaughter house. If for Aristotle the freedom of some must be purchased by the slavery of others, for Confucius, in order that some human beings may live according to virtue, others whose fate is to serve the physical needs of man must live without the embellishment of virtue. The Confucian belief that "rites do not apply to the common man" is the equivalent to Aristotle's conception that the slave cannot be virtuous. Hence the distinction of "chun tzu" and "hsiao jen," based on the distinction between the man who uses his mind and the man who uses his muscles, becomes also the distinction between the man of virtue and the man bereft of virtue.

In Confucius' disciples the tension between labor and virtue disappeared. The superiority of mental work over physical work became a dogma which poisoned the thinking of generations upon generations. Even Chairman Mao, liberator of the Chinese proletariat, wrote in his autobiography that during his student days he had to set aside a sum from his very meagre allowance in order to buy the water he needed. Since an educated man does no menial work, carrying his own water from the river would be too demeaning.

In contrast to the anti-Confucius campaign of the 1960's, which was orchestrated by the government for the purpose of purging certain supposedly illiberal elements within the party, the anti- Confucian movement in early Republican China was the expression of a crisis of civilization. It arose out of a deeply felt need among the Chinese intellectuals to reform China's social and political institutions, and to experiment in science and democracy.2 The problem was how to transform China into a modern state without giving up its time-hallowed values. To the partisans of the early period it meant a choice between adhering to the dead weight of China's tradition or opting for the modern Western way.

From our analysis of the theory of man in Aristotle and Confucius we see that there is no need to make such an irrevocable choice. Both Confucius and Aristotle were burdened with the inconsistencies which today we call historical necessity but which they took to be simply in the nature of things. There is always the question of how much a thinker can break the tablets of his own time and still express the spirit of his age. At the same time, both Confucius and Aristotle, as great thinkers, have provided what Professor McKeon calls "the vocabulary for their own correction."

The cumulative efforts of civilization, the ideals of great thinkers and humanists, aided by advancements made in science and technology, have enabled the moderns to fulfill the desires of the ancients while removing their inconsistencies. In becoming modern we do not have to reject the deepest values of the past. Rather, the task of the present and future is the liberation of the past from its own inconsistencies. By discovering new ways to bring into concrete realization the values and aspirations of the past, the present makes the past more consistent with itself, and thus its values and aspirations can be truly saved. History has a way of working out its own solutions. What is dead it leaves to rest in peace. But in the present and the future whatever is worth saving from the past is truly preserved, fulfilled, renewed, and enlarged. Thus history, which conditions everything, recedes to make room for the emergence of what transcends history. Modernity means the illumination and at the same time in the light of a new freedom the removal of the historical necessity with which the past was burdened. The universal realization of the aspirations of the best, which was impossible at the time of Confucius and Aristotle, is exactly the challenge today.

On the other hand, it is true that Confucianism had not contributed to the development of modern science in China whereas Aristotle's scientific studies had laid the foundation for progress in the West. The main difference between China and the West which is responsible for the general conservativeness of Chinese society and institutions in contrast to the dynamism in Western culture, lies in the long absence in China of the habit of critical intelligence vigilant over ruling ideas and practices. The exaltation of Confucianism since the Han times, as the state cult which monopolized the educational enterprise and discouraged independent thinking, had much to do with the absence of that dialectical process which is possible only when rival schools of thought freely stimulate and challenge each other.3 But that responsibility rests with Confucius' disciples, not Confucius himself.


The Worker

The message brought by the liberation of the worker is that nous resides not in the ruler alone, but in the ordinary man as well. Mencius spoke for all ancients when he declared it to be a universal principle that: "Some labor with their minds and some labor with their muscles. Those who labor with their minds govern others while those who labor with their muscles are governed by others." (Mencius 3A4) The I-ching (Book of Changes), however, acknowledges that Tao was in all men, that "the ordinary people live by it (tao) every day, although they are not aware of it."4 It was exactly the lack of awareness on the part of the ordinary people that had kept them in shackles. With heightened awareness through the implementation of universal education or dissemination of revolutionary ideologies democracy becomes inevitable. Whether today's majority of mankind still, according to Aristotle's yardstick and in Professor McKeon's words, "lack the power to make fundamental decisions bearing on their own welfare or that of the community of which they are members" (p. 8), is beside the point. It is the faith of democracy that when the common people are given the opportunity to make their choice, they produce the most stable and equitable society.

Hobbes was the first philosopher to take the common man and his passions seriously; thus he accused Aristotle of expounding an aristocratic philosophy. Locke was the first one to recognize the value of labor. Though he did not quite see the metaphysical significance of his economic theory, it was he who showed that labor was the pathway to dignity, that the laborer, by increasing the value of nature, was the true liberator of mankind. With Marx's definition of man as a worker, there is no more dichotomy between mental and physical labor. The division of labor between mind and muscles, which to Confucius and Aristotle was the foundation of their hierarchic conception of the world, need not be repudiated. What must be repudiated is that conception of a hierarchy of worth and value which excludes physical labor and is easily used as an excuse for oppression. Henceforth mind and muscles must enjoy equal partnership in the production of a just society.


There was a time when culture, civilization and science all pertained to a fixed, eternal order. Confucius looked back to the golden age when culture and virtue were complete. The Confucian teaching on rites and music was comparable to Aristotle's notion of paideia as both education and culture. Admirable as their theories of education were, both Confucius and Aristotle lacked a perception of the growth aspect in culture.

Today's youth revolt and generation gap is at least partially due to the rapid advancement of science and knowledge in the last fifty years. Often a teenager today has mastered more basic knowledge in science or know-how than his parents. Thus it is the case now that, not only must parents teach their children, but children must also teach their parents. Since authority and proprietorship go with knowledge, the vanguard of Nous now appears younger and younger. That the young are in the process of growth means that Nous is also in time and history and has a growth aspect. The child is not merely the potential in the process of actualization, but this actualizing process of the child is also the actualization of Nous itself. Here we must all become children again. In and through the child in all of us Nous is set free to have movement and progress. In this light childhood, as full of the sense of wonder, of freshness of being, and of life's adventures, is not a stage to be outgrown, but an end in itself.


For ages women had scaled down the power of their intellect to devote themselves to their supposed primary function of child bearing and rearing. The woman's liberation signals the union of the earthly Aphrodite with the heavenly Aphrodite in Plato. We have arrived at an age when the reproductive power on earth is no longer a blind instinct, but has become a conscious, rational choice.

Even more significantly, the liberation of woman, symbol of the bearing of life on earth, also means reason's attainment of life and fertility on earth. Woman's unique experience of change and growth in and around her body is an invaluable asset, a necessary and essential ingredient, for the kind of thinking that is life-enhancing and earth-affirming. Nous is no longer an ascetic, life-negating force, but becomes creative in the very fabric of life.


Today we celebrate the return of Nous to the world. We notice that slaves, youth and women in their social roles perform primarily the three functions of the vegetative soul in Aristotle's psychology: slaves supplied the nutritive needs to the body, youth's primary function is to grow and women were meant for the function of reproduction. This shows how deeply rooted the majority of human beings have been in the biological sphere. Yet Aristotle believed that "the excellence of the reason (nous) is a thing apart" (N.E. 1178a22-23). It is clear that Aristotle's ethics and politics are rooted in his psychology and his psychology is rooted in his metaphysical notion of the excellence and independence of thinking itself. This exaltation and separation of the reasoning power over other powers of the soul, this tyranny of mind over body in the history of philosophy, East and West, thus reveals itself to be the cause, as well as justification, of man's alienation from the world and man's oppression of man. Reason, man's pride and jewel, which has enabled him to produce his glorious cultures and civilizations, and often reckoned to be the seat of his spirituality, has also been the agent of man's degradation of man.

Today's liberation movements herald an age when Nous is no longer seen as holding a destiny separate from the world, but is fully naturalized to become the logos of change in the world itself. The proper function of intelligence is not a process of cutting off, but union. Intelligence is rooted in life, its function is exactly the service and liberation of physical life on earth, thus its turning back to life is indeed homecoming.

St. John's University

Jamaica, New York


1. Whitney J. Oates, Aristotle and the Problem of Value (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 316.

2. See Chow Tse-tsung, "The Anti-Confucian Movement in Early Republic China," in A.F. Wright, ed., The Confucian Persuasion (Stanford, 1960), pp. 288-312.

3. Taoism and Buddhism were not interested in social reform, though they were strong rivals to Confucianism in matters religious and metaphysical. Taoism's contribution to the development of Chinese science is now universally recognized. Yet lacking the spirit of social involvement, its scientific activities have made no impact on the betterment of man's social relations.

4. The Hsi Tz'u, Part I, Chap. 5. Cf. Richard Wilhelm's translation: The I Ching (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1950), p. 298.







My thesis will be that we can better understand the actual development of human beings in their environments if we distinguish more adequately person from personality. I am aware that "person" and "personality" are often used inter-changeably, and that, for reasons now familiar, "personality" has been substituted generally in the social sciences for the hoary philosophical concepts of soul, spirit, mind, self, and person. Yet, it would not be difficult to show that the general conflation of "person" and "personality" is not complete. For example, when we exhort someone to "be a person" we are not asking them to become what they inevitably are, either a person or a personality, but a certain quality of person and personality. Again, in crusading against depersonalization or dehumanization, we do not suppose that a person can become a non-person or have no personality at all, but that as a person one deserves a certain quality of treatment. Once more, in shifting from "chairman" to "chairperson," we still expect the chairperson to have a personality of some sort; we recognize something that transcends gender and personality, namely, the person.

I am, however, not interested in rescuing words. My underlying concern, which this paper can begin to express, is to show that both "person" and "personality" are required if we are to develop a more solid appreciation for what is involved when we think about the dynamism of personality-development (or self- realization, or personal fulfillment) in the various branches of the social sciences and philosophy.

1. Let us turn directly to the contrast I have in mind by citing the definition of personality framed by a social psychologist, Gordon W. Allport, whose efforts to bring systemization to the psychology of personality have commanded unusual respect. His definition reflects a life-long concern to free the unique pattern and growth of personality from the confinements of behavioristic-operational and positivistic method, and from the clutches of favored biological and social norms. His thought also reflects the influences of the philosopher-psychologists William James, Mary Whiton Calkins, John Dewey, Wilhelm Stern, G.F. Stout, James Ward, and William McDougall.1

Allport's definition reads: "Personality is the dynamic organization within the individual of those psychophysical system that determine his characteristic behavior and thought."2 This definition of personality refers both to organized and organizing psychophysiological systems. In Allport's work there is never any doubt that personality is a joint-product of the interaction of the individual and his natural-social environment. What is systematically ambiguous in his thought, and in the literature of the social sciences generally, is what is meant by "within the individual." I have in mind more than Allport's comprehensive system as I proffer and defend the following definition in order to render more coherent data in the psychology of personality: Personality is the organization by a self-identifying person of his or her own psychophysiological wants and abilities that uniquely characterizes their expressive and adaptive adjustments to their environment.

2. The basic issue we face is this: Can personality, with its admittedly unique or characteristic organization, take the place of, or be identical with, a unifying person?

Long ago Stern proclaimed: Keine Gestalt ohne Gestalter, James' insisted that consciousness is owned, and both Ward and McDougall emphasized that psychic monads with their own unique demands had windows open to varied environments. They would not dream of holding that the individual could fulfill himself or herself, let alone exist, in complete isolation from his or her environment. No individual simply unfolds or matures; they require the challenge and the convergence of environments. Nevertheless, the quality of their learned responses and their patterns is never simply the product of environmental influence--natural, social, or divine. Whatever the differentiating modifications and transformations called for by interaction with these environments, there are telic tendencies embedded in the matrix of abilities that constitute the individual, and these tendencies are always involved in the selective response one makes both to one's own abilities and to the environment.

In James' terms, then, each person is a fighter for ends. What needs further stress is that all fighters for ends, whatever their unlearned similarities with the abilities and motives of others, undergo conflicts as their own nature matures unevenly, as they interact selectively with their environments. As C.I. Lewis once said, "the individual may not control what happens to him, but the meaning he gives to what happens to him is subject to his active selectivity--within limits that are not easily defined."3

Despite the continuing controversy about what telic factors are innate in persons, it may be noted that resistance by personality-theorists to unlearned tendencies depends on whether (and how) the adaptability of human beings is recognized--the adaptability being possible because in human beings especially abilities are loosely geared to innate needs.4 But there is no final denial--except by those who would reduce even physiological phenomena to the physico-chemical--of the animating telic thrusts whose permutations influence what will be salient, gratifying, or relevant even at the level of human sensory perception. In passing, it may be noted that even the behavior of Pavlov's dogs reflected their hunger in a stimulus-situation; and B.F. Skinner's pigeons are hardly impervious to the inner biological situation that gives purchase to reinforcement.

3. I am urging, accordingly, that the tensions, conflicts, and anxieties that occur have their locus, not in the interstices between individuals (persons, as I shall contend) and society but within the telic persons whose natures allow them to give different meanings and values to what goes on as, at the various stages in their maturational-adaptive-expressive experience, they interact with their environments. Telic persons are not market-places where different avenues converge to form their natures; their inherited (affective-conative-cognitive) activities are not centers of influences; nor is their developing personality a mere complex of statistical averages. Persons--whatever else--go on fighting for ends that are expressed adaptively as they learn more specific ways of gratifying them. The environment is their environment and their personality is their way of organizing their responses to environments, and in ways that they perceive to be open for them.

Neither persons nor their personalities, in sum, are mirrors of society or culture, any more than children are mirrors of their family. Such generalized descriptions break down once one sees that society, culture, and family, are relative abstractions to persons who, given their unique endowment in their corner of the world, at their stage of development, confront situation after situation internal to their being and beyond it. Child-persons interact with father and mother as "psychological environments" to which the children are sensitive in different ways; and they take on the meanings open to their outlook at different stages in their development. Parent's actual effect upon children is a joint-product in which their own response to their parents expresses their own interpretation of what the parents mean to them. At the same time, people's personalities are no mere accretions, because they bear the dynamic marks of their wanting-knowing abilities as, in relatively patterned ways, they realize what they can become as they seek to gratify or satisfy their instinctive needs.5

The nature, number, and dynamics of unlearned telic tendencies make considerable difference, especially to educational and social theory. For personality, let alone its assessment, is the person's own mode of response to himself/herself in their environments. What I wish to stress is that the locus of action and change is the person with his or her matrix of needs and abilities. Never without an environment, persons purposively and purposefully select modes of expression and adjustment that reflect their varied responses to their environments, that is, to the natural, the social, and the divine world as they are able to appraise them. There is no personality without person. Person is also the unit for social science, for the conflicts that go on between groups occur in the persons who are constantly expressing themselves and adapting themselves to environments.

4. My second main theme is related to this first and emerges from developments in the psychology of personality that called forth reconstructed philosophical concepts. Thus, the ego re-appeared in Freudian thought as an essentially conscious and self-conscious cognitive function. It may seem a far cry from this ego to the Cartesian cogito as a being who thinks, although it is not so far if we remember that Descartes defined a thinking being as one who "doubts, understands, affirms, denies, wills, refuses . . . imagines and feels."6 The fact remains, in any case, that in Freudian thought the ego, beginning as the servant of the id from which its energy derives, seems, nevertheless, to have its own capacity to guide development. But this development requires selective organization and involves both the formation of the ego-ideal and the more rigid super-ego. Both ego-ideal and super-ego reflect the compromise, if you will, open to a telic agent (more reflective than the unconscious id) in its interaction with the natural-social environment. In short, the organizing of inner urges, in accordance with the individual's perception of the environmental situation and with his/her appraisal of optional hedonic consequences, is attributed--as it was not in earlier Freudian formulations--to what the ego can consciously know.

I would further emphasize here that the ideal: "where the id is, there shall the ego be," calls, not for substituting a cognitive ego for the affective-conative id, but for a wanting- knowing ego whose appraisals of "individual" and "social" demands reduce conflict and produce greater harmony. The ego, we must infer, though born in a womb of non-rational instincts, experiences a rational demand to organize his or her total experience in accordance with norms of logic and inductive inference. In short, the ego that reappeared in Freudian thought is never completely independent of impulse or environment as it engages in the formation of patterns of individual-social life or personality without being reduced or confined to any learned pattern.

5. But the term "ego" made a different reappearance in ego-psychology that had no special links with conceptions of the unconscious.7 Social psychologists and psychologists of personality who had decided that their science was well rid of anything reminiscent of the soul or ontological self, now used self and ego to interpret a phenomenon that involves the unity and continuity of the personalities acquired in environmental situations. Sarah and Ruth, Saul and Paul, are unique minded-bodies, to be sure. The relatively organized personalities that characterize them would not be what they are without an acquired central and abiding psychological core that gives each his/her own quality of unity and continuity. Sarah and Ruth are now to be understood not only by their more or less systematic responses in environments, their personalities, but also, and better, by a learned center or focus that illuminates their own unique organization as they respond. For example, tasks that they learn will be more effectively and enduringly learned if Sarah and Ruth are self-involved, or ego-involved. Moreover, many of their most significant conflicts, anxieties, gratifications and satisfactions are experienced when the egos in their personality are engaged in whatever transaction is taking place. Defense mechanisms, for example, are developed in order to protect the ego in the personality.

To be more specific, G.W. Allport, after extensively reviewing research, noted the difference that ego-involvement makes to "attention, judgment, memory, motivation, aspiration level, productivity, and . . . the operation of personality-traits."8 Such studies, he infers, indicate that personalities are not collective assemblages. In his own most systematic exposition, Allport, hoping to avoid the historic ambiguities of the world "self," hit upon the word proprium to designate what was "warm" and "central" to each personality, the "intimate region of personality involved in matters of importance to the organized emotional life of the individual."9

In sum, this psychologist of personality found that better psychological anchorage is required for the organization of learned dispositions in personality, especially when matters of importance or priority involving its unity and continuity are involved. The place assigned by many psychologists to `ego-identification,10 as a process vital to the development of personality, is recognition of the need to unify factors within the personality as the person constantly responds to his own learned formations in personality and assign priorities. In all this, as in the case of Freudian theory, the rejected or neglected self has returned with its own primary unity and continuity, that is, as knower, rather than as known, as agent in organizing and not simply as product of organization.

Let me approach my suggestion by reference to the change of Saul to Paul. Saul and Paul are both personalities. The Saul that gives way to Paul is a personality nurtured in a prized community. That personality as a whole does not vanish when Saul becomes Paul. But the self-concept dominating Saul could not be harmonized with new assessments that grew out of experiences of conflict with Christian communities. Surely, it was not the personalities and the egos that did the knowing and the wanting, since they were products of knowing-wanting. It is the knowing-wanting person that was engaged in Saul. What came into being on the road to Damascus was not a new person, not an entirely new personality, but a new ego or self-image that the person later expressed by "I am one with Christ . . . ," as he changed his personality. In brief, Saul and Paul are both personalities with egos that a unique knowing-wanting person learns. He does this as he makes his way in particular natural- social-divine environments which he perceives as they affect him. But both Saul and Paul are the expressions and adaptations of the person involved in them.

6. My concern, then, is to distinguish between the unique unity-in-continuity of the person without which there is no understanding of the unique unity and continuity of personality and ego that are the products of interaction with the total environment. Further analysis of the changing yet relatively continuous organization of personality and ego would also reveal, I suggest, the theoretical need for (self-identifying) agent- persons whose constitutive nature is not generated by the environment, who are no passive re-actors to their ambient, and who discover the range of quality of their own existence only as they interact with environments that provide opportunities for actualizing their potential. Nor is this the place to develop the theme that man is a creator of symbols because he is a self-identifying wanting-knower whose meanings overflow symbols and language, as H.H. Price11 has taught us. A personality and its ego--that is, a changing yet relatively patterned personality responsive to inner and outer environment--reflects the meanings and values of an agent-person whose varied motives are continuous and discontinuous with those already at work before self-conscious criticism and evaluation take place.

This personality cannot be substituted for the person. At the core of this contention is the conviction that no theory of acquired personality can forever postpone the question: Is it the personality that senses, wants, feels, remembers, imagines or thinks? What is wanted and learned can hardly be wanter and learner. Using Stern's terminology, there is a unitas multiplex, a person, who is active and not only reactive to his environments. The minimal proposal here is that both a Saul and a Paul are the joint-products of a psycho-physiological telic agent, a person, who, interacting with factors within and beyond his control, organizes both sensory and non-sensory experiences into habits, attitudes, sentiments, traits, and egos that reflect the quality of his adaptation and expression in relation to environments. Again, anyone who would substitute personality for person must confront the fact that the personality cannot at once know and be the result of knowing, cannot itself act and be the result of interaction, cannot itself evaluate and be the product of evaluation. Personalities cannot be treated like islands that have drifted away from the mainland that continues to respond to the tides of existence.

7. In closing, I can only hint at a view of the person that will fit the personality-situation I have been depicting. Alas, our discussion of the relation of the person to his or her personality may have dredged up the image of an Atlas balancing the world of personality that is no part of it. Indeed, a main reason, expressed explicitly by Allport, for rejecting the dominant, historic concept of a substantive self or person is that the psychology of personality in particular must avoid an homunculus that is at worst redundant and in any case circular. The charge of redundancy and circularity I must neglect. But I think it does misconstrue the theoretical situation. In any case, is it less circular to say that the organism, or the individual, does so and so?

But while I shall continue to insist on the need for a self-identifying person (elusive in our experience of ourselves, but undeniable as H.D. Lewis12 has effectively shown), the patterning and growth of personality by itself requires us to reconsider the conception of an unchanging substance-person. Assuming that the change, growth, and structure of personality call for a self-identifying unity in which we can distinguish such activities as sensing, remembering, imagining, thinking, feeling, wanting--and I should want to add willing, oughting, and aesthetic and religious appreciating--it is important to realize that these activities of the person are not exhausted by their formations and their particular objects and objectives at any one stage, although they are limited in the scope of their potential. The person at any point is nothing other or transcending these activity-potentials, whose expression and adaptation are engaged in the formation of personality. It is the irreducible unity-in- continuity of the person that is the common thesis of my personalistic teachers, Borden Parker Bowne,13 Edgar S. Bright- man,14 and Frederick R. Tennant.15 With them I think we must insist that there can be no succession of experiences (or of changes such as we find in personality) without an experience of succession. The person it is who cries: When me you fly, I am the wings.

The articulation of the nature of such unified persons must continue to command our attention. But, the personality that is at once their expression and also their limiting formation can hardly be an unchanging, non-temporal, and self-identical being. We must look for our model, with Bergson and Brightman, in the kind of time-binding unity that we find at any moment of experience. Within limits this time-binding, being-becoming selectively nurtures itself in interaction with the environment and, insofar as it survives, is forever crescent--adaptive and expressive--in the patterns of its personality. Hence the person is never self-identical but self-identifying. I, for one, can find no referent in my experience for any kind of self-identical wanting-knowing person; the data of personality-formation call for self-identifying that is never mathematical. If to be is to act, if to be a person is to act expressively and adaptively in a total environment, the person is better defined as being-becoming whose self-identifying witnesses to continuity in active unity.16

Since this view will suggest to many the route or serial view of a cumulative identity proposed by some process philosophers, which is well represented in the work of Charles Hartshorne.17 My main obstacle to that particular view is that I cannot understand how the person at any moment can reach a present in time and selectively incorporate his/her given past into a present self-identity. I suggest rather that the given initial and primary unity "enlarges" selectively as its constitutive activity-potentials mature, respond to the environment and, therefore, becomes pregnant, via its personality formations.

Thus, there is another equally important pole to my earlier contention that there can be no personality without person. For the personality at any stage of organization, is no appendage to the person; it is no coat that can be discarded leaving a pristine knowing-wanting person. The actual existent at any point is person-cum-personality. The person is always not simply "immanent" in his/her personality. The person is shaping and being shaped, modifying and being modified, expressing and being expressed. This is the ongoing life of the person in maturation and in interaction. Again, the personality-structure(s) can both express and control the person. A unique person-cum-unique personality is the complete person at any stage.

While such a proposal places the actual selective agency in the persons and their complex activity-potentials, it makes full allowance for their interplay with the total environment and for the vital importance of environmental influence to the quality of the person-cum-personality. There is never a neat dividing line between the private and the public person-cum-personality. The reality is always persons engaged in forging, critically and uncritically, the personality that gives a particular form and content to that person's investment at any point in their history, without necessarily being captured by the organization and priorities of any particular personality. The consequences of this formulation of the relation of person to personality will influence the interpretation of the nature of free will and moral obligation, as well as the interpretation of the values in moral, aesthetic and religious experience, but these are themes for other occasions.19

Boston University

Boston, Mass.



1. Gordon W. Allport, The Person in Psychology: Selected Essays (Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), contains essays on Stern, James, Dewey, Karl Buhler, and K. Lewin. The interchangeable use of "person" and "personality" is reflected in the above titles of Allport's books as well as in Personality and Social Encounter (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1960/1981), and The Nature of Personality: Selected Papers (Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 1950/1975).

2. Gordon W. Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1961), p. 28. Chap. 2 provides a useful discussion of "personality."

3. C.I. Lewis, The Ground and Nature of the Right (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1955), p. 26.

4. William McDougall, Energies of Man (New York: Scribner's Sons, 1933).

5. Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York: Harpers and Bros., 1954).

6. Rene Descartes, Meditations, Meditation 2.

7. Gordon W. Allport, "The Ego in Contemporary Psychology," Psychological Review 50 (1943), 451-578. See my discussion of Allport's theme in "The Psychological Self, the Ego, and Personality," Psychological Review 52 (1945), 91-99.

8. Gordon W. Allport, Pattern and Growth in Personality (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston), p. 128.

9.  Gordon W. Allport, ibid., p. 127.

10. See Gordon W. Allport, ibid., Chapter 6 for an introduction to the literature. The works of Erik Erikson are central contributions to the phenomena of self-identification.

11. H.H. Price, Thinking and Experience (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953).

12. H.D. Lewis, The Elusive Mind (London: Allen and Unwin, 1969).

13. Borden P. Bowne, Theory of Thought and Knowledge (New York: Harper, 1879).

14. Edgar S. Brightman, Person and Reality, ed. P.A. Bertocci (New York: Ronald Press, 1958).

15. Frederick R. Tennant, Philosophical Theology, Vol. I, The World, the Soul, and God. (Cambridge: Univ. Press, 1928).

16. Peter A. Bertocci, The Person God Is (New York: Humanities Press, 1970), chapters 2-6.

17. Peter A. Bertocci, "Hartshorne on Personal Identity: A Personalistic Critique," Process Studies 2 (Fall, 1972), 216-221.

18. Peter A. Bertocci, The Person God Is, see chapters 2-6.







My aim in this paper is to deal specially with the metaphysical issues involved in the topic: man and society.

It is not surprising to find that there is a consonance between the metaphysics involved in the doctrines of a particular school or trend of thought respecting man and society and the metaphysics involved in that school's doctrines respecting other fields, such as nature for example. Indeed it would be surprising if there were not a single metaphysics underlying the particular doctrines and conceptions. When one examines from this point of view the rise and development of modern thought in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, such an underlying metaphysics is what one does find.

What we now generally designate modern thought in contrast, for example, to medieval, arose and developed on the basis of a new conception of nature. This conception in turn was grounded in the renaissance resuscitation of Neoplatonism, in opposition to the antecedent domination of Scholastic Aristotelianism. Fundamental in this Neoplatonism was a Neoplatonic metaphysics and in particular a Neoplatonic ontology.

Neoplatonism, from Plotinus, had confirmed and emphasized the conception of being found in Plato,1 namely of being as changeless, permanent, static. This conception was basic in the thought of St. Augustine, who states, e.g.,: "For it is only that which remains in being without change that truly is."2 It was this conception of being which was given a new and pregnant formulation by Nicolaus Cusanus in the fifteenth century in his doctrine of being, the Maximum, as coincidentia oppositorum, as containing all complicans, and of the world, i.e., created being, as explicatio Dei. The full implications of Cusanus' doctrine came to fruition in the seventeenth century theories of man.

But initially it was a new theory of physical nature which was developed in the seventeenth century, the theory of the physical as matter. Not only was matter, for the first time in history, accorded the status of a self-subsistent being or existent, but its being was conceived fully in accord with the fundamental Neoplatonic conception of being. Matter was held to be created by God, the perfect, changeless, creating being, in an image of that perfection, this image having the form of perfect, in-itself-changeless, completely homogeneous mathematical extension. This was the essential Neoplatonic conception of being in a novel doctrine of the physical, whether as maintained by Descartes in his theory of a one res extensa, or as maintained by an increasing majority, in the theory of material atomism. In both theories matter in its being is completely changeless. Portions or atoms of matter undergo translation from one place to another, i.e., undergo locomotion, but in this remaining in themselves changeless and unaffected by that locomotive change. Above all, in strict accord with the basic doctrine of changeless being, matter is in itself inert, i.e., without activity, and thus completely unable to initiate locomotion: matter is moved; it does not move itself. Thus this doctrine of the physical, conceived in terms of the Neoplatonic conception of being, stands in complete contrast to the antecedent Aristotelian doctrine of the physical as having the source (arche) of its change (kinesis) in itself, this change constituting a process from potentiality to actuality, which is to say a process of coming into being.

The ineluctable consequence of this new doctrine of nature was a metaphysical dualism; mind and soul had to be accorded a separate and independent status as another kind of being. Now this other kind of being was also conceived in terms of the Neoplatonic conception of being. It was in this that the doctrine of Cusanus of complicatio-explicatio was especially fruitful. The new metaphysics had extruded "act" from the physical, but had not rejected the concept of act entirely. It was retained in the other side of the metaphysical dichotomy, but in a way fundamentally different from the Aristotelian conception of act. The new metaphysics remained consistent, in respect of mind or soul, with the Neoplatonic conception of being as perfect, changeless. In this new modern doctrine God created res cogitantes or monads as in themselves perfect, with their essence complicans in them. Thus for Descartes, for example, res cogitantes are created with their full complement of "innate ideas"; and for Leibniz the monads are likewise created with their essential ideas which constitute the law of their individual series. Thus the act of this kind of being, which is fundamentally a thinking act, is an explicatio, unfolding, of what is complicans, enfolded, in it from its beginning. The act of being of a res cogitans or a monad is in no respect a coming-into-being, a becoming, a generation; each is fully in being, and thus in itself changeless--the unfolding or explication of what is implicit is not a change in any sense of becoming; the logical process is its paradigm instance. Consistently with this both Descartes and Leibniz explicitly conceived of God as maintaining every being in its full being in every moment of its existence by an act of perpetual re-creation.


This modern form of Neoplatonic metaphysics and its fundamental ontology underlay and determined the seventeenth century theories of man and of society which came to full and mature articulation with John Locke. Man--metaphysically identified with mind or soul, with body as its immediate "property"--was conceived as an "individual," complete in its being. It is important to be clear that this is the metaphysical basis of the modern doctrine of "individualism." In terms of this basic conception man, as mind or soul, in the first place is an ontological ultimate--in the terminology of the time, a "substance." Secondly, this substance is a self-complete entity, that is, complete in respect of its being or essence, "requiring nothing but itself in order to exist" (except for God's creative act), as Descartes had consistently defined "substance" in accord with the Neoplatonic ontology. Man, as such a substance, complete in his being, has no "requirements" or "needs" other than the moral one of obeying God. There are, it is true, certain "needs" to be acknowledged, but these pertain strictly to his body, his immediate property which, metaphysically considered, falls into the other realm, that of physical nature, needs such as food, clothing, shelter, etc. Thirdly, as a self-complete being, the individual has no need of any other individual.

This means that "society," conceived as it had been from Plato and Aristotle onward, as "natural"--in the sense of being grounded in the "nature" of man, as necessary to the achievement or fulfillment of that "nature," and thereby not only itself "being natural" but also "having a nature" of its own, one accordingly determinative of man's nature--this conception of "society" had to be utterly rejected. Society, in the new modern conception, cannot be grounded in the nature of man as a natural requirement, since man, in his nature, is a complete individual, and thus does not require or need a "society," i.e., a fellowship, association, partnership, community of men, in any respect to complete his nature.

Secondly, this entails that "society" has to be accorded an ontological status quite different from that which it had in the antecedent rejected theory. "Nature," physis, in its original meaning, was contrasted with that which is a product of human artifice, and this feature of the connotation of the term had not been lost. So in the seventeenth century in rejecting the conception of society as "natural," thinkers drew the logical conclusion that society must be, by contrast, a human artifice (Hobbes), a construct or contrivance by individual men for the purpose of achieving each his own individual needs--which are strictly those in respect of his property. Consistently Locke, noting that the family or "conjugal society" is the first society, sees this as grounded not in any need of a man and a woman of each other in their being, i.e., as "individuals," but in the needs of their bodies, their property, more particularly for the propagation of other bodies3--the corresponding souls of course deriving from God's creative act.

The consequence of this "individualist" conception of man and its concomitant conception of society have been sufficiently both analysed and manifested in practice for me to need to spend much time on them here. One consequence is, however, particularly relevant to the metaphysical consideration: this is that societies have consistently failed to conform to the theory of them as artificial contrivances, on the model of the machine, with ends, purposes, and functions determined essentially from without by their artificers, the "individuals" which as such transcend ontologically the societies which they construct. The result of this is that in Western countries in which the "individualist" doctrine of man continues to constitute the fundamental guiding principle of practice, societies, especially the economic ones, the business corporations and the trade unions, have increasingly grown in size and power to an extent that they have now become out of effective control of the political society, that society which has the ends and needs of all members of the community as its purpose. This means that these countries are today floundering dangerously because of the lack of a viable philosophy of man and of society in terms of which the ends of the total community can be safeguarded and served.

In the eighteenth century, particularly with Rousseau, began the recognition of "society" as having ends, purposes, and a "will," not to be conceived as the arithmetical sum of the ends, purposes, and wills of the individual constituent members; it became clear to many thinkers that "society" has ends, purposes, and a "nature" in a significant respect transcending those of the constituents. The outcome of this recognition was the theory which accords to society, particularly the political society, the state, the ontological status of a self-subsistent being. In this theory, which derived considerably from an inaccurate and inadequate understanding of Plato, the constituent men were no longer conceived, as in the "individualist" theory, as ontologically complete beings; on the contrary, they were conceived as dependent, in respect of their being or essence, on the supreme, self-complete society, the state. This is the metaphysics of the "organic" theory of society, in terms of which individual human beings are "organs," in the etymological sense "instruments," of the state--an "organism" being a whole in which the functioning of the parts is in reference to the whole, and thus determined by the whole.

The practical consequences of this philosophy of man and of society have become sufficiently manifest, especially in the course of the last half century, to make clear the extremely urgent need for a viable alternative to both the foregoing philosophies, between them ruling the globe and threatening its destruction.


The working out of such an alternative is essentially a philosophical task, and it is an obligation which the present generation of philosophers ignores at the peril of the future of mankind. The most fundamental aspect of this task is an ontological one, the development of a theory of being in terms of which a coherent and adequate theory of the nature of man and of society will be possible. In other words, today the theories of man and of society need to be explicitly pursued in conjunction with the theory of being.

As a background to this conjoint inquiry we have seen that the modern "individualist" theory of man was grounded in a Neoplatonic theory of being. It is now necessary to recognize that the modern "organic" theory of man and of society was not based on the development of a new theory of being; on the contrary it was grounded also in the modern Neoplatonist ontology. I hardly need to remind you that the modern "organic" theory owes more to Hegel, the arch Neoplatonist of the nineteenth century, than to any other man. It seems to me of the first importance to our topic to bring to the fore and emphasize the fundamental role of ontology in the theory of man and the theory of society, and that in the modern period the Neoplatonic theory of being has dominated and determined both the alternative modern theories of man and society. In the present day ontology has become the most neglected of philosophical disciplines, one consequence of which has been considerable muddle and confusion in thought seeking to come to grips with the issues involved in the theory of man and of society.

Today we need explicitly to face the question whether an adequate and coherent theory of man and of society is possible at all in terms of the Neoplatonic theory of being, or whether it is necessary to seek another ontological basis for the theory of man and of society.

As a first step in tackling this question I would suggest that account be explicitly taken of the outcome, in human life and experience in the modern period, of the adoption of the "individualist" and the "organic" theories. Much has been written about this, and it has been dealt with also in several of the papers contributed to this meeting. I will deal with one point in this as of especial philosophical relevance. This is that these theories have survived--apart from the fact of their being in accord with the prevailing metaphysical presuppositions underlying the development of natural science from the seventeenth till the beginning of this century--these theories have survived not by their inherent theoretical virtue manifesting itself logically in practical exemplifications throughout the range of human activity; rather they have survived because human experience has necessitated practice in all spheres of endeavor and life which is strictly inconsistent with the ruling theories of man and of society, and because the respective theorists have failed to recognize the inconsistencies--since these are indeed fatal to their theories.

The actual life of human beings, it needs to be explicitly acknowledged today, is not consistently and coherently analyzable in terms either of the "individualist" or the "organic" theories. To anyone not blinded by dogmatic adherence to the "individualist" theory it should be clear that human beings do not live in essential independence of each other; on the contrary, the enormous extent and range of their interdependence is not only manifest, but their interdependence is also manifestly essential to their being--a misanthrope is generally and correctly regarded as pathological; and Hobbes' attempt to construct a theory of society on the basis of a conception of man as fundamentally misanthropic has never received acceptance. And to anyone not dogmatically adhering to the "organic" theory it should be clear that the necessary interdependence of human beings is not that of "organs," "instruments," functioning in relation to a transcendent whole; that is, their interdependence is not consistently and coherently to be construed as dependence upon the transcendent whole.

It is on this fact of the necessary interdependence of human beings on each other that any theory of man and of society based on a Neoplatonic ontology must founder. For on this ontology the human individual must be essentially self-complete, which entails that the human being is to be conceived as fundamentally without relations to his fellow human beings, "real" relations that is, in the basic meaning of "real," viz., belonging to the res itself. This is the case with both the "individualist" and the "organic" theories: the former can admit real relations in individuals only with God, and the latter only with the transcendent organic whole.


For the philosophical theory of man and of society the fact which is of cardinal importance is that of the interdependence of human beings. The first philosophical inference to be drawn from this is that interdependence necessitates that relations be seen as "real." The second is that society is to be conceived as a real relationship between individual human beings. It is evident that I am here in full accord with the position taken by Professor Johann in his paper.

But this raises as a crucial issue the problem of the ontological status of relations. And this can be effectively tackled only as part of the theory of being per se. I will approach it here in the context of our topic. We have arrived at a point in our investigation at which it has become clear that what faces us is the need of an ontology in terms of which human beings can consistently be conceived as having real relations with fellow human beings, and in terms therefore of which society can be consistently and coherently conceived. What is required is a theory of being in which the act involved in being be necessarily a relational act, and in which the relation is "real," in the full sense of the relation being an actual interconnection with another being, and not, as in the Leibnizian theory, "phenomenal," and in the Neoplatonic theory in general, wholly "internal." It is most important to emphasize that on a Neoplatonic ontology a relation necessarily has the status of a feature, attribute, or property which inheres in the being itself--for Plotinus explicitly the category of relation had to be conceived on the paradigm of an inhering quality; which is why in the Neoplatonic tradition the term "quality" came to be used as synonymous with attribute or property: a substance is "qualified" by various attributes.

Now if we hold that relation be a real interconnection, it becomes clear that there can be no fully completed being anterior to the act of relating, for that would imply the relation not being real, i.e., the interconnection not making any essential difference to the being in question. Consequently it is necessary to acknowledge that the act of being must involve a process which is other than as it is conceived in terms of the Neoplatonic ontology, namely a process of explication of what is implicit. The process must be one of the achievement of completeness, as Aristotle maintained in his conception of ousia as energeia and entelecheia, i.e., as "in-act" and as "achieving its end." This entails, again as Aristotle held, that the process involved in the act of being must be the transition from potentiality to actuality, so that the process is one of the "actualization" or "realization" of the human being. This could therefore be seen as a theory of "self-actualization" or "self-realization," but it is essential to understand the theory in a sense contrary to the similar theory held on a Neoplatonic basis. The theory of "self-realization" has been much favored by thinkers in the idealist school; in that tradition the theory is understood in terms of a Neoplatonic ontology, which means that the "realization" is of what the self is in its essence. In the alternative ontology here being presented, the "potentiality" which is "actualized" cannot be restricted to the "essence" of the being in question, but must include also what is presented by other beings in the interaction between them.

The theory of being which is necessitated here must be explicitly recognized as standing in contrast to the Neoplatonic theory of being as complete, changeless. This theory of being is one which was first propounded by Parmenides and taken over by Plato, in his middle Dialogues at least. This theory of being was grounded in an elaboration of the philosophical implications of the Greek verb "be," which rigidly excluded "becoming"--for which entirely different verbs were used, such as gignesthai, "to be born."4 The philosophical limitations and inadequacies of this theory of being became clear to Aristotle, who developed an alternative ontology in which "being" was not exclusive of "becoming" but in which being included a process of becoming. Neoplatonism, however, returned to the earlier conception of being, Augustine's identification of being with God serving additionally to confirm the Neoplatonic ontology in Western thought down the centuries. In the theory of man it is today most important, as Professor Bertocci has urged in his paper, to reject the "historic concept of a substantive self or person"--that is, the Neoplatonic doctrine of the self, for the concept of being as "substance" is historically the Neoplatonic doctrine--and to see the self or person rather as a being-in-becoming.

This is the conception of being, I have argued, which is necessitated by the fact of the interdependence of human beings. I have maintained further that this fact of interdependence entails the necessity of relations as real. We must now explicitly address the problem of how relations are to be conceived in terms of the foregoing theory of being. In seeking an answer to this problem it would be unacceptable to suppose that since we have rejected the Neoplatonic conception of relations as qualities inhering in the subject, the alternative is to conceive relations as some kind of tertium quid connecting the beings. This supposition would be unacceptable because it would be incoherent and inconsistent with any theory of being, since the tertium quid would by hypothesis be neither a being nor a constituent of a being; its status would thus be totally inexplicable.

The way to an answer to this problem, I submit, is that which I took earlier in conceiving relations as grounded in the act involved in being, whereby the act of being is essentially a relational act, an act of relating to other beings. I would say more specifically that the act of being is an "acting on" another and a reciprocal "being acted on" by another.

This conception has important implications: besides the general one which we have already noted, that this entails the conception of being as necessarily involving becoming, this conception entails "subjects" acting, which are not merely the outcome of the actings--I agree with Professor Bertocci that the conception of subjects as wholly the outcome, product, of acting is an incoherent one. Further entailed, I would want to argue, is that there is a whole constituted by the interacting which is something more than, and thus not adequately analyzable as the mere arithmetical sum of the interacting subjects. Moreover, that whole has a character or definiteness which is analyzable as the definiteness of the relational interacting. It must be emphasized that the definiteness or character must explicitly not be conceived on the analogy or paradigm of a quality, e.g., a color, inhering in a substratum; the definiteness here is the definiteness of an acting, i.e., constituting the "whatness" of the acting. Since the acting is relational, the "whatness" will in one aspect be that of the interacting whole.

Now I wish to submit that what we have here in such an interacting whole is a "society," in other words, that the essence of a "society" is constituted by such an interacting whole. This holds for the minimal society, that of two human beings, and for any such whole of a plurality of human beings, however great. The essential condition is that the members be reciprocally interacting. And the character or definiteness of the society in question will be determined by the character or definiteness of the interacting. It is the character of definiteness that would distinguish, for example, the society of two constituting a friendship from that constituting a marriage. Since the character or definiteness of the society is grounded in the "nature" of individuals as acting, a society is, as Aristotle maintained, "natural," and further, has a "nature" pertaining to it, one which is defined by the definiteness of the society as an interacting whole, a nature which is moreover in an important respect determinative of the individual members.

This brings us finally to the consideration of the ontological status of "society." In the theory I am proposing a society is not to be conceived as a full being in its own right, since it is essentially and fundamentally dependent upon the actings of its members. Thus the individual human beings must alone be accorded the full and primary ontological status. Only individuals can in a full, non-derivative sense be "agents," with the power of choice and decision. It is only individuals as essentially acting which can include in their being access to the criteria of the "good" which are absolutely indispensable to being as acting.

Emory University

Atalanta, Georgia


1. More specifically in the middle Dialogues. It is questionable whether this would hold for Plato of the Sophist for example.

2. Augustine, Confessions, Bk. VII, Ch. 11.

3. John Locke, Second Treatise of Civil Government, Ch. VII, Sects. 78, 79.

4. See Charles H. Kahn, The Verb `Be' in Ancient Greek (Dordrecht/Holland 1973), especially Ch. VIII, n. 5.









The fruit of several centuries of rationalistic thought in the West has been to reduce both the objective and the subjective poles of knowledge to a single level. In the same way that the cogito of Descartes is based on reducing the knowing subject to a single mode of awareness, the external world which this "knowing self" perceives is reduced to a spatio-temporal complex limited to a single level of reality - no matter how far this complex is extended beyond the galaxies or into aeons of time, past and future. The traditional view as expressed in the metaphysical teachings of both the Eastern and Western traditions is based, on the contrary, upon a hierarchic vision of reality, not only in reality's objective aspect but also in its subjective one. Not only are there many levels of reality or existence stretching from the material plane to Absolute and Infinite Reality, but there are also many levels of subjective reality or consciousness, many envelopes of the self, leading to the Ultimate Self which is Infinite and Eternal and which is none other than the Transcendent Reality beyond.1 Moreover, the relation between the subjective and the objective is not bound to a single mode. There is not just one form of perception or awareness. There are modes and degrees of awareness leading from the so-called "normal" perception by man of both his own "ego" and the external world to awareness of Ultimate Selfhood, in which the subject and object of knowledge become unified in a single reality beyond all separation and distinction.

Self-awareness, from the point of view of traditional metaphysics, is not simply a biological fact of life common to all human being. There is more than one level of meaning to "self" and more than one degree of awareness. Man is aware of his self or ego, but one also speaks of self-control, and therefore implies even in daily life the presence of another self which controls the lower self. Tradition, therefore, speaks clearly of the distinction between the self and the Self, or the self and the Spirit which is the first reflection of the Ultimate Self: hence the primary distinction between anima and spiritus, or nafs and r-u.h of Islamic thought, and emphasis upon the fact that there is within every man both an outer and an inner man, a lower self and a higher one. That is why also tradition speaks of the self as being totally distinct from the Ultimate Self, from -atman or ousia, and yet as a reflection of it and as the solar gate through which man must pass to reach the Self. Traditional metaphysics is in fact primarily an autology, to quote A. K. Coomaraswamy,2 for to know is ultimately to know the Self. The .had-ith, "He who knoweth himself knoweth his Lord," attests to this basic truth.

There are, moreover, many stages which separate the self and the Self. In its descent towards manifestation the Self becomes shrouded by many bodies, many sheaths, which must be shed in returning to the One. That is why the Buddhist and Hindu traditions speak of the various subtle bodies of man, and certain Sufis such as `Al-a' al-Dawlah Simn-an-i analyze the "physiology" of the inner man or the man of light in terms of the'if or subtle bodies which man "carries" within himself and which he must "traverse" and also cast aside in order to realize the Self.3

In order to reach the Ultimate Self through the expansion of awareness of the center of consciousness, man must reverse the cosmogonic process which has crystallized both the radiations and reverberations of the Self within what appears through the cosmic veil (.hij-ab) as separate and objective existence. This reversal must of necessity begin with the negation of the lower self, with the performance of sacrifice, which is an echo here below of the primordial sacrifice, the sacrifice which has brought the cosmos into existence. The doctrine of the creation of the cosmos, whether expounded metaphysically or mythically in various traditions, is based upon the manifestation of the Principle, which is at the same time the sacrifice (the yajn a of Hinduism) of the luminous pole of existence, of the universal man (al-ins-an al-k-amil), of, of the Divine Logos which is also light, of the Spirit (al-r-u.h) which resides within the proximity of the Ultimate Self and at the center of the cosmos.

The Ultimate Self in its inner infinitude is beyond all determination and cosmic polarization, but the Spirit or Intellect, which is both created and uncreated, is already its first determination in the direction of manifestation.  It is m-aya in -Atma and the center of all the numerous levels of cosmic and universal existence.4 Through its "sacrifice" the lower levels of the cosmic order in its objective as well as subjective aspects become manifest. The human self, as usually experienced by men who have become separated from their archetypal reality, is itself a faint echo upon the cosmic plane of the Spirit and ultimately of the Self, and exists only by virtue of the original sacrifice of its celestial Principle. Hence, it is through the denial of itself or of sacrifice that the self can again become it-Self and regain the luminous empyrean from which it has descended to the corporeal realm.

Self-awareness can only reach the Ultimate Self provided it is helped by that message from the Divine Intellect which is called "revelation" or tradition in its universal sense. The gates through which the Spirit has descended to the level of the human self are hermetically sealed and protected by the dragons which cannot be subdued save with the help of the angelic forces. Self-awareness in the sense of experimenting with the boundaries of the psyche, with new experiences, and with the heights and depths of the psychological world, does not result in any way in moving closer to the proximity of the Self. The attempted expansion of awareness in this sense, which is so common among modern man anxious to break the boundaries of the prison of the materialistic world he has created for himself, results only in a horizontal expansion, but not in a vertical one. Its result is a never ending wandering in the labyrinth of the psychic world and not the end of all wandering in the presence of the Sun which alone is. Only the sacred can enable the awareness of the self to expand in the direction of the Self. The Divine reveals to man His Sacred Name as a holy vessel which carries man from the limited world of his self to the shores of the World of the Spirit where alone man is his Real Self. That is why the famous Sufi, Man.s-ur al-.Hall-aj, through whom the Self uttered "I am the Truth" (ana'l-.Haqq) prays in this famous verse to the Self to remove the veil which separates man's illusory I from the Self who alone is I in the absolute sense.

Between me and thee, it is my "I-ness" which is in contention;

Through Thy grace remove my "I-ness" from between us.

With the help of the message and also the grace issuing from the Self, the lower self or soul is able to become wed to the Spirit in that alchemical marriage between gold and silver, the king and the queen, the heavenly bride and the earthly bridegroom, which is the goal of all work of initiation. And since love is also death (amor est mors) and marriage is death as well as union,5 the perfection of the self implies first of all the negation of itself, a death which is also a rebirth, for only he who has realized that he is nothing is able to enter unto the Divine Presence. The only thing man can offer in sacrifice to God is his self, and in performing this sacrifice through spiritual practice he returns the self to the Self and gains awareness of the real "I" within, who alone has the right to claim "I am." As R-um-i has said in these famous verses:

I died as mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was man.

Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar

With angels blest; but even from angelhood

I must pass on: all except God doth perish.

When I have sacrificed my angle-soul,

I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.

Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence

Proclaims in organ tones, "To him we shall return."6

One of the factors which distinguish most sharply traditional metaphysics from that part of post-medieval Western philosophy which is called metaphysics today is that traditional metaphysics is not mere speculation about the nature of Reality, but is a doctrine concerning the nature of the Real combined with methods revealed by the Origin or Absolute Reality to enable the self or the soul, as usually understood, to return to the abode of the Self. The Ultimate Self cannot be approached by the efforts of the self alone, and no amount of human knowledge of the psyche can increase the awareness or the consciousness of the self which will finally lead to the Ultimate Self.

The contemplative disciplines of all traditions of both East and West insist in fact on the primacy of the awareness of the self and its nature. As the great 13th century Japanese Zen master Dogen has said, "To study Buddhism means nothing other than inquiring into the true nature of the ego (or the self)."7 The famous dictum of Christ that the Kingdom of God is within you is likewise a confirmation of the primacy of the inward journey towards the Ultimate Self as the final goal of religion.

Traditional psychology or rather pneumatology, which however must not be confused in any way with modern psychological studies, is closely wed to traditional metaphysics, for it contains the means whereby the soul can understand its own structure and with the help of appropriate spiritual disciplines transform itself so as finally to realize it-Self. This is as much true of the Yog-ac-ara school of Mahayana Buddhism as of various forms of Yoga in Hinduism, or of the contemplative schools within Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In the latter tradition for example, a whole science of the soul has been developed based on the progressive perfection and transformation of the self towards the Self. In Arabic, the word nafs means at once soul, self and ego. As ordinarily understood the nafs is the source of limitation, passion, and gravity, the source of all that makes man selfish and self-centered. This nafs which is called the nafs al-amm-arah (the soul which inspires evil), following the terminology of the Quran, must be transfigured through death and purgation. It must be controlled by the higher self. With the help of the Spirit the nafs al-amm-arah becomes transformed into the nafs al-laww-amah (the blaming soul), gaining greater awareness of its own nature, an awareness that is made possible through the transmutation of its substance. In the further stage of inner alchemical transmutation, the nafs al-laww-amah becomes transformed into the nafs al-mu.tma'innah (the soul at peace), attaining a state in which it can gain knowledge with certainty and repose in peace because it has discovered its own center which is the Self. Finally, according to certain Sufis, the nafs al-mu.tma'innah becomes transmuted into the nafs al-r-a.diyah (the satisfied soul) which has attained such perfection that it has now become worthy of being the perfect bride of the Spirit, thus returning to its Lord, as the Quran asserts, and finally realizing the Self through its own annihilation (fan-a') and subsequent subsistance (baq-a') in God.

The traditional science of the soul, along with the methods for the realization of the Self, a science which is to be found in every integral tradition, is the means whereby self awareness expands to reach the empyrean of the Ultimate Self. This traditional science is the result of experiment and experience with the self by those who have been able to navigate over its vast expanses with the aid of the spiritual guide. It is a science not bound by the phenomena or accidents which appear in the psyche or which the self of ordinary human beings display. Rather, it is determined by the noumenal world, by the Sub.stance to which all accidents ultimately return, for essentially and are the same.

Traditional cosmology also is seen, from the practical point of view of the perfection of the soul and the journey of the self to Self, as a form of the sacred science of the soul, as a form of autology. The cosmos may be studied as an external reality whose laws are examined by various cosmological sciences. But it may also be studied with the view of increasing self-awareness and as an aid in the journey towards the Ultimate Self. In this way, the cosmos becomes not an external object but a crypt through which the seeker of Truth journeys, and which becomes interiorized within the being of the traveller to the degree that by "travelling" through it he is able to increase his self-awareness and attain higher levels of consciousness.8 Again to quote R-um-i:

The stars of heaven are ever re-filled by the star-like souls of the pure.

The outer shell of heaven, the Zodiac, may control us; but our inner essence rules the sky.

In form you are the microcosm, in reality the macrocosm; though it seems the branch is the origin of the fruit, in truth the branch only exists for the fruit.

If there were no hope, no desire for this fruit, why would the gardener have planted the tree?

So the tree was born of the fruit, even though it seems the other way round.

Thus Muhammad said "Adam and the other prophets follow under my banner";

Thus that master of all knowledge has declared allegory: "We are the last and the foremost."

For if I seem to be born of Adam, in fact I am the ancestor of all ancestors;

Adam was born of me, and gained the Seventh Heaven on my account.9

The process through which man becomes him-Self and attains his true nature does not possess only a cosmic aspect. It is also of the greatest social import. In a society in which the lower self is allowed to fall by its own weight, in which the Ultimate Self and means to attain It are forgotten, in which there is no principle higher than the individual self, there cannot but be the highest degree of conflict between all limited egos which would claim for themselves absolute rights, usually in conflict with the claims of other egos - rights which belong to the Self alone. In such a situation even the spiritual virtue of charity becomes sheer sentimentality. The traditional science of the soul, however, sees only one Self, which shines, no matter how dimly, at the center of oneself and every self. It is based on the love of one Self, which however does not imply selfishness, but on the contrary necessitates the love of others, who in the profoundest sense are also one self. For as Meister Eckhardt has said, "Loving Thy Self, thou lovest all men as thy Self."10 The sheer presence in human society of those who have attained the Ultimate Self has an invisible effect upon all members of society far beyond what an external study of their relation with the social order would reveal. Such men are not only a channel of grace for the whole of society, but the living embodiment of the Truth that self awareness can lead to the Ultimate Self only through man's sacrificing his self and knowing his own limitations, and that the only way of being really charitable in an ultimate and final sense is to see the self in all selves and hence to act charitably towards the neighbor not as if he were myself, but because he is at the center of his being my-Self. The love of other selves is metaphysically meaningful only as a function of the awareness, not of our limited self, but of the Ultimate Self. That is why the injunction of the Gospels is to first love God and then the neighbor. Knowledge of the self in its relation to the Self reveals this basic truth: that the inner life of man leaves its deepest imprint upon the social order even if one were to do nothing, and that harmony on the social level can only be attained when the members of a society are able to control the self with the help of the means which only the Ultimate Self can provide for them. To quote D-ogen again,

"To be disciplined in the Way of the Buddha means getting disciplined in dealing properly with your own I. To get disciplined in dealing with your I means nothing other than forgetting your I. To forget your I means that you become illumined by the things. To be illumined by the things means that you obliterate the distinction between your (so-called) ego and the (so- called) ego's other things."11

The traditional sciences of the soul deal extensively with all the questions relating to sense perception, inner experience, contact and communication with other conscious beings and the like. But their central concern is above all with the question of the nature of the self, of the center of consciousness, of the subject which says "I." In fact one of the chief means to reach the Ultimate Self is to examine thoroughly with the help of the spiritual methods provided within the matrix of various traditions the nature of the I, as was done by the great contemporary Hindu saint, Sri Ramana Maharshi.12 As awareness of the self expands and deepens, the consciousness of the reality of the only I which is begins to appear, replacing the ordinary consciousness which sees nothing but the multiple echoes of the I on the plane of cosmic manifestation. The consciousness of the only I which is the source of all consciousness, leads him who has realized this truth to sing with `A.t.t-ar that

All You have been, and seen, and thought,

Not You, but I, have seen and been and wrought.13

The realization of the Ultimate Self, of the I who alone has the right to say "I am," is the goal of all awareness. Through it man realizes that although at the beginning of the path the Self is completely other than the self, ultimately the self is the Self, as Zen masters have been especially adamant in emphasizing. But this identity is essential, not phenomenal and external.  The self is on the one hand like the foam of the ocean wave, insubstantial, transient and illusory, and on the other hand a spark of the Light of the Self, a ray which in essence is none other than the supernal Sun. It is with respect to this spark within the self of every human being that it has been said:

There is in every man an incorruptible star, a

substance called upon to become crystallized in

Immortality; it is eternally prefigured in the luminous

proximity of the Self. Man disengages this star from its

temporal entanglements in truth, in prayer and in

virtue, and in them alone.14

Imperial Academy

Teheran, Iran


1. Traditional metaphysics speaks of Ultimate Reality either as the absolutely Transcendent or the absolutely Immanent which however are one, Brahman being the same as -Atman. Hindu metaphysics, however, emphasizes more the language of immanence, and Islamic metaphysics that of transcendence, without one language excluding the other. See F. Schuon, Spiritual Perspectives and Human Facts trans. by D.M. Matheson (London: Faber and Faber, 1953), pp. 95 ff. See also Schuon, Language of the Self trans. by M. Pallis and D.M. Matheson (Madras: Ganesh. 1959), especially chapter XI "Gnosis, Language of the Self."

2. See A.K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism (New York: Philosophical Society, 1943), pp. 10 ff.

3. See H. Corbin, The Man of Light in Iranian Sufism, trans. N. Pearson, (Boulder, Shambhala, 1978). In diverse traditions, the return of the self to Self has been compared to the shedding of outward skin by a snake which by virtue of this unsheathing gains a new skin and a new life.

4. See F. Schuon, "Atm-a-M-ay-a," Studies in Comparative Religion (1973), pp. 130-138.

5. It is of interest to recall that in Greek it (teleo) means at once to gain perfection, to become married and to die.

6. R.A. Nicholson, Rumi-Poet and Mystic (London: Allen & Unwin, 1950), p. 103.

7. Quoted in T. Izutsu, "Two Dimensions of Ego Consciousness in Zen," Sophia Perennis (Teheran), vol. II (1976), 20.

8. See S.H. Nasr, An Introduction to Cosmological Doctrines (London: Thames & Hudson, 1978), chapter 15.

9. Rumi, Mathnawi, ed. by R.A. Nicholson (London: Luzac, 1930), vol. IV, Book IV, v. 519-528, trans. by P. Wilson.

10. Meister Eckhart, trans. by C. de B. Evans, I. 139. The quotation is from Coomaraswamy, op.cit., p. 13.

11. Izutsu, op. cit., p. 33.

12. Sri Ramana Maharshi in fact based the whole of his teaching upon the method based on asking who am I. His most famous work, a collection of answers given to one of his disciples, Sivaprakasam Pillai, who arranged and amplified them is called Who am I? (Tiruvannamalai, 1955). See A. Osborne, Ramana Maharshi and the Path of Self Knowledge (Bombay, 1957).

13. From the Man.tiq al-.tayr, trans. by F.S. Fitzgerald. A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature (London: Allen & Unwin, 1958), p. 131.

14. F. Schuon, Light on the Ancient World, trans. by Lord Northbourne (London: Perennial Books, 1965), p. 117.



Comment on Seyyed Hossein Nasr,

"Self-Awareness and Ultimate Selfhood"


The splendid exposition of Professor Nasr manifests the comprehensive character of the relation of self-awareness and Ultimate Selfhood. This problem is as old as the history of philosophy in both East and West. From Socrates to Descarte in the West and from Confucius to Zen philosophers in the East, it has always been the most important philosophical theme. Prof. Nasr approaches it from the standpoint of comparative philosophy. He penetrates into the depths of the religious and philosophical thought of Islam as represented by Sufism, and of Buddhism, most particularly of Zen. From these standpoints he then shows clearly how Self-Awareness is possible and how to arrive at Ultimate Selfhood.

This subject of Self-Awareness and Ultimate Selfhood is not a merely philosophical problem, but a large complex of philosophical and religious problematics in both the East and the West; indeed it is the main object of comparative philosophy. Here I will comment only upon the philosophical aspect, particularly the speculative problem of mystical "intention."

In explaining the meaning of Self-Awareness, Prof. Nasr distinguished between "Self" and "self." The "self" of daily life is not the ultimate "Self," for we arrive at Self after the destruction of self or ego. First, from the philosophical standpoint, Self-Awareness is the highest goal of the search for knowledge in which the Self as the knowing subject is also the object of the knowing. This "Self-Identity" is the condition sine qua non of the Self-Awareness. To reach this we must separate the self and the Self, and negate our lower self.

This way of negation is similar in Sufism and Buddhism. In Zen, however, there is no conception of "creation" as found in such other religions as Christianity and Islam. Hence, the Ultimate-Self is "Nothingness," and self becomes it-Self through absolute self-negation.

I agree with Prof. Nasr that the contemplative disciplines of all traditions in both East and West insist on the primacy of the awareness of the self and its nature. The subject and the object are the self and Self in different stages of knowing, in which process negation is the first condition of Self-awareness. In order to reach the higher Self, the lower self should be denied, and through this first negation the lower self begins gradually to approach the higher Self. As the lower self is still far away from this higher Self, however, to reach it the lower self must deny itself in a series of three stages.

This process to the higher Self is the process of the "philosophia negativa," whose logical structure is the dialectic: the self as subject denies the self as object, and thereby begins to know and evaluate itself to the Self. In this dialectical process "reflection" is the "reflection" of self-identity moving from the self to the Self as both subject and object. At each of three stages of reflexion, as the self denies itself the process of Self-Awareness gradually develops. We can see this process in the Zen text, "The Ten Images of Ox." As true awareness is "Enlightenment," the Self is the illumined subject without selfness.

The following is an attempt to formulate the process from the lower to the higher Self:

The first stage is the "intentio recta." The self knows immediately or directly the object of knowing. This self is called "das Dasein" in Heidegger's terminology. It is not yet evaluated as knowing self, and intends only the object.

The second stage is the "intentio obliqua." This is the first reflection between the subject and the object. Here objectivity and general validity are the most important. Most scientific knowledge is on this stage.

The third stage or "intentio reflexiva" is the second reflection in which the self as both subject and object reflect each other. It is a first primitive beginning of Self-Awareness, for the self is not yet transcendental. Once the self as both subject and object evaluate each other, the evaluated self is no longer the "self" as "das Dasein," but the Self, and is called "intentio reflexiva." However, as it has not yet reached ultimate Selfhood, this intentio does not yet provide absolute validity and the two are not yet self-identified.

The fourth stage of "intentio" is also developed from the second reflexion and is called "intentio intensitiva." In this stage the knowing subject reflects its object. The reflexion is transparent as self becomes like two mirrors facing each other. As object of knowing the Self becomes self-identical and ultimate. The Self is enlightened and becomes like the image in one mirror, which at the same time reflects its object in the other. As subject and object the self both reflects and is reflected at the same time. This is the highest stage of mystical knowledge and is called the "Ultimate Reflexion."

The subject of this Ultimate Reflexion is the Ultimate Selfhood. At this stage, the Self has no proper self-hood, but enters the state of the beatific vision, which in Zen is called "Nothingness." This Ultimate stage of Selfhood is illumined from both within and without. Basically, however, it has no inner or outer, no over or under, for it is Nothingness and not selfhood. This is auto-reflection, the highest state of reflexion. The Self now becomes selfless and Truth reveals itself. This illuminated selfless Self simultaneously is the state of the Ultimate Selfhood and of Self-Awareness.

One must distinguish the two ways, i.e., the way to the Ultimate Selfhood and the way of realizing Ultimate Selfhood, that is, "the way of going and the way of return." The identity between the self and Self should be realized in this way, for it is not phenomenal and external, but essential: it is the affirmation of selfhood in our daily life. The deep meaning of religion consists in this realization of Ultimate Selfhood.

In conclusion, one can say that in the state of Ultimate Selfhood the Self truly knows itself and the self finds its proper meaning.







The question to which I have been asked to address myself concerns human sociability. In what sense are human beings naturally social? Is society to be conceived as an atomic sum of individuals or is it rather an organic whole? The answer which I shall propose is that it is neither. Any human society, I shall say, is a unity of persons who, contrary to the "atomic sum" conception, are essentially relational and, contrary to the "organic whole" conception, are not parts but subsist in themselves as free initiatives. Indeed, the thesis to be elaborated here, instead of exalting either individual freedom or human sociability at the expense of the other, will ground the exercise of freedom in its bearing on relationship and root the reality of relationship in our very nature as free agents.


If this thesis is to be understood, some preliminary distinctions are needed. A first and crucial one has to be made between two aspects or dimensions of human existence that correspond to two ways of approaching it. The two ways I have in mind are personally and impersonally.1 To approach fellow humans personally is to deal with them in terms of what is known when we engage them directly in a communicative relation. This is the other as free initiative, an intentional (in the sense of intentio intendens) subject, a being that is significant not merely as a what or one of a kind, but as a who, as uniquely existing. Approaching the other personally is approaching him as you, in mutual relation with me. To approach others impersonally, on the other hand, is to attend only to that about them which is or can be known without entering into a personal relation with them. Since this excludes their reality as unique subjects, what is left is their reality as determinate objects in the world, mere instances of a kind.

The two dimensions of the human self that we shall be considering, therefore, are the self as determinate object and the self as intending subject. These two dimensions, however, are not to be construed as mutually exclusive. They are not simply two distinct and contrasting aspects with no other connection between them than that they are both dimensions of the self. Rather, just as the two approaches to which these dimensions are correlative can be related to one another as the abstract and limited one to the concrete and inclusive one, so also can the dimensions themselves. For it should be noted that when we approach others personally and deal with them as intending subjects, co-sources of a personal exchange, we are also necessarily aware of and dealing with them as determinate objects. To be able to communicate with others we must first of all be able to hear the sounds they make, if not also, as normally, see their movements and gestures. But our awareness of these is subordinate to and controlled by what is at the focus of our attention and apprehended through them, to wit, the intending subjects themselves.

The same, however, is not the case with the impersonal approach. For then our concern is with what is true of the other regardless of his or her intention. With the impersonal approach, attention is focused on changes going on in one place and their empirical connections with changes going on elsewhere; it prescinds from whether or not any of these changes are meant or intended. Thus, whereas the personal approach is inclusive of the impersonal, the impersonal (since it focuses only on objective nature while prescinding from what it mediates) is abstract and exclusive. So too with the dimensions of the self correlative to these approaches. The self as intending subject is concrete and includes the determinate object through which the intending subject is mediated. The self as determinate object, however, is an abstracted aspect of this concrete and inclusive reality and is viewed in isolation from it.

The bearing of these distinctions on the question before us can now be made clear. When it is said that human beings are naturally social, what is usually meant is that sociability is rooted in their nature as determinate objects. Both the "atomic sum" and the "organic whole" conceptions of human society are, I suggest, contrasting versions of this first interpretation. The sense of "naturally social" defended here, on the other hand, roots human sociability in our nature as intending subjects. As we shall see, this has important consequences for understanding the nature of human values generally, the kind of politics required for their achievement, and the proper place of "community" in the scale of human concerns. But, before going on to these matters, I wish first to elaborate briefly the views of human sociability which I am rejecting.


The two views I have in mind are the individualist and the organic or collectivist.2 For both these views, the social nexus is first of all and fundamentally a fact about ourselves and only secondarily, if at all, a matter of intention. Dependence on others for being what we are and behaving the way we do is characteristic of our determinate nature, regardless of our individual aims and purposes. Indeed, the very ability to formulate those aims is conditioned by our participation in society. As one author puts it ". . . the concepts that we use to describe our plans and situation, and even to give voice to our personal wants and purposes, often [I would say always] presuppose a social setting as well as a system of belief and thought that is the outcome of the collective efforts of a long tradition."3 Thus, for both views, society is a necessary condition for the human quality of our lives. Human life, as one kind among others, is essentially group life.


The difference between the two views resides in the way this determinate nature is viewed in relation to the individual whose nature it is. Individualism sees it basically as a classificatory construct, something posterior, therefore, to the concrete entities it unites and so not normative for them.4 Since the way we group and classify things is a function of our particular interests, these remain primary in the realm of value. Whether and to what extent certain objective characteristics of ourselves come to be prized and cultivated depends upon how they are viewed in relation to our aims.

Thus, one way of regarding, and consequently intending, our union with others is purely instrumentally. Social institutions in this case are not considered to have any value in themselves, and our participation in them, far from being something prized, is actually viewed as burdensome. But we join together with others in various social arrangements as a way to promote our own personal aims. Such is the case in what has been called "private society."5 Yet, even where social life, or a particular form of it, is intended as good in itself, the priority of individual interests remains intact. For, on this view, it will all depend on whether individuals are so constituted as to find this sort of thing fulfilling in itself, as well as conducive to other things. For example, it is an empirical fact that people normally take delight in exercising their native capacities. Granted, then, that one of our human capacities is reason (understood here as the capacity to adopt a universal point of view), and granted that a justly ordered society is a prime example of the exercise of such a capacity, it would not be out of line with the individualist conception if human beings were to experience a just society, since it is expressive of their nature, as fulfilling in itself. However, that such a society is objectively worthwhile regardless of an individualist's empirical desires, this first position is unable to say. For it holds that there are no values (including society as a value) independent of the desires of individuals, and therefore that there is no final or objective basis for affirming what should or should not be sought or what is really worth seeking.

The Organic View

Such is not the case with the organic view of human sociability. Whereas the individualist sees the value of society as something relative to individual desire (even if it happens to be desired by some individuals as good in itself), the collectivist sees individuals as functional parts of, and therefore relative to, society as an organic whole. In this instance, determinate human nature is not a construct for classifying individuals but an intelligible unity antecedent to them, one in which they participate and which makes them to be what they are.6 To say here that we are naturally social is to say that we exist essentially as parts; that that of which we are parts has a meaning and value independent of us individuals who compose it; and that only in the light of this larger meaning and value can we ourselves, together with our aims, be properly understood and appraised. Here, then, determinate human nature is normative for the person. A person's freedom is fundamentally a freedom to conform. If we identify this freedom with our being as subjects, then according to this interpretation, our reality as subjects is relative to the objective order. It is only insofar as we conform ourselves to this order that our choices, and therefore our lives as a subjects, are grounded and justified. Any other course is groundless, arbitrary, and indefensible.

Comparison and Critique

In comparison with individualism, this conception has certain strengths. The first is a logical one. It is the recognition that choice must be grounded, not only if it is not be arbitrary, but even for it to be possible. A choice that is not grounded is indistinguishable from blind impulse. This means that prior to their particular projects, individuals must be faced with some task, set by nature, in the light of which those projects can be appraised. Without such an antecedent task, functioning as a standard of appraisal, it becomes impossible to distinguish alternative claims and so impossible, too, to choose.

The second strength of this position is more psychological in character. For it caters to our need to be part of something larger than ourselves while at the same time taking some of the onus out of choosing. When individual desire is accorded the primacy and objective nature viewed as relative to it, the individual can come to feel terrifyingly alone. Instead of enhancing our importance, such a position seems to deprive us of significance. Moreover, having to decide for oneself just what one is to do and be is, as Dostoievsky's Grand Inquisitor pointed out, simply too burdensome for most people. It is much more comfortable to have what is required of us all spelled out beforehand.

Needless to say, these strengths have their weaknesses, and part of the case for individualism is its capacity to exploit them. For the conception of the human being as primarily a part is tantamount to smothering selfhood. Yet what has been the excitement of recent years if not a new and awakened sense of self? The human self has felt the need to throw off all the limitations it has saddled itself with and to reject every structure forcing it to accept this or that single role as the whole truth of its being. This is, equivalently, to reject determinate nature as normative along with the corresponding conformist conception of freedom.  Freedom is not really freedom if it means "knuckling under" to what is already the case. And the logic of this contention should be clear from the distinctions that were made earlier. For there we saw that determinate human nature is only an isolated aspect of human freedom and subjectivity. This last is what is concrete and inclusive. Thus, to make determinate nature normative for the person and so subscribe to freedom as conformity is to subordinate the greater to the less, the inclusive reality to a part of itself.

But if individualism is right in rejecting this conception, it does so in a way that not only will not stand up to analysis but is also self-defeating. For the basic thesis of individualism is that values are determined by choice. In other words, there are no objective ends. An end is an end only as actually intended by a subject. None of our interests or inclinations function as norms unless and until the subject chooses that they should.

But there's the rub. As we have already seen, choice without grounds is not only arbitrary, it is impossible. For choice, as a human act, implies judgment--a judgment about what is worth doing in the situation. Without such judgment, one cannot speak of an act or deed but only of an event. What takes place in that case is simply the result of the interaction of objective forces already in operation. This means abandoning the realm of freedom and responsibility for that of determinism. Judgment, on the other hand, presupposes standards and, in the final analysis, a standard that is not itself a matter of choice--otherwise we are involved in an endless regress. But the only thing that can function as such a standard is some reality to the accomplishment of which the subject as such is naturally ordered. Subjectivity, in other words, cannot be viewed simply in its transcendence of determinacy. There must also be something which transcends the subject and to whose realization the subject's own intentional life is relative. Our capacity to choose is a capacity for a positive reality which is inclusive of us as subjects (much as our reality as subjects is inclusive of our nature as determinate) and which only choice makes possible. Apart from such a reality functioning as an objective end, choice is impossible and freedom an illusion.7

Moreover, this is not the only way in which individualism winds up defeating itself. The denial of objective ends is similarly self-frustrating in the realm of politics. For a plurality of agents in one field of action has to be unified if they are not to work at cross-purposes and accomplish nothing. But their unification is impossible without the subordination of the aims and interests of some to the aims and interests of others. If, however, all goods are subjective, then the idea of reaching a rational consensus about how these goods are to be ranked is unthinkable. The subordination of some aims to others, therefore, becomes the subordination of some preferences to others or, in other words, the domination of some people by other people. Hence, as one author puts it, "The liberal [read: individualist] attempt to establish freedom from domination through the impersonal rule of law [which reflects the values of no particular person and no particular group] is constantly undermined by the liberal insistence on the subjectivity of value."8 With no objective standard for appraising the worth of aims, whatever aims come to prevail in the group will do so, not because of their intrinsic merit, but because of the power behind them. The politics of individualsim is thus, inevitably, power politics.


So much for these first two views of human sociability. What we have to do now is elaborate an alternative. As the preceding pages have made clear, the crucial point is to establish an objective end for the subject, something that can serve as a final standard of judgment. In order to do this, let me first recall the meaning that was earlier attached to the term "subject." It will be remembered that the subject was not defined as pure thinker, detached knower, disinterested correlate of mental contents.9 The subject was instead identified with what we are aware of (and, in that sense, know) when we engage a fellow human in personal communication. It is the other, not as something merely attended to, but precisely as intending us. In other words, being a subject is not taken to be something passive, but active. It is not a matter of mere consciousness, being open to and aware of the other. It is rather a question of freedom, of self-disposition. The act of intending is an act of aiming oneself, of directing oneself, of actualizing oneself in this way and not that.

The Subjective Interest

This is why the subject cannot be thought of simply as part of something else. A being that can determine itself must first of all exist in itself. More importantly, for our present purposes, this conception of the subject as free agent (in contrast with the classical notion of the disinterested spectator) requires us to think of it also as an interest structure. For the subject cannot determine itself in one way rather than another unless it has some basis for discriminating between alternatives This basis can only be their relative bearing on the attainment of some objective it is already interested in reaching. It is only the agent's interest in some goal that can serve as a standard of appraisal. But the interest we are concerned with here cannot be one that is extrinsic to the exercise of self-disposition, i.e., to the subject's very being and life as a subject. For if it were thus extrinsic, it could function as a standard only if it were deliberately adopted. Its adoption, however, as the actualization of one possibility among many, would itself presuppose a previous interest functioning as a standard. Since this is the case with all the interests of the human self as determinate object (they are all only hypothetically normative), we are led to conclude that the subject's very nature as a subject is itself an interest structure. It is our own nature as free agents that is our final norm for choice and this means that simply as a free agent and antecedent to all our choices, we already have an end. Being a subject and having an objective end are thus one and the same.

Relationship as Objective End

What then is this objective end? For it can hardly function as a final norm if we are not aware of it. In order to answer this question, let us first ask ourselves: What is the context within which intentional activity, precisely as intentional, makes a difference? For as I mentioned earlier, the objective end must be a reality that is not only inclusive of us as subjects but also one that only choice makes possible. The answer is sufficiently obvious to make its neglect by philosophers something of a problem. The context within which activity as intentional, i.e., not in terms merely of its effects but in terms of its source, is meaningful is the context within which subjects themselves are meaningful. This context is neither the realm of ideas nor that of determinate objects.  As for ideas, the subject's unique reality as "I" is of no moment in the presence of the universal, the valid for anyone. An object, on the other hand, is precisely that which leaves the subject out of account, that to which the presence of the subject is a matter of indifference.10 The only context, therefore, within which the subject's intentional selfposition is meaningful is the context provided by other subjects with whom the subject is in personal relation. It is, in short, the context of communication--which, indeed, is why the communicative relationship was stressed earlier as being the locus in which the meaning of subjectivity is first disclosed.

One is reminded here of Kant's contention that the function of Reason is to bring about a good will.11 Were its ultimate purpose anything like human happiness, well-being or some other determinate state of affairs, this might more surely be accomplished by instinct. The self-justifying function of Reason is rather the achievement of something beyond the empirically determinate, to wit, a will that is good in its very willing. So also, analogously, here. The function of intentionality is not to bring about a specific transformation of the external situation. Its raison d'etre lies beyond the whole order of empirical objects and the ways in which such objects are arranged and re-arranged. No arrangement of empirical objects requires intentionality for its accomplishment. What calls for and justifies an act as intentional is the achievement of a relation of subjects, of persons. Apart from relationship, a "we" effected by the responsiveness of each of us to the other as "you," our lives as intentional would be without point.

This, then, is the larger reality in which persons can participate and still be themselves, and which only choice makes possible. And it is as an interest in this larger reality that the subject must finally be understood. Human subjectivity is by nature a capacity for, and an interest in, life-with-you.  This is not an interest which a person has, one among many, but an interest which defines the person. Moreover, it is this interest, identical with a nature of the subject, that alone provides a final standard of judgment and ultimately grounds choice. Actions consistent with this interest and in accord with the requirements of personal relationship are objectively right; those essential to relationship are obligatory; those inconsistent with relationship are objectively wrong. Finally since only actions consistent with the pursuit of our objective end are finally defensible, all others must be judged ultimately irrational and essentially self-frustrating. They are at one and the same time exercises of our capacity to choose and negations of its ground.


It would seem, therefore, that an alternative to the two views outlined earlier can indeed be espoused. It is one which, while emphasizing the essentially relational character of the person, at the same time stresses personal autonomy. Indeed, these two aspects are tied together. It is precisely because persons exist only in response to other persons that we must also view them as existing in themselves, i.e., as, self-determining wholes. Here then is the meaning of human sociability. Human beings are naturally social not only in the sense that their objective nature is a function of group life. Sociability is even more profoundly at the core of human intentionality. Every intentional activity is animated by an (at least) implicit reference to the other as you and, precisely as intentional, is in the last analysis an acceptance or rejection of relationship. Since life is human only as intentional, what this last comes down to is that the unit of human living is not the solitary ego, but "you and I" in communication. It is a unit that can be properly understood only from the "inside," by a participant, not by an observer. And neither the mathematical model of a "sum" nor the biological model of an "organism" do it justice. What is required is the distinctly personal model of a conversation or dialogue.

But the import of this third alternative is more than theoretical. Precisely because society is fundamentally a matter of intention, our ideas about it have a bearing on its realization. Political activity informed by mistaken conceptions thus becomes inherently self-frustrating. It is not that such activity must necessarily fail of its aims. It may very well be successful. But then its success will not satisfy. It will not be what those engaged in it really wanted but something at odds with their own natures.12

What, then, is the practical importance of rooting human sociability in our nature as subjects? The import of this move stems from the fact that it provides an objective basis for judgments of value while at the same time respecting the integrity and autonomy of persons. In so doing, it does not, to be sure, set up a kind of ready-made blueprint for action. Neither is it able to certify the objectively right course in a particular situation. It does not circumvent the need for rational deliberation nor eliminate its uncertainties. What it does do, however, is make such deliberation about the objectively worthwhile a meaningful activity, and so enable us to move beyond a politics of conformism or of compromise to a politics of consensus. With the organic view of society, deliberation is not meaningful since the good is not a matter of judgment but is already settled by our determinate nature. The individual's vocation is simply to conform to some authoritative formulation of it. So also with the individualist view. There is no point in deliberating about the objectively worthwhile, since according to this view there is no such thing. The only rational course for individuals is, given their empirical interests and the powers competing with them, to negotiate the most satisfactory arrangement for themselves. That this may include a society so ordered as to reflect their rational nature, we have already seen. That it categorically should, however, this position is unable to affirm. A rational consensus about the best course to follow in a given situation is consequently meaningless. Only, it would seem, in a position like our own, which recognizes a final standard of judgment does communal deliberation about what is most worth doing become intelligible. And only where such deliberation at least makes sense does the freedom of all from domination at last become possible.

Fordham University

New York


1. See Chap. 1, "The Field of the Personal" in John Macmurray's Persons in Relation (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), especially pp. 30-43. Anyone familiar with Macmurray's thought will recognize my deep indebtedness to him throughout this paper.

2. The tags are applied roughly without any attempt to distinguish the variety of positions covered by each. It is interesting to note that Roberto Unger, after his penetrating critique of liberal individualism in Knowledge and Politics (New York: The Free Press, 1975), seems unable to come up with an alternative other than a form of the organic view.

3. Cf. John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1971), p. 522.

4. See, for example Joseph Margolis, Values and Conduct (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971), pp. 31-34.

5. On this point and the following one, see the section "The Idea of Social Union" in John Rawls, op. cit., pp. 520-529.

6. Cf. Unger's discussion of the unity of universals and particulars, op. cit., pp. 137-144.

7. See my "Person, Community, and Moral Commitment" in Person and Community, ed. Robert J. Roth, S.J. (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1975), especially pp. 162-172; also my analysis of the interest underlying judgmental activity in "God and the Search for Meaning" in God Knowable and Unknowable, (New York: Fordham Univ. Press, 1973), especially pp. 257-267.

8. See Francis Canavan's feature review of Unger's Knowledge and Politics in Thought, 50 (1975), 432-437, p. 433.

9. Absolutely basic to Macmurray's thought is the shift from "self as thinker" to "self as agent." He restricts the notion of "subject" to the former and prefers "person" for the latter. I have used the terms "intending subject," "free agent," "free initiative," and "person" interchangeably.

10. For this idea of Marcel's, see Roger Troisfontaines' synthesis of his thought in De L'existence a l'etre, 2 Vols. (Paris: Vrin, 1953), especially Vol. 1, pp. 77-80.

11. See the first chapter of the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten.

12. On this point about the consequences of mistakes regarding matters of intention, see Macmurray, op. cit., p. 148.





The Metaphysics of Community

A community is a group of persons bound by real as well as by mental, connections. A community is not, therefore, as some existentialists propose, a mere sum of persons like atoms without mutual bonds, an agglomerate of absolute and hence solitary beings, steeped in self-depreciation. Nor is a community, as the NeoPlatonists suggest, an organic whole, a continuous and durable being, a special order or zone of reality. That notion is found today among Hegelians, in the thought of Teilhard de Chardin and among many in the natural sciences. A community is then composed of two essential elements: persons and interpersonal bonds; it is a unity, on the one hand, of individual, autonomous, and rational beings and, on the other hand, of contingent relations.

Just as a person is not a system of relations, but a subject in his or her own right and autonomous, the community is not a system for relations for these are essentially contingent and cannot exist in themselves. A community subsists only through its subjects which are its efficient causes. Hence, a community is defined as a unity of rational autonomous beings in non-autonomous relations.

The relations, as bonds between real persons, are then both real and personal; whereas between persons and their products they are only relations of reason. There are many personal relations: presence, conversations, friendships. There are also many relations of reason: descriptions, doctrines, sciences, ideologies, art, unity. We tend to confuse these two types of relations. We treat human beings as if they were only clients, sick people, workers, pentitents; inversely, we allow business interests, social machinations, interinstitutional rivalries, institutions, punishments and reward to dominate us.

The Metaphysics of Growth

If the community is a group of persons bound together by a multitude of real and mental relations, the growth or development of community consists in the appearance, continuation or change of these interpersonal bonds or relations between persons and other things or processes. The development of community is not a process or transformation taking place in a continuing and distinct structure. Instead, the growth of the community consists in working out the role and place of persons with other persons, substances and effects. It is the work of metaphysics to discern, acknowledge and describe this role and place of persons.

The NeoPlatonic ideas predominant in our days misconceive the difference between mental products and relations, on the one hand, and real beings, on the other, attributing to the former a value in themselves and superior to that of human persons. As a result society becomes more important than the individual human, the whole becomes more important than the part, the culture or ideology is placed above man, and institutions impose upon persons. Thus the person is reduced to the reality of a thing, that is, to being an interchangeable part in the midst of a larger structure or hierarchy of being.

It should be added that the same notions persist today in certain NeoPlatonizing theologies and currents of thought that dominate our epoch. They see man as part of a cosmos crowned by the person of Christ, in such wise that the person is conceived as a thing and loses the dignity of a being whose friendship with God is basically personal, individual and direct. Such theologies risk deforming the authentic message of Christian Revelation. According to Revelation Christ suffered for every person, for each human being, and not for a class, group or social stratum composed of men. Each person has been saved by Christ and endowed with his friendship; in each person Christ, with the Father and the Spirit, establishes his home. Thus, a person is not a thing or object, either among men or before God; rather one is chosen and is distinguished by one's personal friendship with God.

The person, then, is not a product, much less a system of real or mental relations, but a reasonably autonomous, singular, unique and individual being. The role or proper position of the person with others can be conditioned only by love. By one's profound personal nature with others to be an object of love, not of interests, machinations, rivalries, punishments or rewards.

Community and Its Development

In contemporary Polish metaphysics one can discern three principal notions of community:

1. A group or ensemble of persons who choose the common good in a similar manner (Card. Wojtyla).

2. A group of relations between persons whereby they achieve their existential goals in approaching God (M. Krapiec).

3. A group of persons, each of whom in relation to the others is the common good made concrete within their conscious.

These different conceptions have the common merit of clarifying and underlining persons. At the same time they have the common deficiency of not being precise regarding the essential constitutive element of community: "Similar activities" (Wojtyla), "the bond with God which perfects man" (Krapiec), "interiorization in a given person of the transcendental character of other persons." This could lead to confusion, for such general conceptions of the constitutive element of community, reduces the development of community to activities that are supposed to be common to all men such as establishing contact with God and all other persons. The constitutive factor of community, however, inasmuch as it defines its essence, cannot itself be contingent.

A community consists essentially of related persons as causes and subjects of their own interrelations. Consequently, its development and growth is nothing other than the place and role of given persons in relation to other persons and things.








The question of the relative priority of society and of individual person could be a fertile starting point for a critical analysis that reveals a multitude of mediations between two sharply opposed concepts and eventually discards the very question of priority in its initial simple form. On the other hand, interpretation of the question can be so misleading that it would give rise to extremely biased, mystifying and sometimes practically dangerous answers.

We still live in the world governed on the one hand by one-sided, narrow-minded ideologies of authoritarian collectivism which tend to assume full control over the life of the individual, and dominated on the other hand by possessive individualism which systematically over-emphasizes "free initiative" and civil liberties at the expense of social justice. We have been witnessing significant changes during the last three decades: increasing concern about civil rights and individual participation in collectivist societies, growing state control and social welfare in liberalist societies. But the changes are much too cautious, slow, and reluctant; and too often new initiatives and institutions tend to degenerate in an alien, incompatible environment. There are hardly any movements which struggle for genuine transcendence of the essential limitations of contemporary societies; it is usually one-person or one-journal armies. Where there are or have been movements, they invariably constitute what Hegel used to call "abstract negation": expressing demands extremely opposite to official values and aspirations, rather than transcending them, differentiating between the limited and the historically indispensable in them.

Thus, the Soviet dissident movement for civil rights, in its just struggle against bureaucratic oppression, tends to underestimate the remarkable achievements of its society in conquering poverty, ignorance, and excessive social differences. They do not come up with new solutions of the old conflict between the personal and the social; ideologically they go back to eighteenth-century liberalism or an even older patriarchal Christianorthodox political culture.

On the other hand, the New Left movement in the liberal societies, in its just struggle against wars backed by the capitalist establishment, and against the values of an over-competitive, over-discriminative, and consumerist society, has invited total destruction of the old world and the building of a new one on its ashes. It has tended to forget that it took centuries of struggle by the best human minds to achieve a certain level of technology, democracy and culture, and that only on that ground a really new, more rational and more democratic community could be built. Instead of showing how in principle the step can be made from representative to participatory democracy, from a competitive to a coordinated economy, and from a consumerist to a creative lifestyle, many New Left activists borrowed ideas directly from predominantly rural and authoritarian societies, and rather irrelevant in societies at much higher levels of material and cultural developments.


Abstract analytical thought, whether in its liberal or authoritarian version, tends to oppose the society and the person as two simple, unstructured, and unmediated entities. "Freedom of the individual" it is argued, "is absence of social constraint. The interests of the individual should be subordinated to the interests of society."

But what is this society which lays down norms, imposes laws, plans and controls life, awards and punishes, and requires sacrifices? Is it that immediate social community in which a person lives; one's family, neighborhood, peers, working place, or club? Or is it the nation, race, religion, political party, or movement to which one belongs? Is it the government of one's country, or community of countries? Or humankind at large?

A young man is ordered to go to war, as his government tells him that it is his sacred duty, and that there is nothing so noble as to die for his fatherland. His peers tell him that this is a lie, and that he should escape. His family tell him that they do not like to see him going to war, but that they even less like him being arrested and dishonored. The mass media tells him he should obey, whereas his moral and religious feelings strongly tell him that he should not. What is the voice of the society? Which social law has priority: written laws of his country, or unwritten ethical laws of a broad human community with which he shares basic values and commitments? But who stands for the society even as interpreted through the written law: those who wrote it, or those who interpret it (and interpret it in different ways)? Is the law the constitution, or the special bill, or the reading of either by one of the courts? Is the law what the judge eventually says? But an expensive lawyer makes a lot of difference in what the judge says. And there are higher level judges, and the Supreme Court sometimes overrides its own precedents. What sense does it make, then, when Jacques Maritain demands obedience even with respect to unjust laws? According to him: "Whether the law be just or unjust free men obey it only because it is just to obey, just by a justice intrinsic to the law."1 But even granted that we know which law we are talking about, what is there to give such a dignity to any law, no matter whether just or unjust? One might answer, the very principle of social order. But why should any order be better than any disorder? Orders are known in history which blocked all progress, and stifled human initiative and creativity for centuries. And examples of disorder are known which cleared the ground for liberation and unprecedented growth.

There are certainly philosophical ways to justify the ideas of law, of the state, and of social order--by reference to: eternal ideas (Plato), reason (Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza), general will (Rousseau), good will (Kant), or absolute mind (Hegel). However, these philosophical justifications, just because they are purely philosophical and not concrete and historical, refer to the concept of social order and not to all actual orders, nor to any specific social order--and if they do, like sometimes in the case of Hegel,2 they must be considered ideological and apologetic slips, unless they are sufficiently mediated and supported by detailed and comprehensive historical analysis. "A people is free," says Rousseau, "whatever the form of its government when it sees in that which governs it not a man but an organ of law and the law expresses the general will which is always in the right because it considers only the common interest."3 How is one to interpret a theory like this?

The apologist who commits himself to the views that the society or the government has unquestionable priority over the person, will first dogmatically and purely ideologically assume that the given law expresses general will. From that assumption he will derive the proposition that the given law is "always in the right, always an expression of common interest," and therefore that people will be "free" precisely when they obey the given law.

But if we do not make the unwarranted jump from the law in general to the given law, the only reasonable interpretation is: If the will expressed in the law is general will, i.e., the will that always pursues common interest, then persons will be free by following the law, because the law under those conditions would be the general element of their own will.

This leads us to the following two conclusions:

(1) Not every law and not every order should be obeyed.

(2) In order to know which social order deserves to be respected and which law is worth being obeyed, we must be able to establish what is "common interest" and what is "general will."


Now what is the unanalyzed person whose will is a constituent of the general will, and whose freedom is incompatible with social constraint?

One can hardly find sharper early expression of extreme individualism than in Stirner: "I have founded my thesis on nothing. . . . The divine is God's concern, the human man's. My concern is neither the divine nor the human, not the true, good, just, free, etc., but solely what is mine and it is not a general one, but is unique, as I am unique. Nothing is more to me than myself."4

Stirner could certainly have fully affirmed his individuality without asserting an unlimited egoism. He could have rid himself of all divine or pseudo-humanist Feurbachean mystification without inferring that he, as a creator, can build everything out of nothing,5 that all ideas deserve to be rejected,6 that he can be his own species . . . without norm, without law, without model,7 that one should not aspire to community, but to one-sidedness, that "one should not `seek'" the most comprehensive community, `human society,' but `seek' in others only means and organs which we may use as our property."8

This kind of absolute individualism cannot be even formulated in a consistent way. Stirner had to admit, in contradiction to everything that he said elsewhere: "Without doubt culture has made me powerful. . . . I receive with thanks what the centuries of culture have acquired for me; I am not willing to throw away and give up anything of it; I have not lived in vain."9

Stirner undoubtedly understood much better than he expressed the fact that without culture, without existing language and inherited ideas, without some kind of ethical concepts, there is no person as human being. But what he probably did not understand is that the essence of human culture is its productive and creative rather than consumerist character. Creating and giving away is greater joy than is taking and possessing. Friendship is doing things for the other without expecting return. Love is pure delight in making the beloved happy. Art is shaping new forms and looking around for someone who will genuinely need them. Philosophy is inventing words and thoughts which will help men of an epoch to understand their time, to become aware of their prejudices and grasp their best possibilities. A truly free, powerful and creative person opens oneself toward the world without fearing his vulnerability, one's life is so abundant and overflowing that one's will always be more ready to give than to take. And the very last thought in his mind would be "to seek in others only means and organs which he may use as his property," or what Nietzsche once said, "to desire to overpower . . . until, at last, the subjected creature has become completely a part of the superior creature's sphere of power."10

A person is indeed unique, endowed with some capacities, talents, needs, and dispositions which no other individual in the world has. One of the most important human rights, indeed the basic right of a person, is to be able to discover, express, develop, and cultivate those unique personal potential capacities and needs. This is the right to actually be what one potentially is. This is at the same time one of the clearest and most concrete criteria to evaluate the basic character of a social system. The best and earliest sign that a society is, or is going to become, oppressive, is the pursuit of uniformity, severe constraints on expressions of individuality, and a stress on external discipline and heteronomous conduct. A society that genuinely grows and develops, and that is becoming a real human community, will create favorable conditions for personal self-discovery and self-actualization. It has no reasons to accept as its general policy an external control and suppression of individual idiosyn- crasies for fear that some of them could be incompatible with social needs and norms.

There are two essential reasons for this tolerance. First, in contrast to the sphere of public social life (production of socially necessary goods and services, public decision-making, public education, mass media, etc.), there will be a growing sphere of private life, and organs of public power will have to refrain from interfering in what individuals do in their free time. Second, and most important, in the very basic structure of his or her being a person is not only a unique individual but also a social being. As a social being a person will have a critical attitude toward his or her individual idiosyncrasies, and will autonomously--rather than as pressed from outside--decide which of these unique personal dispositions should be given priority, in what direction they should be developed, and how their initial natural genetic forms should be transcended into socialized and cultivated ones.


A person is a social being in a particular and in a universal sense. The particular sense is obvious; since birth an individual belongs to a growing number of particular social groups, such as family, neighborhood, school, community, larger local community, and nation. One is socialized through interaction and through reward and punishment. One learns one's mother tongue, communicates, is educated, receives an increasing amount of information, and is exposed to and asked to comply with an increasing number of rules. Some of these are in conflict with a morality and a particular ethnic tradition learned at home, with the ideology of the national state, with more or less present racial or religious awareness and solidarity, or with an implicit or explicit class-and-status-consciousness. Pulled to different and often mutually incompatible gravitational centers, the person either lives a chaotic and incoherent life, or finds it useful to be deliberately split, or manages to introduce necessary harmony by sacrificing some commitments and allegiances in favor of others.

But no matter how conformist or harmful for the unique creativity of the individual these various particular forms of socialization might be, they are the mediating link between unique individuality and the universal humanity of a person. By learning the mother tongue the individual actualizes his universal human capacity to learn a language and communicate with other human beings. The disposition to learn any language, to communicate with any symbolic forms, is already in the person's genetic make-up. But it can be manifested, objectified and fixed only in some particular social community, and in just one definite phase of individual development, never later. With the help of a rapidly-growing network of symbolic forms in any particular ethnic environment a person develops universal senses to experience the world, to see and feel in an increasingly more comprehensive, articulated, and richly interpreted way than with crude primitive senses. That this power of cultivated senses is universal can be seen from the fact that, once developed due to one particular symbolic form, its results can be translated into other particular forms.

This is even more true with regard to the capacity of rational thought. Had an individual never been exposed to learning concepts and solving problems, his built-in genetic disposition to generalize, discriminate, grasp regularities, and derive logical conclusions from given premises, would vanish. But once developed, it becomes trans-national and trans-cultural. And the same applies to imagination, critical capacity, creative work, and so on.11

Once a person has lived in a definite human community, and developed basic universal human capacities, he becomes universally social and stays that way even when living alone on a deserted island, as the story of Robinson Crusoe beautifully illustrates. This leads to the following two conclusions.

(1) It depends on social conditions in a particular community whether our universal humanity, our communicative, rational and creative capacities, will develop, stay dormant, be crippled, or perish altogether. What then could be a better criterion of critical evaluation of various particular societies; of establishing which are progressive, just, and emancipatory, and which are retrogressive, unjust, and oppressive? What could be a better ethical criterion for a person to judge among various particular commitments, whether national, ideological, religious, or racial?

(2) Because society is such a complex, stratified,and multilevel structure, it can never become completely corrupt and dehumanized, nor can all its members be alienated. Surely if this should ever happen to a society it would lack any forces for recovery. Many students of Marx have had great difficulty in understanding how the most dehumanized and alienated social class, the proletariat, was supposed to create the most humane form of society that ever existed. The truth is that, fortunately, neither the political regime nor the economic structure constitute the whole society, and that many persons and whole social segments escape dehumanization. A potential universal humanity is genetically built-in, ready to burst forth as soon as conditions become favorable within any particular social community.


States and new movements often seek legitimation by construing their particular interests as "general" ones: "defence of the free world," "economic justice," "worker's state," "national liberation." There are several clues that help a person--under pressure to support and actively engage in "the cause"--to detect a selfish particular interest lurking behind it. One is by mystification of both ends and means. Goals are formulated in terms of hypostatized abstract entities (National Glory, Free Society, the New Order, Dictatorship of the Proletariat). Means are justified by the ends, which is a quite pragmatic and indeed cynical procedure, given that the ends themselves have no rational and ethical ground. Another clue is extreme disregard for personal integrity, the demand of mere obedience, reinforced by external discipline, intolerance for individual criticism and dissent, and interpretation of anything less than total acceptance as betrayal. A third clue is mobilization of mass support on a low motivational basis, along with a tendency to take human beings rather than institutions as targets for attack, which results in outbursts of unnecessary violence. Once a social undertaking is moved by resentment and hatred for all persons of an opposite creed, race, nation or class, it is bound to end up in pathological deformations of whatever were the initially declared goals.

Fourthly, there is the authoritarian structure of decision- making within the social establishment or movement which allegedly pursues a universal human interest. Once the person is asked to surrender his power to a central authority, once decisions that deeply affect him are being taken without his participation, once his loyalty is called for and not his suggestions or critical opinion, it is clear that the person is confronted with a selfish particular interest, and that between universal emancipatory claims and the actual reality there is quite a substantial gap.

Between a person and the society there are a variety of conflicts and a variety of possible temporary identifications at different levels. The interesting question is when a person, who is fully developed as both a unique individual and a universal human being, finds it possible to identify with a society. And the answer seems to be that identification is possible when there is no longer a monopoly of political and economic power in the hands of any particular elite which usurps the right to speak in the name of the whole society; when there is no more public power at different levels of social organization than is necessary to coordinate necessary social activities and direct the communal development; when none of the public power is (professionally) political, and all of it is delegated and responsible to the electorate, subject to change and recall, and controlled by a powerful democratic public opinion. In such a self-governing community12 social institutions really pursue common interests and a person is as free as possible because both aspire toward the same inherent, universal humanity.

University of Belgrade

Belgrade, Yugoslavia


1. Jacques Maritain, Scholasticism and Politics (New York: The MacMillan Co.), pp. 102-103.

2. Already in an early essay on the German Constitution, written from 1799 to 1802, Hegel began to apply his philosophical ideas to German conditions. While he praised the independent German states as "an expression of the inherent German passion for autonomy," he characterized that historical state as a period of negative freedom of the princes, and proclaimed the historical necessity of entering into a new stage of "positive freedom" within a national state where the freedom of the citizen would be guaranteed by the concentration of all state power in one center: a national German monarch. "But that a monarch is at the same time the state power, or that he has the supreme power, or that a state exists at all--these are synonymous." (Hegel, Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs, ed by G. Mollat, Stuttgart, 1935, pp. 46, 58, 83, 84, 112-13).

3. J. J. Rousseau, Lettres ecrite de la Montaigne, in Oeuvres completes de J. J. Rousseau (ed. P. R. Anguis [Paris: Dalibon, 1824] vol. VII, Part II, Letter VII), p. 438; J. J. Rousseau, The Social Contract, in The Social Contract and Discourses, transl. by G.D.H. Cole (Everyman's Library; New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1950) B. II, ch. 6, p. 37.

4. Max Stirner, The Ego and His Own, New York: Harper & Row, 1974, p. 41.

5. Ibid., p. 41: "I am not nothing in the sense of emptiness, but I am creative nothing out of which I myself as creator create everything."

6. Ibid., p. 49.

7. Ibid., p. 55.

8. Ibid., p. 214.

9. Ibid., p. 238.

10. Nietzsche, The Will to Power (London: T. N. Foulis, 1914), vol. II, p. 130.

11. M. Markovic, From Affluence to Praxis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1974), pp. 12-16.

12. More on the humanist assumption of self-government: Ibid., ch. 7, "The New Human Society and its Organization," pp. 209- 249; "Self-management and Efficiency," in M. Markovic, The Contemporary Marx, (Nottingham: Spokesman Books, 1974), ch. 12, pp. 208-217; "Philosophical Foundations of the Idea of Self- management," "Socialism and Self-management," and "Self-government and Planning," in Self-governing Socialism, ed. by B. Horvat, M. Markovic and R. Supek (White Plains, New York: International Arts and Sciences Press, Inc., 1975), vol. I, pp. 327-351, 416-438, 479-491; "Basic characteristics of Marxist Humanism," decentralization--A Precondition of a More National Society" and "Political Power, State, Self-government" in M. Markovic, Democratic Socialism: Theory and Practice (Sussex: The Harvester Press; New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982).





Comment and Counter-Proposal to Professor Markovic's

"Person as a Unique Universal Social Being"





The paper not only interestingly but often brilliantly poses several detailed questions, and also contains many accurate and concrete formulations. Within the framework of accepted philosophical assumptions, the author aims at an objective approach to difficult problems. Based on his own often new interpretations of the European philosophical heritage, he endeavors to concretize humanism and formulates with deep concern propositions for the defense of the great values of our common human tradition.

The introduction supporting Hegel's refusal of the principle of "abstract negation" has important consequences. This allows the author, sometimes even to a considerable extent, to surmount the limited nature of the New Left programs and to present the glaring and literally reactionary nature of some anti- socialistic pronouncements, which are incapable of suggesting any constructive alternatives to the Communist movement. Also correct is the closely related statement on the lack of proper class and historical orientation of the New Left.

However, it is unfortunate that the author did not extend this principle of class-historical perception of phenomena to his entire paper. One of the consequences of this is the omission of differences within the New Left, in which we will also find valuable elements of criticism of capitalistic development and of the errors of the socialist and communist movement. Another consequence is omission of the positive moment of differentiation of leftist movements in general. To be sure, lack of unity weakens the power of the entire Left, but at the same time it reflects the unusually broad popularization of socialist ideas, corresponding to very different socio-historical conditions.1

In the name of the above common values, and scientific philosophical discussion, and with a view to constructive program and building understanding, I wish strongly to underline: 

1. the positive aspects of opposing theoretical propositions;

2. the principle of treating differences also as values, on condition that they do not undermine mutual, fundamental values, but aim at enriching them; and

3. the need for the development of a new type of philosophical discussions.

Ideological struggle is not only a reality resulting from class-political differences, for the intellectualist it is an imperative, a consequence of fidelity to truth and the cohesiveness of theory. For not only realism, but also intellectual exactitude requires one to repudiate the illusion of abandoning this battle or introducing immediate ideological compromises. At the same time, these same realistic moral presumptions warrant one to

seek and develop mutual values, even though these may be differently justified.2 In the long run philosophers may be more responsible than politicians for the world's future. Marx was correct in his famous statement on ideas which become material forces when they dominate the masses, and perhaps Husserl was right when he defined philosophers as "functionaries of mankind."

Important among these are socialism and humanism. The first links us with Prof. Markovic, though we may many a time differently understand the vital constituents of this concept. The second, certainly, we share with many, though the differences in understanding humanism may be enormous .Perhaps these very differences are one of the most important subjects for discussion.

Conditions for fruitful and direct discussion, however, are to eschew equivocous formulations and to pose questions as accurately as possible. A necessary precondition of such scientific precision in human studies is historicism and the closely related class perception of phenomena from the point of view of the philosophy of history. Despite some simplified interpretations of Marxism, as well as some theoretically important but peculiarly neo-dogmatic interpretations,3 the principle of class and historicism in authentic Marxism is closely connected with humanism, with the principle of the accumulation and inheritance of authentic values, wherever and whenever they were created. 

This raises some specific issues. At one point, Prof. Markovic asks several questions concerning the relation of a young man to war. They are formulated without reference to concrete national-class-historical situations, and thus each of them may be answered in many ways. In the accepted theoretical horizon of the paper, one cannot justify any answer outright. In the case of the young heroes in the battles against Fascism there is actually no need to ask such questions. It is a matter of fact, that they defended, not only their class and nation, but also the general values of humanism.

One may presume that some of the author's questions have rhetorical character after all, and are proof of his oratorical talent; for example, on the same page we read: "What is the voice of the society? Which social law has priority? Written laws of his country, or unwritten ethical laws of a broad human community with which he shares basic values and commitments?"4 The brilliant and ironic remarks against sophistry in the interpretation of written law are a correct answer, though an indirect one.

On the same page, however, Prof. Markovic treated Jacques Maritain too one-sidedly as a result of an ahistorical approach.5 Not only the majority of Christian thinkers, but also official advocates of the Apostolic See, including the two last popes, have distanced themselves from the centuries-old tradition of "natural law" as a means of sanctifying ruling authority and exploitative regimes. This includes the "established confusion" of capitalism, as E. Mounier correctly called it. Cooperation between Christians and Marxists in the name of social justice and progress, of peace and humanism, may become one of the means of saving the world, as well as the subject of unusually fruitful discussions from the cultural point of view.6

On the other hand, Prof. Markovic's summarizing remark at the end of this paragraph is completely justified: "Disorders are known which cleared the ground for liberation and unprecedented growth." It is worth adding that Marx made similar remarks on the American Revolution; the positive estimation of this aspect of bourgeois as well as socialistic revolutions is closely linked with the fundamental constructions of historical materialism.

Marxism as a Class and Universal Philosophy

A historian of philosophy (especially one who treats works of human thought also as a process of gaining knowledge) will recognize residues of linear, dogmatic Marxism in estimations of various "philosophical ways to justify the ideas of law, of the state, of social order," as "ideological, apologetic slips."

As a rule they constitute absolutizations of the partial truths of various stages of historical recognition.7 Engels and Lenin8 noted that scientific socialism also originates from Aristotle9 and certainly from Spinoza and Rousseau. The sources of Marxism can be traced to many national cultures (besides the three classically ascertained by Lenin). For example, many elements of Marxist humanism and the theory of the national question undoubtedly were inspired by Marx's studies on Polish history.10

This has paramount significance for contemporary times. Such an authentic and historically profound movement of human community as socialism which looms so large on the universal scale must consider all achievements, including the contemporary. The future united culture of a socialistic world and a complete man ("der totale Mensch," according to Marx) will have to incorporate all accomplishments, liberating them from today's political and class functions and meanings. This concerns, of course, not only the great achievements of American civilization and culture which can be very easily justified, but also of "exotic" cultures very distant from the "Western" manner of thinking. H. Parsons tried to effectively show in his important book that Marxism may efficiently break barriers of cultural strangeness, while respecting to a maximum degree the distinctiveness of such cultures.11

The apparent digression of the last few paragraphs allows us to approach, from our point of view, answers to the question contained in Prof. Markovic's conclusions. Dialectical thinking must differentiate various grades or levels of "common interest" and "general will," according to one's ideas about the socialization of community.

Prof. Markovic's Ideas

The finesse and depth of many of Sartre's deductions, especially when he moved from phenomenology to historical materialism, fascinated some Marxists who, however, took a road leading in the opposite direction, from Marxism to various existential, phenomenological, and other positions--the paradox of ideological transformations!

Prof. Markovic, instead, in the basic parts of his paper strives for a concretization of Marxism in the defense and development of his humanistic content. However, some of his formulations such as "one man or one-journal armies" (though logically contradictory to other theses, for example, about the New Left) block the possibility of class analysis, and thus of sociological precision. They also tend to exclude worthy deliberation of the one universal social force that may assure the development and even the salvation of human civilization. Marxism, as a real humanism, must also be a realism; it must be closely linked with authentic revolusionism and hence above all with creative attitudes.

Below I develop the idea of Marxism as the philosophy of creativity; in my opinion, only fully effective creativity fully effective surmounts subjection to social and theoretic evil. The "abstract negation," of which Prof. Markovic so justly reminded us, often leads to deep and unnoticed intellectual dependence on criticized evil. The author is right to reject it.

I approve with the greatest interest the plurality of values in the author's beautiful remarks on creativity,12 friendship, love, and philosophical invention. I wish to underline how much it goes beyond the horizon of E. Fromm's famous work, "Love as the Solution of the Problem of Human Existence." We will probably agree that love (in itself) has often been a mystification or utopian dream as a means of social transformation; only when linked with just striving, could it solve problems of man-society relations, and then only partially.

Today, however, just creativity may solve the problem of human existence; though to do so it must be connected with struggle, love, etc.  We are both against the separation of individual aspects of human existence and thus against absolutization, and by same token the alienation, of existence. For this reason, I would prefer a somewhat more precise and revealing definition of the "essence of human culture" underlining that it indeed has a "consumerist character" as well. Consumption is one of the most important aspects of culture in a universal perspective: exactly as one means of linking the individual with society. This is the paramount phenomenon from the ontological point of view, inasmuch as the reception of culture is its co-creation.113 In an anthropological approach in a developed socialistic society (in contradistinction to society or sections of society dominated by mass culture) it gives the broadest chances, apart from creative work, for solving the "antinomy" of individuals and society in such wise that the receiver at the same time becomes the creator.14

Similarly I would broaden and modify the idea of humanism, which for Markovic is closely connected with naturalism and which was considered even in the example-equation form in "The Economic-Philosophical Manuscripts."

a) It is still the case today that man has "the right to actually be what one potentially is." This results of course from the destruction of "human nature" by previous social conditions.

b) Nature itself must be seen historically; naturalism must take history into account. If, for example, nature is also man's essence, then as a "complexity of social relations" this essence is subject to development.15 The ecological crisis stimulates today and sometimes absolutizes this original naturalism but, besides valid slogans on the defense of nature, one must also see in it "natural evil." Socrates, drinking hemlock, linked himself through nature with death; today, cancer is a natural phenomenon and so is death. Will we always be reconciled with both of them?

c) Thus I propose extending the concept of humanism, transcending it and complementing it with humanistic creationism. In order to really solve the problem of human existence, we must basically develop man's nature, in the biological, as well as the existential sense.16 The philosopher must sometimes suggest very far-reaching projects based on the coherence of theory.

Prof. Markovic' previously discussed concept is a classic Marxian idea, even a repetition with the help of contemporary terminology a famous thesis of the "Communist Manifesto," in his beautiful statement: "A society that genuinely grows and develops and that is becoming a real human community will create favorable conditions for personal self-discovery and selfactualization." In relation to naturalism, we must develop Marxism according to its own principles in the same way, one must look deeper into the relation of the private and public spheres of a man's life. Their opposition arises naturally out of the antinomy of class societies; in an authentic community, it ceases to be a political and humanistic problem, and becomes purely technical.

I sharpen this formulation purposely, for I feel along with all its virtues, the greatest fault of Prof. Markovic's philosophy is that it is dominated by a problematic horizon, forced on by antagonistic societies and their antinomies.

Despite all its reservations, the proposed approach grows out of a metaphysical (in a counter-dialectic meaning) opposition of the individual and society. This manifests itself in a lack of differentiation of categories in the description of man, and reduces almost everything to the notion of "person." This gives rise to a conception of society in which divergent and opposing activities of individuals, groups, etc., remind one of the disorderly, chaotic, and hence absurd "Brownian movements" seen under a microscope.

University of Warsaw

Warsaw, Poland


1. In his paper in Santiniketan (see Man and Nature, ed. George F. McLean; Calcutta: Oxford Univ. Press, 1978), Prof. A. Woznicki paid attention to this differentiation, but in a classically idealistic manner (in the sense of historical idealism), and introduced it with a differentiation of interpretations of Marx's theory: ". . . different ways of interpreting Karl Marx leads to a wide variety of contemporary socio-political movements" "Nature and Human Praxis in Karl Marx," in Dialectics and Humanism, Nr. 3, 1976). A related aspect--youth and dynamics of scientific socialism--though exaggerated is beautifully formulated as quoted in the paper in Sartre's statement: "Far from being exhausted, Marxism is still very young, almost in its infancy: it has scarcely begun to develop. It remains, therefore, the philosophy of our time."

2. For a more extensive treatment of this see:  J. Kuczynski, "The Marxist-Christian Dialogue" (Dialectics and Humanism, No. 2, 1974); and idem, Christian-Marxist Dialogue in Poland, (Warsaw: Interpress, 1979).

3. For example, Maoism and various aspects of the "cultural revolution"; also L. Althusser in his subtly developed, yet historically and theoretically false thesis, that "Marxism is not humanism," since it is concisely scientific (L. Althusser and E. Balibar, Lire le Capital, Paris: Maspero, 1968).

4. This was once, in the period of battle with Stalinism, a vital problem. I think that momentous theoretical accomplishments in proving the existence of supra-historical elementary norms and moral laws, as well as showing the presence of such a conviction in classic Marxism, are evident in Marek Fritzhand's famous book entitled, Man, Humanism, Morality. From Studies on Marx (Warsaw, Ksiazke i Wiedza Publishers, 1961).

5. I do not know exactly why, but under the influence of his stay in the USA, Maritain's views became more retrograde. One must remember, however, his magnificent fight against Franco's fascism (in remarks, openly contradictory to the ones cited in the paper). Also, Polish Marxists will never forget that "Integral Humanism" was inspirational to broad circles of Polish liberal intelligentsia in the battle against the "laws" of the German occupational state. Naturally, irrespective of this, we conducted and will continue to conduct philosophical understanding and scientific discussion with theo-centric humanism.

6. I anticipated this a few years ago in the Polish commentaries on the ideological aspects of the Second Vatican Council (J. Kuczynski - "Porzadek nadchodzacego swiata" /Order in the Oncoming World/, Warsaw: Ksiazka i Wiedza, 1976), recent years more broadly confirm these predictions. The policy of social cooperation with the Christian world was inaugurated by Lenin; Thalmann confirmed this in his speeches, as has Berlinger in the famous idea of the "historic compromise."

7. "From the point of view of primitive, vulgar, metaphysical materialism, philosophical idealism is only rubbish. To the contrary, from the point of view of dialectic materialism, philosophical idealism is one-sided and exaggerated, . . . one of the minute features, one of the sides of the edge of recognition . . ." (W.I. Lenin - Philosophical Notebooks, Warsaw: "Ksiazka i Wiedza" 1956, pp. 338-339).

8. "We, German socialists, are proud of the fact that we descend from Kant" - this statement is sufficiently expressive. Lenin required communists to acquire all human knowledge.

9. The extent of the theoretical discoveries of Aristotle was often underlined by Marx.

10. It suffices to mention Marx's unique estimation of the classical altruism of the Polish nobility, which, for the good of their Fatherland, renounced part of their important state privileges in the May 3rd Constitution of 1791. I documented and analyzed this problem in the book entitled Individuality and Fatherland (Warsaw: Panstwowy Istytut Wydawniczy, 1972); also see my article, "The National Question and Real Humanism" and J. Borgosz, "National and Internationalist Aspects of Marxist Philosophy" (Dialectics and Humanism, Nr. 1, 1975).

11. H. Parsons, "Man East and West" (Amsterdam: B.R. Gruner, 1975). To a considerable degree inspired by the conference in Santiniketan, co-organized by the International Society for Metaphysics, Dialectics and Humanism issued a special publication on Indian philosophy, devoted mainly to the matter of the relation of Marxism to Indian culture in the perspective of world culture.

12. There has recently been a substantial increase of interest in creativity as a philosophical problem. Tatarkiewicz published an important historical analysis of this phenomenon in "Dzieje szesciu pojec" History of Six Ideas; (Warsaw: Panstwowy Instytut Wydauniczy, 1975). Intensive research is being carried out by soviet scholars (for example, Kiedrow, Altszuller, Korszunow and Bibler, the Georgian school of philosophical anthropology, and Towmasjan in Armenia). Unfortunately, I am acquainted with only a few American works, though for example from E. Landau's Psychologie der Kreativitat, (Munchen: E. Reinhardt, 1972) we know how many there are. With greater interest, I have begun studies on materials of "The Foundation for Creative Philosophy," in which H. Parsons' paper displays the surprising convergences between some of Wieman's thinking and Marx's theses. W. Minor's paper, "Range and Depth of Creative Interchange," is also very persuasive. This matter demands, a separate discussion which, on account of the manner of posing the problems in the above-mentioned materials, will certainly be scientifically fruitful.

13. Roman Ingarden, in his book, "Das literarische Kunstwerk" (Halle: E. Niemeyer, 1931) proved this in detail. His achievements were recently highly rated during the conference "Marxist Critique of Phenomenology and Philosophy of R. Ingarden," especially in the papers of K.K. Dolgow, J. Fizer, N. Motroszylowa, D.M. Rasmussen, McCormick, Ojzerman and Henrich. See Dialectics and Humanism No. 2, 3 and 4, 1975.

14. A. Kuczynska, "Piekn--Mit i Rzeczywistosc" (Beauty, Myth and Reality; 2nd ed; Warsaw: Wiedza "Powszechna" 1976).

15. I think that certain elements of this non-historical, aprioristic naturalism (sources of which are to be found in the Stoics, Rousseau, and some trends of American cultural anthropology) were evident at the Santiniketan conference, for example in the pages of Professors Bhattacharyya's and Thakur's papers. Such an approach is also found in H. Parsons' inspiring book, "Man East and West."

16. So that there be no misunderstandings, I would note that I reject the idea of super-man. This involves me in a polemics with the numerous successors of Nietzsche, which is presented very extensively in my book, "Zmierzch mieszczanstwa. Immoralizm--nihilizm--faszyzm" (Decline of the Bourgeoisie: Immoralism--Nihilism--Fascism (Warsaw: Panstwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1966).






For objects there is no coexisting or being other: objects simply exist. Being "with" another, however, means that at the same time, the other is with me. In life there is no other way of being than "with" others, which is equivalent to saying that "being with" one's fellow-men is a primordial manner of existence. As no persons pre-existed society, there has never been a moment of association simply in view of a goal. We find ourselves living by reciprocal actions with usages, traditions and beliefs. These social forms do not belong to anyone in particular; they are everyone's. This does not mean, of course, that they lack meaning. On the contrary, because social phenomena as intelligible structures are full of sense, it has been possible to develop sociology and social philosophy.

Social life has a spiritual nature and, in time, takes the form of institutions, limited groupings and individual actions. It should be well-understood that society is not a subsistent entity. Social realities are meaningful totalities, not by any inconstancy of romantic thinking, but because of the tested fact that in every concrete, social phenomenon the whole precedes the parts. This is a priority of logic or of meaning, rather than of time. In history, however, social groups interact so as to form society. Persons convert the universe of the spiritual values into historical reality by their concretion in greater or lesser circles of life. It is necessary, therefore, to find the structural law of the spiritual world and to fix the appropriate position for the different sub-groups in society.

Even though the hierarchical order of the spiritual universe remains the same for all times, some realizations are genuine while others are deficient. However, the fact that there is an absolute norm and that realizations are more or less complete does not imply a static concept of society. There is a difference between the ideal and the concrete order, whether in the United States or in Russia, in the twelfth century or in the twentieth century, for in the temporal and developing world the spiritual is not pure, but diluted in empirical phenomena.

It is commonly said that society perfects and develops mankind, as if by some external addition. Nothing could be more erroneous. Society is a projection of peoples' most deeply felt reality. Whether it is a decision that affects all humans, a great natural institution or a spontaneous personal enterprise between neighbors, it pursues a temporal public benefit for the people. The common good is reflected, finally, in the goodness distributed because from the beginning it was a social community of personal goods.

In coexisting with others, a person gives birth to and develops one's spiritual life. The individual and the social are two essential aspects of a person. To destroy either of these aspects is to destroy the person. As a mobile and relatively autonomous spirit, the person possesses the nonspatial and incorporeal faculty of putting himself in the place of his fellowmen. Around each person there grows an ever-expanding circle of communities. In love, this spiritual movement and social freedom reach their perfection.

To undertake an ontology of society one must begin with the real, concrete man in his characteristic relation to other men. Prior to any concrete option, the person is destined from the depths of his being to live socially. The person is an open being-in-himself; progressively, he achieves his own dynamic self- development. Every human is a relative being who transcends the order of mutual necessity. Hence, human communication is intentional reciprocity, and this coexistence of men is directed toward the realization of a union with the fundamental and founding being.

Being-together-in-the-world is a primary character of intersubjectivity. I am authentic only when I discover the other as thou. Upon discovering the thou I discover the intersubjective we, which is supra-real, supra-concrete and transcendental. Only within this existential orientation does the social phenomenon become a scientific object. Love accents and underlines the singularity of the other. In it there resides the animating power of human activities and the interchange of persons; in it corporality becomes dialogue.

It is not enough to say that we are beings-in-the-world; we must add that we expand toward and project ourselves toward the world. More than an encounter with the world, we have being with the world. Hence, I speak, not of being thrown into the world, but of being implanted in it with a personal mission.

Justice, which depends upon respect for the other and exhorts us to give each one his due, rests upon the proper and distinctive value of each human being. The rights of the person have always constituted the main focus of the struggle for justice. If lawfulness is social order, humans and their good are situated at the center of law. To give adequate recognition to human dignity, the law must recognize and protect the liberty of men as morally independent and self-responsible beings. This sphere of moral freedom with its ontic foundation is not subject to the decisions of the authorities as if it were a mere instrument in the service of the purposes of the state, the race or the social class. It is a matter of safeguarding a supreme good by legal justice, for every right is a contribution to the realization of a moral life, assuring its free development and establishing an ethical "minimum." Respect for human dignity is demanded of every person and of the community itself, the state or the nation. It is one thing for an individual to want to sacrifice oneself voluntarily on behalf of the community, and another very different thing for the community to impose that sacrifice. The rights of man, based upon the moral command to respect human dignity, derive from the ontological reality of one's capacity for self-determination.

For this reason, a person is capable of law and of acting in a juridically responsible manner. To fulfill one's specific objectives, the individual must conserve, develop and perfect one's being. This ontological requirement of the full development of one's being bases the inalienable and irremovable character of the fundamental rights of the human person.

The human individual is, essentially, an incarnate spirit, intelligent, independent and free, who as a self-contained whole acts upon the world while remaining open to communication with his fellowmen. In the existential plan, the individual is the original and transcendental possibility of a search for salvation. His liberty and communicability, within his space-time dimensions, are projected toward the Subsistent Plenitude. In the multidimensional being of man one should distinguish such material aspects as the corporeal and the living, such religious aspects as both the deiform which originates from God and the theotropic which is directed toward God. From the material fact of being a living organism are derived such fundamental powers as the rights to life, to physical integrity, to the use and disposition of material goods for subsistence and to work. The spiritual, cultural and historical aspects of the person are the bases for the right to communicate thinking, to educate children, to have legal security and to participate in public life. From the religious aspect is derived the rights to direct oneself toward God and not to deliver one's soul to the community, the state, the social class or the race, although in times of danger one's life can be given for the community. A political society can ask its citizens to sacrifice their lives when the country so requires, but it can never ask for the sacrifice of their souls.


Although there exist numerous classifications of human rights, we prefer a classification that attends to the distinctive nature of its object:

1) Civil or properly individual rights: the rights to life; to physical freedom and to the guarantees of due process; to freedom of religion, education, expression and assembly; to equality; to property; and to the inviolability of the home.

2) Political or civil rights: the rights to one's national identity, to participate in the civic life of the country, etc.

3) Economic rights: the rights to just and satisfactory remuneration, to an adequate standard of living, etc.

4) Social rights: the rights to work and to the choice of work, to social security, to protection of maternity and of infancy, etc.

5) Cultural rights: the right to participate in the cultural life of the community, to education, etc.

All these rights are connatural, universal and absolute in the sense that every person and authority must respect them; they are necessary in an ontological sense because they are derived from each person's own human nature; they are inalienable, inviolable and imprescriptible. Notwithstanding, human rights neither can nor must impair the legitimate interests of society. No human rights can justify transgressing the boundaries imposed by ethics, by other's rights or by the demands of temporal public welfare. Just as the collectivity cannot be a justification for breaching the prerogatives of the person, neither is it admissible for an excessive exaltation of the individual to impede the common welfare. Not only does the individual have rights; each people has the right to assure that its personality, independence and culture be respected. In addition, states have the right to an adequate standard of living.

Beside the traditional individual rights, the community has social rights, for example, that its members enjoy the benefits of education, culture and the minimum socio-economic well-being. While individual rights are susceptible to jurisdictional protection, social rights lack this type of protection.

Through history there has been slow but sure progress in the fundamental rights of mankind. Together with the development of culture there has been a progressive awareness of one's human dignity. In ancient times theoretical formulations of human rights did not exist, nor were there legal norms to protect them. From primitive cruelty till the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (1948), a long, hard road has been traversed. There remain the great landmarks in the history of human rights: the Spanish judicial power in the Magna-Carta of Leon (1188), the British Magna Carta (1215), the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Declaration of Independence of the United States (1776), the American Bill of Rights (1787), the Declaration of Human and Citizens' Rights (1789) of the French Revolution, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the creation in Western Europe of a legal system of international protection of human rights (The European Convention, 1950).

This is an impressive listing of doctrinal formulations. It must be asked, however, if effective respect for human dignity, beyond words and declarations, is exercised in every nation. The reports of the different commissions of jurists state that in many regions of the earth there is a great distance between the legal texts and reality. Thus, there has been talk of a geography of freedom in order to diffuse the great spiritual and moral values in every region of the world. At the same time there is need for a bold struggle for the social, economic and technological progress of underdeveloped regions. Were the huge expenditures of the armament race to be assigned even in small part to promoting the national income of underdeveloped countries, it would contribute to the abolition or reduction of "infra-life."


Etymologically, the word progress, from the Latin progressio, means moving ahead, the action of advancing or pursuing something. In a philosophical sense, however, progress is accomplished only when values are fulfilled and the conditions of life are improved. Not every change is progress; some may be truly retrogressive. A change of structures is desired, not for the change itself, but for progress in the realization of the essential human values of truth, goodness, beauty, justice and, above all, love. The person, in his search for integral self-realization, is the cause of social changes. As just one has a real power which actualizes itself in behavior. This power is initially conceptualized in norms that are esteemed or valued. Justice is motive power, whereas injustice by excess, defect, perversion or demerit is human frustration.

Though the human person is the dynamic principle which initiates change, it is accomplished by models which thematize values and refer to the ideal of society. There is no model without reference to goals and goods. Particular projects are pragmatic plans for transforming or adjusting to, the environment. We need the model in order not to perish from excessive mechanism and pragmatism; but we also need the project in order not to tarry in the ideal order alone. Change requires the search for a spiritual "home," a new vision of the cosmos, because people desire to have a more full and creative spirit.

This problem is not resolved by destroying the past or by its superficial modification. The solution lies not in building a new society with limited social engineering, but in developing mature political decisions in terms of concrete situations. We cannot eliminate the political act and replace it by a "governing machine." Computerized thought would, if possible, reduce all metaphysics to physics and every ethical evaluation to technological purpose. In contrast, true thought would return everything to its original place, its proper and essential context, its origin or beginning. Cybernetics cannot substitute for political action.

As the nature of the answers furnished by computers depends on what has previously been fed into them, the will of the one who employs them determines the real behavior of these electronic brains.

Similarly, the politician's act precedes and always completely determines the process of the "governing machine." Supposing that a politician relies upon the best available information, there remains the question of who will make the final decision on the basis of that data and with political prudence. Man begins and stops the computer process; he controls automation in public administration. The political act cannot be lowered to the level of mere technical process, for the essentially ethical character of the political act is irreducible to mechanization. The progress of politics is always directed toward love.

Models of society involve an ethico-metaphysical evaluation. The consumer society, built upon the value of that which gratifies, does not permit man to achieve the highest values of his spirit; it promotes in the person conformism rather than creative transcendence. The domineering society enthrones the will of power and abandons the norms of justice and the imperatives of charity. The scientific-technological society produces a technical dehumanized man who does not know what to do with life, nor how to conciliate essential truths. The unconditioned society erects the aesthetic enjoyment of self-promotion as the supreme law. The "total man" is promoted, eliminating the repression of the libido, abolishing the unjust distribution of goods and suppressing psychic and social negativities. This utopic model is seen as overcoming all the conflicts and obstacles to an earthly heaven. The informed society conforms to a world turned into a spectacle in which the person is reduced to an image consumer.

Beyond all these unilateral and distorting models it is necessary to look for a society which accomodates both body and spirit and which allows for an harmonious development of the multiple strivings found in individuals and in groups. Like the models prescribed for social change, it occurs to me to call the model of this society which will permit an harmonious and creative development of the many strivings of individuals and groups `an adequately human society'. This type of society, which is always perfectible, considers the person in function of the common good without depersonalizing him or her. It looks upon the common good in function of the ultimate and of the human person. The person is relative for the State and for society, whereas they exist absolutely for the person. The contributed common good is translated into the distributed common goodness. By common good is meant the organized set of social conditions on the basis of which the human person can fulfill his natural and spiritual destiny. Human rights are a very important part of the common good, but do not exhaust it. Thus, for the progress of the society in which we live it would not be sufficient to extend human rights to the whole world, because beyond human rights there is the quasi- creative existence of man who inhabits the planet in a human manner.

An "adequately human society" would favor the communion of men and respect the development of every person and thing according to its proper nature; each person must be allowed to exist in his own manner. This will make possible real growth in culture; a diffused ability to be loyal to one's personal vocation in its uniqueness will result in a richer, more human and more plentiful world. The vocational structure must be found within the horizon of an all-encompassing and transcendental awareness and value. We must return to the simple, without renouncing cultural achievements; we must substitute the politics of power by the politics of culture.

The "soul of a culture," as Hector D. Manrioni states, "must be the reality of love." To aspire to a "politics without enemy" sounds utopic if it is not based in "caritas," in the profound and noble sense intimated by its etymology. When dialogue is carried out fraternally and in the great light of truth, opposition is turned into fellowship and one's neighbor can be seen as a fellowman. This is one of the virtues of democracy. Prior to being a political form of government, democracy is a form of human conviviality. More basic still, it is a human vocation. In politics this vocation culminates in the practical achievement of ethical postulates of co-participation, co-responsibility and reciprocal help. It supposes the acknowledgement and protection of the rights of human person.

This carries the dialogical being of the human person to its fullness, serving as an instrument of complete personal realization by making the human being, rather than the state, the basis and goal of the political structure. It invites the adhesion of free human beings; it evolves their responsiveness into a method which permits the variety of political opinions to subsist and prohibits the barbarous mutilation of dissident sectors of society. As a form of government, democracy recognizes in men an essential equality of opportunities for the exercise of their civil and political rights; it relies on the people to structure power.

The democratic regime is the most fair; it is the only one that permits true progress inasmuch as:

1) it guarantees the citizen active political participation;

2) it avoids despotism by those who govern;

3) it facilitates a continuing and ordered expression of public opinion;

4) it makes possible appropriate and opportune changes and readjustments;

5) it promotes man's characteristic and distinctive note of rationality and, through rationality, ethicity;

6) it adapts itself better to fractioned society with a pluralism of values; and

7) it recognizes the essential equality of persons and favors the structuring and functioning of the state as a lawful society.

One must not ignore the importance of the institutional aspect of the common good. In proper time the best means must be found and implemented to guarantee order and peace in society, freedom of men and groups, ways for everyone to fulfill in a free and responsible manner the essential tasks of life, economic security for the near future and coming generations, and the well-being of society as a whole.

But social progress must not be looked for in the purely institutional, organizational or technical order. The danger that progress in the natural sciences will overcome moral progress creates deep suspense and fear. Scientific progress can be utilized for constructive goals as well as for such destructive purposes as an armament race. True progress in the natural sciences must be proportioned to the moral strengths of people. The future is in our hands; history is the work of freedom.

Universidad de Nuevo Leon

Monterrey, Mexico






The strategy of my comments will be to make explicit the series of questions to which Professor Basave gives such interesting answers, then to confront his answers with alternatives (even where I would share his views), and thus to see upon what grounds his answers should be preferred. I think this analysis will also reveal in his approach a hidden pragmatism.

As I see it, the topics through which we range are: 1. Ontological categories for the discussion of man. 2. Moral values central to the human situation and the human enterprise. 3. A conceptual structure in ethical theory for the organization of the values and their achievement. 4. A direction of social policy implicit in the notions of "extension" and "advancement," employed in the title of the paper. 5. Finally, since we are working here in the framework of a metaphysical inquiry, a return to the metaphysical through the method of selecting categories that operates in the discussion.

Ontological Categories for the Discussion of Man

There are many categorial experiments in the history of thought for focusing on the human being. For example: a Plotinian lowly fragment of the One or Whole, an inner struggle of the dualistic body-soul (with Manichean overtones), a focused reflection of an eternal or spiritual order, a voluntaristic atomic individual contracting with his fellows (on his own terms), a material being manifesting higher complex levels of organization, an interpersonal primordial I-Thou, an existentialist center of creativity, and so on. Professor Basave's paper stands on one of these and explicitly rejects some others, but is quite ready to invoke some familiar ones in the discussion of specific issues. Clearly his basic model is the interpersonal one of being "with" another, and this is taken to involve the social content of the self as well as social origins of the self. It likewise seems to involve a good that is not individually appropriated but toward which the individual strives as part of the individual's self-expression. (This suggests the knowledge model: not my belief and your belief compromised or tested, but the truth drawing my thought and your thought). 

Such a metaphysical approach is a welcome variant after several centuries in which the dominant models have been centered either on the group-totality or on the isolated atomic individual, and it is philosophically exciting in the hands of a scientifically oriented thinker like George Herbert Mead or an existentially oriented thinker like Martin Buber--both cases having social and political as well as scientific implications. 

But Professor Basave seems to have an open house for other models as well: "the hierarchical order of the spiritual universe" remaining the same for all times; the separation of the individual and the social as "two essential aspects of a person"; the person as "an open being-in-himself" and yet as having a personal mission; "the existential plan" (pace, Sartre); society has to accommodate both body and spirit; and surprisingly, later on, states have rights. I find difficulty in relating this eclectic hospitality to the original bold stand. Are these other categories generated out of the basic ones, or are they approximations or deteriorations, or systematically related in a supplementary way Without such an explanation we are left with an unstable meta- categorial voluntarism on Professor Basave's part. And yet if metaphysics is to have its central philosophical role--to marshall and guide the form of our questions as we go from human domain to human domain--it must show its principles of selection.

Central Moral Values

Professor Basave's catalogue of values is an exalted one: the autonomous spirit, love, social freedom, dynamic self-development, the creative spirit, human conviviality, in general the values of culture and spirituality. They are set off against the imposed and the automatic. No sensitive spirit in the contemporary world can fail to see the pressures for coordination, alienation, and reduction, that bear heavily on human beings today stemming in large part from their institutions. No reasonable being today could fail to conclude that the great moral heresies of individual competitive self-aggrandisement and domineering powers have shown their morally baseless character. Yet in some sense the profound values that Professor Basave evokes are increasingly apparent to most philosophical schools. How are they related to the metaphysical position he espouses? Do they take on different character according to the type of metaphysics involved? How, for example, does a dialogical individual autonomy differ from a voluntarist one, or a Sartrean existentialist one, or for that matter a Marxian one? Or does he envisage a chorus in which we all sing "autonomy" but each to his own metaphysical beat?

Conceptual Structures in Ethical Theory

Professor Basave's discussion of the good and human rights gives a clear and convincing answer to the old problem of the relation of the right and the good. Justice rests on respect for the person and through this we come to the human good. Professor Basave's "adequately human society," always capable of improvement, "considers man in function of the common good without depersonalizing him." Human rights are themselves an important part of the common good, but not the whole of it. His list of rights and his analysis of democracy, his comments on the developing character of rights, show a refined sensitivity to the moral needs of the historical present and its problems. Why, for example, does he say that "states have a right to an adequate standard of living" rather than individuals? It is a striking departure from the traditional picture of the locus of rights and he takes it in stride without comment. But it makes sense because the question of the redistribution of resources among countries in the world is on today's agenda of justice. Similarly, though he lists the right of property, he would have to tell us whether it means property for consumption alone or also property for large-scale production--in short, whether capitalist free enterprise is enshrined among the human rights.

In the light of such comments I would like to suggest a greater dialogue between the eternal and the historical than Professor Basave's metaphysical presentation would seem to allow. It is actually the historical developments that refine and make clearer to us the meanings of what we ascribe to the eternal order of human striving. Is not historical reality stronger in Professor Basave's account than he makes explicit?

To give a fuller scope to the historical development of human problems would also help Professor Basave counter those who insist on the primacy of rights and the right over the good. It could be carried into the study of the ethical structures themselves. When in fact do people demand rights and when do they multiply the lists of rights? One demands a right when the shoe pinches and the evil is great enough. You are not allowed to speak your mind and you demand the right to free speech. I give you the right and you talk, but nobody listens. You now demand the right to be heard. You are now listened to but systematically misinterpreted. Do you have the right to a fair report? (If I have misinterpreted Professor Basave, surely he has the right to correct my interpretation). The right to clean air is a modern right of which preindustrial man had no awareness. The growth of rights lists is thus a measure of the growth of evils or the recognition of past evils with some hope of moving toward their remedy.  And if the idea of rights grows, why should not the idea of goods grow comparably with the growth of human knowledge? As to the much vaunted struggle between a rights approach and a "good"--or utilitarian--approach, it is historically the case that each, at different times, is the bearer of progress as Professor Basave envisages it. We would have to ask why that is so.

Extension of Rights and Advancement of Society

The concepts of extension and of advancement embody a definite proposal about the direction of social policy. Professor Basave goes directly from the formal lists of rights with their slowly expanding content to the "need for a bold struggle for the social, economic and technological progress of underdeveloped regions." And this is seen as desirable for progress in "the realization of the essential human values of truth, goodness, beauty, justice and, above all, love." In short, we are called on to adopt an all-human global moral community and to translate old ideals into contemporary programs. What needs to be made clear in this is that in such a redirection of policy the very concepts of the ideal are undergoing development. It is not merely the same ideal with a changing content, as for example some legal philosophers have written of natural law with a changing content, but a real and sometimes creative novelty in the development of human beings. For example, there was no doubt a time when liberty as a human ideal first made its appearance on the world scene, as in its time did the ideal of universal peace or that of a global conscience and a global moral community. We would show little capacity for a genuine dialogue of the world's cultures if we had always to subsume their ideals under ours or see, for example, the demand for a global redistribution as justice as simply a new expression of the old missionary charity attempting to convert the colonial "heathen." We need that "courage to be" which can not only face fresh ideals as well as fresh institutions, but can participate cooperatively in their creation.

Back to Metaphysical Categories

I suggested at the outset that there was a hidden pragmatism in Professor Basave's metaphysical procedures. For it seems to me that throughout the paper he was invoking whatever metaphysical categories made sense in the specific problem at hand. To overcome a selfish individualism one could ask for a polar individual-social concept of the person. To attack a reductionist materialism in technology and a domineering manipulative politics one could appeal to the eternal values or pit the spirit against the body. To support the need for creativity one could apply the existentialist touch. To keep at bay a relativistic subjectivity there would be the basic good objectively inherent in the I-Thou dialogue.

I do not mean to suggest that Professor Basave is pursuing a metaphysical opportunism. It only sounds that way when not rendered explicit as a theory of categories. I submit that metaphysical categories are to be viewed as large-scale experiments of thought stretching over the whole of human life and knowledge. If so, we should not be surprised to find them refined, developed, modified, in the course of philosophical history. The test for which to adopt and how to define them is the basically pragmatic one of how they render coherent a system of inquiry with its form of questions and its line of answers in the various domain of knowledge and action. Professor Basave does precisely this in his evaluation of democracy; he lists what kinds of advantages it has in promoting the character and quality of human life. Why should he not be allowed to do the same in selecting metaphysical categories--that is, list the advantages that will follow for the growth of knowledge in all its reaches and the coherent and satisfying guidance of human life?

In such a perspective what we now have is this: there is a revolution going on in the contemporary world which calls for material reconstruction, institutional reconstruction, moral reconstruction, metaphysical reconstruction. Let me repeat Professor Basave's conclusion: "The future is in our hands; history is the work of freedom."

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania







If it is true, as many philosophers of history say, that the spirit of the time expresses itself in a specific philosophy which in turn expresses itself in brief mottos, one could think that we are living now in a period of reason, an epoch or era of rationality and rationalism. Beside slogans such as `the period of the atom and automation' or `the era of scientific, industrial or technological revolution', inside and outside of philosophy much is being said of reason and rationality.

In this, it is crucial to note that the whole discussion takes place within the framework of society. Society is not only constitutive of reason and rationality, but simultaneously contains a tension between rationality and many other factors. In various contexts reference is made to the tension between individuality as inaccessible to all reason and rationality, especially in its modern form of `technical' or `one-dimensional' reason. As the latter is seen as deorienting man, whatever be said about reason and rationality, this indicates an ambivalence, dialectic or even antinomy, in the Kantian sense, between individuality and reason.

Since this requires, first of all, an elucidation of the basic terms and of their related vocabulary, we will consider the significant terminological development. This will show that the terms `ratio', `raison' or `reason', or `vernunft', `rational', `vernunftig', `rationalistic', etc., involve new dimensions of meaning and can lead to a number of important questions. From this we can proceed to our central issue, which is not a question of differences in meaning, but a problem of reality. Namely, what is the role of reason and its technologies in the life of society?

"Reason" first meant two things, a universal principle and a human instance. From their historical roots both have a common core of meaning. Basically, the word was coined to indicate an element of the human being. Reason (ratio) was seen in the Middle Ages as the human counterpart to belief and authority; the ratio, therefore, is the specific mundane instance.

1. This implies that at the beginning of the modern epoch the divine ceased to be the universal principle and was replaced by reason. This took place by the establishment of the "principium rationis" as a new universal principle of being, acting and thinking, along with the Aristotelian principle of contradiction which then gradually diminished in importance. In the secularized world, especially as conceived by German idealism, reason thus became the sole principle of the world. When Hegel later established reason as the dominant "god" immanent to the world, the total metaphysical content disappeared; though it retained its universal relevance.

Today, reason is now the only accepted universal principle. Whether one believes in God or adheres to atheism, we appeal to reason when we say that one must be reasonable; that one should talk with others reasonably; and that only in this manner can one achieve a reasonable solution to social conflicts in the family, in society or in the state, or even in international politics. This "appeal to reason" is the motto from which follow such other postulates as liberty, equality, justice, peace, etc.

When we relate these notions to reason, its specificity appears clearly; the notion of freedom, justice, equality, etc., which we have become accustomed to as slogans, are always understood within dogmatic ideologies. The Marxist, be he a philosopher or politician, undoubtedly understands by the term "freedom" something totally different from one who would be called a bourgeois philosopher or politician; similarly, an existentialist understands something different from a positivist. Through all these metaphysical variants the notion of reason remains stable. It would appear to comprehend three basic ideas:

a. the idea of sense (Sinn) and reason (Grund)

b. the idea of coherence and structure in correlation

and connection with the idea of totality

c. the idea of consistency and consequence

a) What is essential to the conception of reason is sense and the principles which follow therefrom. The appeal to reason implies that one believes in a sense, that is, in a factual and possible order of the world. This is understood in the sense of an actual situation, but especially of the ideal which is the task of the future. It implies the principium rationis, namely, that everything should be done reasonably. This holds true both for discussion and for action. Since the Enlightenment, the Greek `logon didonai' has been replaced by appeal to `thought': one is supposed to `live reasonably' because only then is one a rational animal. In the concrete, this postulate means that all action should be explicable and this holds true in everyday life, e.g., in the workings of the U.N.O.

b) Reason as a universal principle also implies the idea of cohesion. This is not only a matter of factual understanding; beyond that, it expresses the idea that everything hangs together. This implies that if everything coheres with everything else, reason can grasp all; and, as everything can be understood and explored rationally (science), so everything can be made (technology).

c) To what extent the third idea of the concept of reason generally is accepted remains a question. According to the older notion of the Enlightenment it might seem to be more a postulate than a solid idea. It is the ancient principle of contradiction, according to which a thing is what it is, from which it follows that one cannot at the same time say both A and B, or even do non-A. This obtains also for all consequences.

2. The great significance of the idea of reason, as also its possible doom, is expressed in the conception of reason as human. In the Middle Ages the highest human characteristic was the intellect understood as the power to see and to receive God; in relation to this reasoning itself reason was secondary. Since the beginning of modern times reason is not only the highest or supreme, but the constitutive element in man; man quite simply is the rational animal. With this begins the history of the man of reason in both his greatness and his misery.

This conception implies the following ideas:

a) the autonomy and maturity of man;

b) theoretical reason as the capacity autonomously to think and explore;

c) practical reason as the capacity to work autonomously in forming human, and especially social, reality or in developing technology and industry;

d) rational reason as the capacity of argumentation and rationalization;

e) the capacity of self-consciusness, that is, of re- flection, both as the subjective power to legiti- mize itself and render account in criticism and counter-criticism, and as the objective power to organize these ideas more closely.

Let us examine these ideas more closely.

a) The essential new factor is self-understanding by man as an autonomous and mature being. No God, no demon, no king, no dictator, no party, nor any other reality can give orders. Man as man has achieved adulthood. This is the basic idea of freedom in the Enlightenment as formulated, e.g., by Kant; `Enlightenment' is the emergence of man from his culpable immaturity or minority. This becomes the formative principle for man throughout modern times in politics, science, etc., whatever interpretation it later receives.

Undoubtedly, this notion is `ambivalent,' though the term seems to be better than such others as `antinomic' or `dialectic'. The ambivalence reflects two possibilities. On the one hand, reason is the highest triumph of man; by it he is free, he determines his destiny, he shapes his world. He is able to explore the world because it is structured according to laws, that is, reasonably; thus, he forms the world, etc. On the other hand, he is handed over to himself or self-possessed. Having reason he insists upon his own will, especially when he exercises power.

b) Man as rational being possesses the capacity to think, not only as a wise man, but as an explorer because the world is determined by laws. Here one could even point to the words of the Bible: subdue the earth. With this the idea of autonomy achieves its essential expression. If man is master of the world, then it is true that knowledge is for power (scientiam propter potentiam).

c) Theoretical reason is oriented to an object, whereas practical reason is based on the principle that everything can be done or constructed, including the human reality.

The results of this review now need to be summed up. Since the second half of the 18th century modern technology has been developed and, building on that, modern industry. In addition, there is the human fact that on all levels of human existence man rationalizes in the broadest sense of this term. This begins with exploring and introducing laws. Then, man naturally attempts to diagnose and cure, with important results in medicine, hygiene, etc. Finally, social life is rationalized and structured and with this there begins a strong and ambivalent development of modern society. On the one hand, everyone is declared to be equally autonomous, which means that social life is possible only in terms of a modern democracy. On the other hand, from this it follows that no member of society should or could have a special position. Society should be understood rationally, and hence should be rationalized. The foundation of rational sociology in the 19th century in order to explore the laws of social life initiated a process from exploration to the development of social engineering and social technocracy.

d) Through this triumph of theoretical and practical rationalism and rationalizing, the earlier idea of getting to the root of things, reflected in the principle of reason, unfortunately was greatly weakened. In its place, reason is taken to mean that each man as man has the power, not only to think and act independently, but especially to judge and criticize independently, that is, to expect of others explanations or accountability. This situation must be understood clearly. Independence and the demand for proofs and accounts takes place in a secularized, that is, in a purely human world. It means that no one can or should appeal to a so-called "higher authority," be it God, the people, society or the party; anyone is suspect who comes "in the name of . . . God, the people, the party, society" and appeals, acts, requests or orders. There is no need for special proof that we have a deficiency of reason in the life of society today.

e) People often forget now that when we speak of reason as a human fact, reflection is one of its essential elements. Reason as conscious being, is not only awareness, but awareness of self. In basic contrast, for example, to the Marxist theory of consciousness where it is seen as secondary to matter, reason or self-awareness means that man has his special position in reality through the fact that reason knows itself. He possesses this power to reflect on everything, even on his own reason. Unfortunately, in the meantime, there has been a strong decline in the appreciation of this reflective aspect of reason which was preeminently expressed by the classical philosophers of idealism, sometimes in a onesidedly idealistic manner.

What is meant by reflection? First, it is the knowledge of self, which implies knowledge of one's own situation in relation to reason and to the reality of the world. It implies also the possibility of self-criticism, which initially concerns reason itself. This reflection makes it possible for reasonable men to become aware of the greatness and misery of reason, and to criticize it. In fact, among the classical philosophers of reflection it was practically onlt Kant who, as an authentic Enlightenment figure, indicated not only the greatness but the limits of pure reason. From him, we must learn that the strength of reason consists not merely in the knowledge of the triumph of reason, but also in the knowledge and understanding of the limits of reason. This is the meaning of the last thesis, that human reason, which is the only one we now can acknowledge, always is limited.

We will return later to this, but, following Kant, it is now possible to indicate three limits. One is in contrast to rationalism's claim to unlimitedness and totality. This was pointed out by Kant in his dialectics of reason.

A second limit, broadly developed by Kant but lost with Hegel, is the limits of rational understanding. One should not overlook the fact that, besides and against the triumph of rationalistic, scientific rationality, there exists also a reason of which Pascal said "le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas." It is this reason which Kant explicitates in his Critique of Practical Reason, and from which he develops the categorical imperative of reason as a social postulate. Perhaps it is time to bring this precise aspect of reason to the fore, as this author postulates, in terms of a philosophical imperative.

The third limitation of reason is based on the postulate of reason itself. It is the acknowledgement that no one can claim to represent reason, that no one can constitute himself as the guard of reason. Fortunately, Hegel claimed this for himself only theoretically, though today many politicians claim it for themselves in the practical order.

In view of the above discussion concerning reason, we encounter several difficulties when we consider the technologies of reason mentioned in the title of this paper. To begin with, one could object that true reason knows and develops no technology, that this is only the work of instrumental reason which is the slave of modern technocracy and rationalism.

As the inner tension in the modern discussion of reason manifests itself in this matter, one must proceed rationally. The first major question is, What is to be understood by the term `technology'? If one departs from customary international usage, it can be said that technologies are developments (in the modern "technological" sense) upon the basis of theoretical insights (in science) of methods, procedures, and products, which in their turn will be put in the service of primary principles. An example is the total complex of information media, including the computer, which has entered social life as scientific technology in the service of reason.

If reason is taken in this broad pluralistic sense, one can develop distinct forms of rationality which in turn provide the foundation for corresponding postulates and technologies. Of the many ways of characterizing reason, one might mention as essential concepts:

a) universal/human reason, moral reason;

b) logical reason;

c) social/political reason;

d) scientific reason;

e) technical reason.

It is not possible to complete these differentiations, but some remarks can be made concerning the above.

a) Human reason has already been spoken of; it implies all the factors noted above and develops postulates rather than technologies.

b) Logical reason includes all of the postulates grouped under the complex of logic, both ancient and modern. Hence, the postulate of consistency is considered essential. In addition, the question of a "dialectical reason" in the sense of Sartre remains open.

c) The sense in which one can speak of a social reason is uncertain. It would appear to be a specific manifestation of human reason. The ambivalence of all social rationality is manifest in the concept or idea of political reason. It can be understood, on the one hand, as the material orientation of the idea of human reason to shaping political life and, on the other hand, as the expressed formal, methodical, and technological-- not to say, technocratic--orientation to the development of political or multiple individual interests.

d) This is manifest also in considerations of scientific reason. It oscillates between the "scientific" and the "scientistic" reason. The first tests out hypotheses and proceeds critically and methodically, while the other is a matter of scientific beliefs in the advances of the "scientific-technical revolution" especially of the 19th century, understood as setting man free and promising a new utopian paradise.

e) This is analogously true for technical reason, which includes industrial reason, though in different terms. Generally it is contained in the western anti-capitalist critique of modern technology and hence is less a critique of reason than of system. It is accompanied by the charge of alienation, one-dimensionalization, etc.

Regarding the life of the society and the quality of that life there are the following problems of reason:

a) basic provisions for life's necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, health, etc.;

b) regulation of the tension between universal security and individual freedom beginning with occupa- tions and work areas and continuing through po-litical life;

c) social communication and information;

d) the needs of culture;

e) guarantee for a human life as life of a rational being.

Clearly, in all areas of social reality reason, as characterized thus far, has a role to play. As has been shown in man, reason primarily is not a given reality or fact, but exists in the tension between ability, capacity, power or faculty and the postulate. Certainly, the solitary individual has the capacity of reason and of rationality, while postulating reason as the universal principle. The life of society is ultimately the primary place for the realization of reason, including its principles, postulates and technologies.

There is a second and still more important antithesis, that is, between rationality, above all as rational technology, and the Aristotelian principle of the mean between excess and defect. Let us take as an example the technology of social communication in the specific form of information. One postulate of reason is to regard man as a citizen who has come of age. This stipulates that every single individual should be informed about everything, requiring, in turn, that, ideally, all information be collected and made available, and hence that appropriate media be developed, from newspapers, radio and television to computer information banks.

If this is done on the basis of the claim for totality by an autonomous reason, there results, on the one hand, total comprehension of human reality and, on the other, the modern information avalanche. Obviously, this opens the door to manipulation and raises the question: What is the rational solution, total information inundation or special manipulation?

There does appear to be a solution; it lies in the recognition and formation of the individual man as a rational being. The cases under consideration involve exercising an appropriate power of judgment by citizens who were minors but now have come of age in all areas governed by the information processes. They must evaluate the current information, and have the courage to demand justification from those who supply information.

Analogies hold true for other areas, nearly the entire complex of which can be designated as social engineering, social technocracy, etc. Here, unfortunately, the history of modern humanity since the 18th century has led to a disintegration of the idea of reason. On the one hand, scientific and technical reason have been applied to mastering reality, including the social, and have produced repeated successes. Corresponding to the 19th-century belief in reason, and its related ideology, this has led to a kind of technological-scientific religion. On the other hand, man as man, especially in his orientation in culture and philosophy, has been fractured and has abandoned belief in high speculative reason as caught in excessive self-reflection and moving in an ideal realm of philosophical dreams.

What is needed today as an aspect of the philosophical imperative of reason is the development of a conception of reason which will restore rational unity. This will require new courage. As Kant noted, only thus does reason become really human and, hence, practical. This conception of a "new-reason-philosophy" must include the following:

a) Each man is to be regarded as a rational being, meaning that he possesses all potentialities and that these are to be developed and recognized in him. This begins with education and ends with critical reason and such postulates as (social) self-responsibility. An actual example is contained in "developmental politics" where it is believed that man is treated as man if he is helped by having had provided for him the necessary means of life. This implies that man is not regarded as a rational being. One must help; but, at the same time, self-responsibility must be required of the one who is helped. This is true for present political structures and applies also to the postulate of self-determination of the individual citizens in the so-called Third World.

b) The highest principle and to a certain degree the highest law in the principle of reason in the sense delineated above.

c) Reason, finally, is also reflection upon oneself, that is, upon man as reason and rationality. This implies both possibilities and its limitations, from which result the following postulates:

1) a twin openness:

(a) neither blind faith in reason howsoever this is understood, especially technical reason,

(b) nor blind aversion to reason, whether as technical or as personal; and

2) an understanding of the limits of reason:

(a) that all reason as human is finite and therefore not all, whether in society or in history, is subject to reason and hence to exploration and to being produced;

(b) that reason has its limits within itself; e.g., in the personality of the self, and

(c) that reason is also measured from above inasmuch as its ultimate foundation lies in faith or metaphysics in whatever manner these be understood.

University of Dusseldorf






It is said that human history began with the realization of evil. The problem of evil is indeed one which is deeply rooted in human existence. Throughout human history, both of the East and the West, evil has time and again been regarded as one of humanity's most crucial dilemmas. However, the approach to and the resolution of the problem of evil have in the East and the West not always been altogether the same. To begin with an example of the East, it is a fact that Westerners in general and Christians in particular often express the criticism that Buddhists are rather indifferent to the problem of good and evil. Whether or not their impressions are true must be carefully examined. On the other hand, quite a few Buddhists whose lives are based on the realization of the as-it-is-ness, or suchness, of man and nature often feel somewhat uncomfortable with Christianity's strong ethico-religious character and its excessive emphasis on righteousness and judgment. Whether or not such an impression reaches the core of Christian faith must be carefully scrutinized. Giving up stereotypical understanding of each other, and with receptive and responsive minds, both Christians and Buddhists must try to enter into a deeper understanding of each other's faith by striving to achieve a critical, mutual understanding. They may then be in better position to discover both affinities and differences. In what follows, I shall undertake a comparative study of Christianity and Buddhism from the angle of the problem of evil. Although I am not unaware of the many important attempts at new interpretations of Christianity which are now being written, I will take up here only the traditional form of Christianity. The limitation of space partly encourages this approach but more importantly, I believe that new interpretations cannot be properly understood without the basis of traditional Christianity. Therefore, this paper is a prolegomena to the "problem of evil in Buddhism and Christianity."


In Christianity the good is not simply that which is desirable, such as happiness, nor is evil merely that which is undesirable, such as misery. The good in Christianity refers to an act, belief, attitude, or state of mind that obeys and fulfills the will of God. Evil on the other hand is an act or state of mind which disobeys and goes against the divine will. This is precisely because in Christianity God is the creator, the ruler, the law-giver, and the redeemer of all the universe, and the end for which human beings exist consists in establishing and maintaining a relationship with God. The Ten Commandments, which form part of the basis of Judeo-Christian ethics, are described in the Bible as given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai.1 Moral transgression of the divine law is termed "sin" in theology. Sin is an attitude, act, or inward state of the heart that is offensive to God. As is well known, the origin of sin is to be found in the Genesis story of Adam and Eve partaking, against the word of God, of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

For St. Paul, "sin was not just an act of disobedience to God's will and law; it was open revolt against Him, the result of which was a state that was inimical to God and would lead to death."2 For Paul then, "sin is something internal and stable in man," that is, "a personal force in man that acts through his body. It entered into the world with Adam's sin and exercised its deadly work by means of the Law."3 In Romans, Paul declares that sin permeates the whole human race through death, but its power is not equal to Christ's grace and justice: "For if by reason of the one man's offense death reigned through the one man, much more will they who receive the abundance of the grace and of the gift of justice reign in life through the one Jesus Christ . . . ."4 By being baptized into Christ's death and resurrection, one is freed from sin and begins to live by Christ's life. After baptism the "old man" and the "body of sin" cease to be the instruments of sin. Now the Christian has a new mode of being, a new mode of acting. He is no longer in the service of sin; the Holy Spirit is present in him. The new man is inspired, motivated by the Spirit to fight against the flesh; he passes from the carnal state to a spiritual state. St. Paul's opposition between a life of the flesh and a life of the spirit represents his belief that sinful flesh is God's enemy while the life of spirit is God's divine gift.

Sin, then, is a personal force by which we are opposed to God, and sinful deeds are its fruits. However, if one does not accept Jesus as the Christ and does not believe in his death and resurrection as God's work of redemption, one will be inflicted with eternal suffering. The sufferings of the damned in hell are interminable. This eternal punishment, which is laid upon the souls of the unredeemed at the last judgment, constitutes the largest part of the problem of evil in Christianity.5 Thus, in the full range of Christian beliefs (from the doctrine of creation to that of eschatology), the problem of evil is a primary preoccupation and one which consists in a dis-relationship with God.

What is the Buddhist view of good and evil? From earliest times, Buddhism had its own "Ten Commandments", or better to say "ten precepts," which are very similar to the Ten Commandments of the Judeo-Christian tradition. These emphasize not killing, nor stealing, not lying, not committing adultery, and so forth. A remarkable difference between the Buddhist and Judeo-Christian Ten Commandments, however, lies in the fact that although both equally prohibit the destruction of life, that prohibition appears as the first commandment in Buddhism and as the sixth in Judeo-Christian tradition. In the latter the first commandment is "You shall have no other gods before me," a commandment whose equivalent cannot be found in the Buddhist ten precepts. The differing emphasis in the item of the first position in two lists indicates the strong monotheistic nature of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the I-Thou relationship between persons and God in Christianity on the one hand, and it also shows the Buddhist emphasis on the boundless solidarity of life between persons and other living beings, on the other. Without the notion of transmigration which links human beings to other forms of life, there can be no proper understanding of why the destruction of life in general is prohibited as the first precept in Buddhism. On the contrary, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, not the boundless solidarity with other forms of life, but personal obedience to the will of the one God, and the distinction between creator and creation with humanity at the summit of the created order are essential. This difference naturally reflects upon the different understanding of good and evil in these two religions.

However, the emphasis on the solidarity between humanity and nature does not mean that Buddhism is indifferent to human ethics. In the Dhammapada, one of the oldest Buddhist scriptures, there is a well-known stanza:

Not to commit evils (But to do all that is good),and to purify one's heart--This is the teaching of all the buddhas.6

This stanza has been held in high esteem by Buddhists throughout their long history and is called "the precept-stanza common to the past seven buddhas," indicating that it is a teaching that was realized and practiced even before Gautama Buddha lived.

In this connection, let me introduce a story concerning this stanza. In China of the T'ang Dynasty, there was a Zen master, Tao-lin, popularly known as Niao-ke, "Bird's Nest," for he used to practice his meditation in a seat made of the thickly growing branches of a tree. Pai Le-t'ien, a great poet of those days, was officiating as a governor in a certain district in which this Zen master lived. The governor-poet once visited him and said,

What a dangerous seat you have up in the tree.

`Yours is far worse than mine', retorted the master.

`I am the governor of this district, and I don't see what danger there is in it.'

To this the master said,

Then, you don't know yourself! When your passions burn and your mind is unsteady, what is more dangerous than that?

The governor then asked,

What is the teaching of Buddhism?

The master recited the above-mentioned stanza:

`Not to commit evils,

But to do all that is good,

And to purify one's heart.

This is the teaching of all the buddhas.'

The governor, however, protested,

Any child three years old knows that.

The Zen master up in the tree responded,

Any child three years old may know it, but even an old man of eighty years finds it difficult to practice it.

The point of this stanza lies precisely in the third line, that is, "to purify one's heart," and the first and the second lines, "Not to commit evils, But to do all that is good," should be understood from the third line. And "to purify one's heart" signifies to purify one's heart for avidy-a, the fundamental ignorance rooted in a dualistic view, and thereby it indicates "to purify one's heart" even from the dualistic view of good and evil. Eventually the text enjoins us "to awaken to the purity of one's original nature" or "to awaken to the original purity of one's nature"7 which is beyond the duality of good and evil. The problem of good and evil must be coped with on the basis of awakening to the original purity of one's nature--that is, the teaching of all Buddhas.

This Buddhist notion of "the original purity of one's nature," roughly speaking, may be taken to be somewhat equivalent to the state of Adam before eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil. It is to be back where, according to Genesis, "God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."8 Therefore, God blessed Adam because he was good. Does the term "good" in this connection simply mean good in the ethical sense? I do not think so. The term "good" God used to evaluate his act of creation is not good as distinguished from evil, but the original goodness prior to the duality between good and evil, that is, the original goodness prior to man's corruption of the primordially good nature of mankind and the world. It is good not in the ethical sense, but in the ontological sense. The goodness of Adam as created by God is, roughly speaking, equivalent to the original purity of one's nature as understood in Buddhism. "The original face at the very moment of not thinking of good or evil" requested by the sixth Zen patriarch, Hui-neng, is simply another term for one's original nature which is pure, beyond good and evil. Thus Buddhism often refers to our original nature as "Buddha-nature," the awakening to which provides the basis for human ethics to be properly established.


The problem of evil in Christianity and Buddhism, however, is not so simple as I have suggested. There is the serious problem of the origin of evil that must be clarified.

The problem of evil in both traditions involves the contradiction, or apparent contradiction, between the belief in the actuality of evil in the world and religious belief in the goodness and power of the Ultimate. This problem is especially serious in Christianity because of its commitment to a monotheistic doctrine of God as absolute in goodness and power and as the creator of the universe out of nothing, ex nihilo. The challenge of the fact of evil to this faith has accordingly been formulated as a dilemma: "If God is all-powerful, he must be able to prevent evil. If he is all-good, he must want to prevent evil. But evil exists. Therefore, God is either not all-powerful or not all-good. A theodicy (from theos, god, and dike, justice) is accordingly an attempt to reconcile the unlimited goodness of an all-powerful God with the reality of evil."9

Accordingly, there are at least two questions to be addressed in this connection: Why has an infinitely powerful and good God permitted moral evil or sin in his universe? and Why has an infinitely powerful and good God permitted pain and suffering in this universe? In Christian tradition, there are two main versions of theodicy, the Augustinian and the Irenaean. Limitations of space constrain me to a description of only the essential points of these two types of theodicy in connection with the problem of moral evil.

Rejecting Manichaeanism dualism, Augustine insisted that evil has no independent existence, but is always parasitic upon the good, the latter alone having substantival reality. "Nothing evil exists in itself, but only as an evil aspect of some actual entity."10 Thus, everything that God has created is good, and the phenomenon of evil occurs only when beings who are by nature good (though mutable) become corrupted and spoiled. Accordingly, to Augustine evil is nothing but the privation, corruption, or perversion of something good.

How does this spoiling of God's initially good creation come about? Augustine's answer is that evil entered into the universe through the culpable volitions of free creatures, angels and human beings. Their sin consisted not in choosing positive evil (for there is no positive evil to choose), but in turning away from the higher good, namely God, to a lower good. "For when the will abandons what is above itself, and turns to what is lower, it becomes evil--not because that is evil to which it turns, but because the turning itself is wicked."11

When we ask what caused the Fall, Augustine's answer is his doctrine of deficient causation. There is no efficient, or positive, cause of the will to evil. Rather, evil willing is itself a negation or deficiency, and to seek for its cause "is as if one sought to see darkness, or hear silence."12 "What cause of willing can there be which is prior to willing?"13 According to Genesis, a serpent tricked Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam's sin was not absolutely the first. The serpent was the evil tempter of Adam's innocence. Augustine was saying that Adam had within himself the possibility of falling and that fallibility is not an evil in itself.14 However the notion of fallibility explains only the possibility of evil, not its reality. Thus, according to Augustine, the origin of moral evil lies hidden within the mystery of human and angelic freedom. The freely acting will is an originating cause, and its operations are not explicable in terms of other prior causes.

This traditional theodicy has been criticized as an account of the origin and final disposition of moral evil. For example, Schleiermacher argued that the notion of finitely perfect beings willfully falling into sin is self-contradictory and unintelligible. A truly perfect being, though free to sin, would, in fact, never do so. To attribute the origin of evil to the willful crime of a perfect being is thus to assert the sheer contradiction that evil has created itself out of nothing. The final disposition of moral evil, that is the eschatological aspect of Augustinian theodicy, has also been criticized. If God desires to save all his human creatures but is unable to do so, he is limited in power. If, on the other hand, he does not desire the salvation of all but has created some for damnation, he is limited in goodness. In either case, the doctrine of eternal damnation stands as an obstacle to a consistent Christian theodicy.

The second type of theodicy was developed by the Greek-speaking fathers, notably by Irenaeus (120-202), prior to the time of Augustine. Whereas Augustine held that before his fall, Adam was in a state of original righteousness, and that his first sin was the inexplicable turning of a wholly good being toward evil, Irenaeus and others regarded the pre-Fall Adam as more like a child than a mature, responsible adult. According to this earlier conception, Adam stood at the beginning of a long process of development. He had been created as a personal being in the "image" of God, but had yet to be brought into the finite "likeness" of God. His fall is seen not as disastrously transforming and totally ruining humanity, but rather as delaying and complicating its advance from the "image" to the "likeness" of his maker. Thus, humanity is viewed as neither having fallen from so great a height as original righteousness, nor to so profound a depth as total depravity, as in the Augustinian theology; rather, humanity fell in the early stages of its spiritual development and now needs greater help than otherwise would have been required.15


In Buddhism there is no theodicy. There is no theory justifying God because in Buddhism there is no notion of one God whose goodness and power must be justified against the reality of evil in the world. Buddhism has no need of a notion of one God because the fundamental principle of Buddhism is "dependent origination." This notion indicates that everything in and out of the universe is interdependent and co-arising and co-ceasing: nothing whatsoever is independent and self-existing. This is the reason Gautama Buddha did not accept the age-old Hindu concept of Brahman as the sole basis underlying the universe and the accompanying notion -atman as the eternal self at the core of each individual. Rather, he emphasized an-atman, no-self, and dependent origination. The universe is not the creation of one God, but fundamentally is a network of causal relationships among innumerable things which are co-arising and co-ceasing. In Buddhism, time and history are understood as beginningless and there is no room for the idea of unique, momentary creation. Since time and history are believed to be beginningless and endless, there can be no particular creator at the beginning of history and no particular judge at its end. Thus the sacred and the human are, in Buddhism, completely interdependent: there is nothing sacred whatsoever that is self-existing. The supernatural and the natural co-arise and co-cease: there is nothing supernatural whatsoever which is independent of the natural.

The same is true of good and evil. Good and evil are completely dependent on one another. They always co-arise and co-cease so that one cannot exist without the other. There is, then, no supreme good which is self-subsistent apart from evil, and no absolute evil which is an object of eternal punishment apart from good. To Buddhists both the supreme good and absolute evil are illusions. In this respect Buddhism significantly differs from Christianity, in which God is understood to be infinitely good, and sinners who do not believe in God must undergo eternal damnation. In his Enchiridion, St. Augustine says: "No evil could exist where no good exists,"16 but he does not say that "No good could exist where no evil exists." This is precisely because to Augustine, evil is nothing but the privation of good. Evil does not exist in itself but is always parasitic upon good, which alone has substantial being. Elsewhere in the Enchiridion, St. Augustine says: "Wherever there is no privation of good there is no evil."17 Here we can see the strong priority of good over evil. This notion is not peculiar to St. Augustine but is common to Christian thinkers in general. Contrary to this, Buddhists generally talk about the complete relativity of good and evil and reject the idea of the priority of the one over the other. The emphasis is on the inseparability of good and evil and even their oneness in the deepest sense. It is understandable why, given this emphasis on the relativity of good and evil and the consequent rejection of the priority of good over evil, Christians find an indifference to ethics in Buddhism.

Whether or not this is the case must be carefully examined. We human beings must seek good and avoid evil. To be human is to be ethical. Unlike animals, persons can be human only when guided by reason and ethics in place of instinct. This is an undeniable fact. Buddhists accept this without qualification. That is why, as I said before, not to commit evil, but to do all that is good, is emphasized as the teaching of all the buddhas throughout Buddhism's long history, as exemplified, for instance, in the precepts of monks and laymen, including the ten precepts. "To do good, not commit evil" is an ethical imperative common to the Easterner and the Westerner. Wherever persons exist this ethical imperative must be emphasized. A question arises, however, at this point as to whether it is possible for persons to actually observe that ethical imperative. Can human nature be completely regulated and controlled by that ethical code? If we can actually observe that ethical imperative thoroughly only insofar as we try to do so, the problem of evil is very simple. In actuality, however seriously one may try to observe the ethical imperative, one cannot do so completely and instead cannot help realizing one's distance from the good to be done.

This is the reason Niao-ke said to Pai Le -t'ien, "Any child three years old may know it, but an old man of eighty years finds it difficult to practice it." This is also the reason St. Paul painfully confessed, "the good which I would do, that I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do."18 Because persons are flesh as well as soul this is the inevitable conclusion of the ethical effort. To reach any but this conclusion implies a lack of seriousness in one's ethical effort. However strong the ethical imperative may be, we cannot actually fulfill it, but rather must fall into a conflict, the dilemma of good and evil. Human nature cannot be completely controlled and regulated by ethics, which is why we must go beyond the realm of ethics and enter that of religion. The limitation of, and the dilemma involved in, ethics are equally realized in Buddhism and Christianity. So far, Buddhists share with St. Paul the painful confession mentioned above.

One primary difference between Paul and Buddhists lies in the following by saying, "If what I would not, that I do, it is no more I that do it, but sin which dwelleth in me,"19 Paul ascribes the ultimate cause of the problem to original sin and finds the solution, or salvation, in the redemptive love of God working through the spirit of Christ. On the other hand, Buddhists realize the ultimate cause of the problem in karma and find the solution in enlightenment, that is, the awakening to the truth of dependent origination and no-self. Since our present existence is the fruit of a beginningless karma, we are involved in the conflict between good and evil. However, if we go beyond such a dualism and awaken to our original nature, we will be freed from karma as well as from the problem of good and evil. In Christianity, the limitation of, and the dilemma involved in, ethics and its religious solution are grasped in contrast to the absolute nature of God who is all-good and all-powerful. In this sense, the religious solution realized in the context of the collapse of human ethics still finds its orientation in the problem of good and evil, although in a religious rather than an ethical dimension. In Buddhism, on the other hand, the collapse of human ethics is grasped in terms of beginningless and endless karma and its religious solution is found in the realization of no-self which is neither good nor evil.

The Buddhist solution of the problem is not faith in God as all-good but the awakening to one's original nature, which is free from both good and evil. In this sense we may say that Buddhism has primarily an ontological orientation whereas Christianity has primarily an ethical orientation.

This difference may cause Christians to feel an indifference toward ethics in Buddhists and cause Buddhists to feel skeptical about the Christian emphasis on faith. We must, however, inquire into the background of this difference to elucidate the present issue.


The above-mentioned difference between Christianity and Buddhism comes from their divergent understanding of the nature of evil. As seen in St. Augustine, Christians understand evil as the privation of good or as the rebellion of human beings against the will of God, who is viewed as infinitely good. Thus, in Christianity, evil is understood as nonsubstantial, as not existing in itself, and as something to be overcome by good. Accordingly, good has priority over evil not only ethically but also ontologically. This conviction gives Christianity its ethico-religious character and also gives rise to the problem of theodicy: that is, the question of how to explain the reality of evil in relation to God as absolute in goodness and power.

On the other hand, Buddhists base their beliefs and practices not on the ethical dimension but on the ontological dimension by realizing that everything is impermanent and interdependent, and understanding that evil is entirely relative to good. Good and evil are inseparably related to one another. Therefore, what the Buddhist is concerned with is not how to overcome evil by good, but how to transcend the good-evil duality. To Buddhists, the problem of how to overcome evil by good is a "wrong question," based on an unrealistic understanding of the nature of evil and an unjustifiable assumption of the priority of good over evil. Although, ethically speaking, good should have priority over evil, ontologically and existentially speaking, good is not stronger than evil, and good and evil have at least equal strength in their endless struggle with each other. Accordingly, it is necessary for Buddhists to overcome the good-evil dichotomy itself and return to their original nature prior to the divergence between good and evil. This is the meaning of the third line of "the precept-stanza common to the past seven buddhas," "to purify one's heart"--to purify one's heart from the duality of good and evil. It is noteworthy that even in the oldest scripture of primitive Buddhism what is emphasized is the need to go beyond good and evil. For instance, in Suttanip-ata (547), it is said: "Just as a beautiful lotus flower being not tainted with water and mud, you are not spoiled by either good or evil." In the case of Mahayana Buddhism, it is emphasized even more strongly that we must go beyond good and evil and attain the realization of s-unyat-a, or "emptiness," which is neither good nor evil.

As I have indicated, in rejecting the priority of good over evil, Buddhists emphasize their relativity. Buddhism is similar, at least in this respect, to the Manichaean insistence on the dualism of good and evil. The central theme of Manichaeism is that the world is an inextricable mixture of good and evil with each force in constant combat with the other. Thus, Manichaeism proclaims two deities in opposition, a good deity as the author of light and an evil deity as the author of darkness. Insofar as good and evil are understood dualistically as two different principles and as inextricably related to and fighting against each other, there is great affinity between Manichaeism and Buddhism. The essential difference between them, however, can be seen in the following three points:

1. Although Manichaeism emphasizes the fight between two opposed principles of good and evil, it does not carry this opposition to its final conclusion. On the other hand, Buddhism existentially realizes the final conclusion of the contradiction of the two opposed principles as beginningless and endless karma, and tries to overcome it.

2. Buddhism, thus, comes to a realization of s -unyat-a in which the duality of good and evil is completely overcome and their nondualistic oneness is fully realized. Contrary to this, Manichaeism remains a rigid form of dualism from beginning to end, without any means of overcoming that conflict.

3. In Manichaeism, good and evil are two independent principles which respectively have their reality and substance. In Buddhism, however, although good and evil are two opposing principles, they are not understood as reality or substance but rather as something non-substantial. Thus, in the awakening to s-unyat-a, both good and evil are emptied and the duality is overcome.

From the Buddhist point of view, the weakness of Manichaeism does not lie in its dualistic view of good and evil as two independent principles but in the rigidity of that dualism, which takes the two independent principles as substantial realities. It is not a mistake for Manichaeism to take good and evil as two equally powerful principles rather than emphasizing the priority of good over evil. It is, however, a mistake for Manichaeism to end with this dualistic view without attempting to transcend it.

In the history of Christianity, St. Augustine strongly rejected the ultimate dualism of Manichaeism and insisted that only good has substantial being whereas evil is unreal--hence, his theory of evil as the privation of good. Given the belief that a good God is the sole ultimate reality, it is inevitable that evil be interpreted as privation. However, if the monotheistic God is unambiguously good, what is evil, and where does it come from? Theodicy thus becomes a serious problem.

As we say earlier, Augustine emphasized evil will, that is, the ill-use of human free will, as the origin of evil. Thereby God is freed from all responsibility. However, Genesis suggests an evil even before Adam's ill-use of his freedom in the form of the serpent's temptation. Since he was created free, Adam had the possibility of falling or not falling. Although the possibility of falling is not an evil in itself, Adam yielded to the temptation and actually fell. Why did God not turn the human will toward the good without doing violence to its nature, so that we can freely do good? To this Augustine replied, "simply because God did not wish to." Is there not a mystery here?

Recently, the Irenaean type of theodicy has been reformulated in John Hick's book Evil and the God of Love. The Irenaean theodicy, which regards the fall of Adam as a virtually inevitable incident in humanity's development, is more acceptable than the Augustinian one. However, I am afraid that in this type of theodicy the problem of the Fall is understood somewhat from the outside, objectively, as a problem of human development, while its existential meaning is more or less overlooked. I personally appreciate the Augustinian type of theodicy, which focuses on the problem of free will and thereby grasps the issue from within one's being more existentially than the Irenaean one. And, in this sense, I think the Augustinian approach is more appropriate and justifiable. Yet Augustinian theodicy ends with the mystery of evil. To speak of the mystery of evil is, however, nothing but to confess the insolubility of the problem of evil and God. For if God is conceived of as the creator of all the universe, all-good and all-powerful, the origin of evil is ultimately untraceable except to the "mystery of evil." This is at best a half-solution. To complete the solution one must go beyond mystery and radically reinterpret the notion of God. It is quite natural for Christianity to reject the Manichaean form of dualism because Christianity is fundamentally monotheistic. However, if Christianity is simply monotheistic and rejects any form of duality of good and evil, Christianity becomes abstracted from human actuality. Theodicy is an attempt to include the duality of good and evil within the monotheistic character of Christianity without destroying the character. However, there remains an essential tension between the duality of good and evil and the framework of monotheism. Thus, as we see in Augustine's theodicy, the origin of evil tends to be explained in terms of mystery.

In the history of Christian thought down to the present, there have been many variations of these two types of theodicy. In my view, neither dualism nor monotheism can solve the problem of evil satisfactorily. We must find a position which is neither dualistic nor monotheistic.


Buddhists try to go beyond the duality of good and evil and to awaken to s-unyat-a, which transcends both good and evil. This is because, insofar as we remain in the duality, we are involved in and limited by it. In the realm of good and evil, an ethical imperative (Thou ought to do this) and the cry of desire (I want to do that) are always in constant conflict. Thus we become slaves to sin and guilt. There is no final rest in the realm of good and evil. To attain the abode of final rest, we must go beyond the dichotomy of good and evil and return to the root and source from which good and evil emerged. That root and source is grasped in Buddhism as "emptiness" (s-unyat-a) because it is neither good nor evil. When the Six Patriarch, Hui-neng, was asked by the monk Ming what the truth of Buddhism was, he said:

When your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?

"Your original face before you were born" is simply a Zen term for s-unyat-a, because only through the realization of s-unyat-a do we awaken to our true Self. Another important point raised by Hui-neng's answer concerns the words "before you were born." This symbolic phrase does not necessarily indicate "before" in the temporal sense, but rather "before" in the ontological sense, that is, the ontological foundation, or root and source on which the duality of good and evil is established. Therefore, this "before" can and should be realized right now and right here in the depth of the absolute present.

We may translate Hui-neng's question into the Christian context by asking, What is your original face before Adam committed sin? or even by asking, What is your original face before God created the world? Adam is not merely the first man in a remote past, or is his fall an event apart from us, one which took place far distant from us in time. As Kierkegaard rightly said, we ourselves committed sin in Adam. Adam is none other than ourselves. Adam is the first one of mankind and at the same time is each of us. Thus the Zen question concerning "your original face" may be understood as a question concerning "your original face" before you ate the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. It may also be understood as a more radical question; What is your original face before God said, "Let there be light." For Zen persistently asks, "After all things are reduced to oneness; where would that One be reduced?"20 God created everything out of nothing. God is the only creator. All things are reduced to one God. To what, however, would that one God be reduced? Everything comes from God. Where did God come from? This is a question which must be asked.

God created everything out of nothing. Therefore, it cannot be said that God came from something nor can it be said that God is reduced to something. Accordingly, the only answer to this question is that God came from nothingness. God is reduced to nothingness. However, this nothingness is different from the nothing out of which God created everything. The nothing out of which God created everything is nothing in a relative sense. On the other hand, the nothingness from which God may be said to emerge, is nothingness in its non-relative sense. This nothingness in the absolute sense is exactly the same as Buddhism's s-unyat-a. This absolute nothingness from which even God emerged is not unfamiliar to Christianity. Christian mystics talked about the Godhead from which the personal God emerged, and they described the Godhead in terms of nothingness, as seen, for instance, in St. John of the Cross and the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing. However, in Buddhism, this absolute nothingness from which even God came to exist is precisely the "original face" of ourselves which is beyond good and evil. The Buddhist solution to the problem of evil can be found in the realization of absolute nothingness, or s-unyat-a, as the awakening to true self. It is neither dualistic nor monotheistic.


The final question is how ethics then can be established on the realization of s-unyat-a. Having transcended the duality of good and evil, to what moral principles may one appeal that are in keeping with the spirit of this liberating experience?

First, in Buddhism, the realization of s-unyat-a is not merely a goal to be reached, but the ground on which everything in life is established. It is, indeed, the point of departure from which we can properly and realistically begin our life and activity. In other words, it is the root and source from which the duality of good and evil and all other forms of duality have come to be realized.

Second, when we take the realization of s-unyat-a as the point of departure as well as the goal of our life, the duality of good and evil is viewed in a new light, namely, from the viewpoint of s-unyat-a or the awakening experience itself. In this light, the distinction between good and evil is thoroughly relativized by dropping away any and all sense of absolute good and absolute evil. Furthermore, the distinction between good and evil is not only relativized, but the two values are reversed. In this regard, however, the relativization and the reversion of the distinction between good and evil does not destroy human ethics as is often believed. Of course, one may say that if the relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction takes place within the context of an ethical life, it will necessarily entail a loss of the firmness and intensity of commitment to the ethical principles by which a person might give meaning and integrity to his life.

However, in Christianity as in Buddhism, which goes beyond mere ethics to a higher commitment to the will of God (consider Kierkegaard's "teleological suspension of the ethical" in his interpretation of the Abraham-Isaac story), some relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction is necessitated. This fact is clearly seen in Jesus' words, "I came not to call the righteous but sinners," and "Why call ye me good: there is none good but the Father." Sinners, therefore, have priority over the righteous (i.e., those who obey the letter of the law, but neglect the spirit) in the light of salvation through Jesus Christ. However, in Christianity, where God is believed to be the highest good and the ruler of the world and history, the distinction between good and evil is not completely relativized nor reversed. Given the belief that God is both righteous and loving, the complete relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction is not acceptable. In Buddhism, by contrast, the complete relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction is totally realized without fear of destroying the basis of the ethical life. This is due to the fact that the "transvaluation of values" is realized not within a certain established framework of ethical life nor under the rule and judgment of the all-good and all-powerful God, but in and through the realization of the boundless openness of s-unyat-a in which there is no one God.

Third, in the awakening to the boundless openness of s-unyat-a and the relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction, the basis of the ethical life is not destroyed but is rather preserved, clarified, and strengthened. This ultimate experience makes the distinction between good and evil clearer than before because the distinction is thoroughly realized without any limitation in the awakening to the boundless openness of s-unyat-a. At the same time, the relativization and reversion of the good-evil distinction in this awakening leads us to the realization of the undifferentiated sameness of good and evil.

The first aspect, that is, the clearer realization of the good-evil distinction, indicates prajn a, or Buddhist wisdom. The distinction of things or matters more clearly realized in enlightenment than before is well indicated in the following discourse of Chi'ing yuan Wei hsin, a Chinese Zen master of the T'ang Dynasty:

Before I studied Zen, to me mountains were mountains and waters were waters. After I got an insight into the truth of Zen through the instruction of a good master, mountains to me were not mountains and waters were not waters. But after this, when I really attained the abode of rest, that is, enlightenment, mountains were really mountains, waters were really waters.21

The second aspect that is the realization of the sameness of good-evil through the relativization and reversion of its distinction entails karun -a, Buddhist compassion. The compassionate aspect is emphatically expressed both in Pure Land and Zen Buddhism as follows:

Even the virtuous can attain rebirth in the Pure Land, how much more so the wicked!22

The immaculate practitioner takes three kalpas to enter nirvana, whereas the apostate bhikkhu (monk) does not fall into hell.23

This twofold realization of the clearer distinction between good and evil on the one hand and of the undifferentiated unity and reversion of good and evil on the other, is nothing but a reappraisal of the good-evil duality in the new light of s-unyat-a. Herein, Buddhist ethical life is established in the light of prajn a (wisdom) and karu.n-a (compassion) where, transcending the distinction of good and evil, the distinction is clearly realized.

The distinction and unity, wisdom and compassion, are dynamically working together in Buddhist ethical life because the boundless openness of s-unyat-a is taken as the ground of the ethical life. If, however, s-unyat-a is taken as the goal or the objective of our life and not as the ground or the point of departure, then the Buddhist life falls into the indifference of good and evil and an apathetic attitude toward social evil. The risk and tendency of falling into ethical indifference is always latent in the Buddhist life. In no few instances, Buddhist history illustrates this. In this respect, it is important and significant for Buddhism to have a serious encounter with Christianity which is ethical as well as religious.

In conclusion, let me quote a Zen story as an example of the dynamism of Zen compassion.

One day a visitor asked Joshu, an outstanding Zen master of the T'ang dynasty:

"Where will you go after death?"

"I will go straightfowardly to hell!" answered the master.

"How could it be that such a great Zen master as you would fall into hell?" retorted the visitor.

To this the master said:

"If I will not go to hell, who will save you at the bottom of hell?!"24

Haverford College

Haverford, Pennsylvania


*This chapter originally appeared in Buddhist-Christian Dialogue: Mutual Renewal and Transformation, ed. by Paul O. Ingram and Frederick J. Streng (Honolulu: Univ. of Hawaii Press, l986), pp. 139-154.

1. Exod. 20.2-17; Deut. 5.6-21.

2. The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 13:239.

3. Ibid.

4. Rom. 5.17.

5. John Hick, Evil and the God of Love (London: Macmillan, 1966), p. 377.

6. Dhammapada 14.5.

7. Masao Abe, "The Idea of Purity in Mahayana Buddhism," Zen and Western Thought (London: Macmillan and Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1985) pp. 216-222.

8. Gen. 1.31.

9. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 3:136.

10. Augustine, Enchiridon 4.

11. Augustine, City of God 12.6.

12. Ibid.

13. Augustine, On Free Will 3. xvii.49.

14. New Catholic Encyclopedia, 5:669.

15. Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 3:138.

16. Augustine, Enchiridon 4.421.

17. Ibid.

18. Rom. 7.19.

19. Rom. 7.20.

20. Pi-yen lu (Hekiganroku), case 45, Taish-o 48:181c.

21. Abe, "Zen is not a Philosophy, but . . . ." Zen and Western Thought, pp. 4-24.

22. Tannish-o, A Tract Deploring the Heresies Thought of Faith (Higasji Honganji, 1961), pp. 4-24.

23. Zenmon nenjushu, copied by Seizan Yanagida, 2:120.

24. Chao-chou lu (-Joshuroku) ed. Ry-omin Akizuki, Chikuma edition, p. 170.