Prometheus and the age of freedom

Promethius Bound (Adam, detail)
“I will never exchange, be sure, my miserable lot to serve you. I would rather be bound to this rock than be the faithful valet, the messenger of Father Zeus.” Prometheus Bound

In dark times, when all seems lost or hopelessly confused, we should turn to ultimate things and ultimate principles. They are the reason why we can recognize the transient for what it is. The philosopher’s attitude should be submissive to Catholic belief as well—we should pray and contemplate before acting. We should practice abandonment to God’s providence. One of the areas of deep principle that I’ve been rereading lately:

Even with a correct speculative understanding of the common good, there can still coexist a pernicious practical ignorance. One can refuse the primacy of the common good because it is not primarily the singular good of the singular person and because it requires a subordination of the latter to a good which does not belong to us on account of our singular personality. Through disordered love of singularity, one practically rejects the common good as a foreign good and one judges it to be incompatible with the excellence of our singular condition. One withdraws thus from order and takes refuge in oneself as though one were a universe for oneself, a universe rooted in a free and very personal act. One freely abdicates dignity as a rational creature in order to establish oneself as a radically independent whole. “Hatred of God itself has the notion of end insofar as it is desired under the notion of liberty, according to the words of Jeremiah (II, 20): You have long been breaking the yoke, breaking bonds, and you have said, I will not serve!” One would not refuse the common good if one were oneself the principle of it, or if it drew its excellence from one’s own free choice: the primacy is accorded to liberty itself. One wants to be first of all a whole so radically independent that one has no need of God except for that same purpose, and then one would enjoy a right to submit or not submit to order as one pleased. The act of submission itself would be an act which emanates as surplus from a pure “for self” and from the recognition of one’s proper generosity as being so great that it does it no harm to spread itself forth; on the contrary, the personality thus would fulfill itself and pour forth the good which it already possesses in itself. It fulfills itself—that is, its good comes from within; it will owe to the exterior nothing but the generosity of extra space. It will recognize willingly its dependence on unformed matter, like the sculptor who recognizes his dependence on stone. One will even let oneself be directed by someone else; one will recognize a superior, provided that the latter be the “fruit” of one’s own choice and the vicar, not of the community but first and foremost of oneself. Any good other than that which is due to us on account of our singular nature, any good anterior to this one and to which we must freely submit ourselves under pain of doing evil, is abhorred as an insult to our personality.

There is a revolt even against the very idea of order, although a creature is more perfect in the measure in which it participates more in order. (Charles De Koninck, The Primacy of the Common Good)

How profoundly opposed is this principle of liberty to the one adopted and exalted by fallen man!

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State. (Planned Parenthood vs. Casey)

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