Ethics of Catholicism and the Consecration of the Intellectual

Ethics of Catholicism and the Consecration of the Intellectual

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 248
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    Ethics of Catholicism and the Consecration of the Intellectual
    Book Description:

    Using France as the most representative case of a Catholic context, Bélanger argues that as French society became more secularized intellectuals replaced the clergy as arbitrators of justice and enlightenment. Catholic morality was consolidated by the scholastic tradition and confirmed by the Counter-Reformation, providing the foundation that allowed the establishment of a lay elite. Bélanger describes the progressive takeover of positions of influence by the new elite in Catholic society and examines arguments used by thinkers from the seventeenth to the twentieth century to legitimize their positions. In contrast, the Anglo-Saxon Protestant tradition, due to its emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, led to recognition of the individual's conscience as the sole judge of her or his deeds and failed to provide intellectuals with the basis for any claim to serve as moral leaders in political affairs.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6636-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-16)

    Rule-making is a twofold process of representation; there are rulers who act officially as warrants of the interests of the whole, and there are mediators who act in the name of more specific interests. In the contemporary world politics can be understood as the interplay of agents who claim to represent the interests of others. As societies grow more complex, people tend to delegate the task of promoting their interests to those who specialize in representation. These specialists may be lobbyists, pressure groups, or political parties. The highest and most encompassing level of representation is indeed that attained by legislators,...

    • 1 Catholic Ethics
      (pp. 19-29)

      There may be different ways of contrasting the Catholic and Protestant traditions. Discussing Catholic ethics first allows us to respect the chronological order in which the two appeared, and to underline the Protestant departure from orthodoxy. Since my purpose here is merely to demonstrate the opposing characteristics of the two traditions, I prefer to steer clear of any considerations of precedence. Instead I will emphasize the political consequences that can be derived from their contrary positions. I shall treat the Catholic perspective first in order to delineate a basic paradigm that will subsequently be used as a point of reference...

    • 2 The British Moralists: The Eclipse of Natural Law
      (pp. 30-49)

      This chapter focuses on the social consequences that emerged from the Protestant conception of moral authority. My intention here is not, therefore, to make any original contribution to the scholarship on Protestantism, nor to explore extensively the religious foundations of the movement, but to view the Protestant tradition as a foil for the Catholic tradition. The Protestant tradition, as carried by the Anglo-Saxon world, is interesting to observe because of the social consequences of such a break, especially when it is compared to the Catholic societies, which took a different course.

      By breaking with the Catholic orthodoxy, Protestants sought to...

    • 3 The American Assessment of Natural Law
      (pp. 50-58)

      The revolutionary features of the American understanding of natural law are intimately linked to the colonies’ Protestant tradition, particularly that of Puritanism. Puritans conceived of salvation in individualistic and juridical terms. Their religious universe was one of law derived from God’s will, and the relationship of human beings to God was governed by a covenant or compact. Each individual stood alone in a direct relationship to God: the covenant of grace with God allowed no intermediaries. So it is not surprising that natural law was translated into individual rights.

      Locke had already asserted that there were a number of basic...

    • 4 From the Clerisy to a Sparse Intelligentsia
      (pp. 59-72)

      Even if Enlightenment in Britain brought about the downfall of natural law and organic conceptions of governance in general, it nonetheless privileged an elite of thinkers who were expected to act as beacons for the “vulgars,” as Hume called them. The era was individualistic in its articulation of morality, but still depended upon philosophers to express them. The liberal democratic conception of ethics was to develop through the two following centuries before the need for a learned elite vanished entirely.

      As a counterpoint to the eighteenth century’s progressive liberation from a clerical approach to social life, some nineteenth-century authors in...

    • 5 The Counter-Reformation and the Impact of Jesuit Pedagogy
      (pp. 75-84)

      With the mentality of a besieged city (Delumeau 1971, 44), the Council of Trent (1545-63) convened to counteract the growing influence of Protestant Reformers. Its sessions focused on doctrinal and administrative aspects of the growing Reformation. The Council first reiterated the teaching mission of the Church, which consisted of safeguarding the integrity of the two sources of faith, the Holy Scriptures and tradition. To this effect, the only version of the Bible that was to be recognized was theVulgate, written in Latin, and attributed to Saint Jerome. Soon after, reading of the Book in vernacular languages was prohibited. In...

    • 6 Lay Ethics within the Bounds of the Church
      (pp. 85-96)

      France does indeed have a long tradition ofmoralistes,as they are called, but they are more often than notlittérateurswho are concerned with the harmonious adaptation of human beings to life in society. Their discourse pertains to the overall human condition and to the manner in which a well-educated reader should conduct him- or herself. Their prescriptions usually take the form of short considerations that are several paragraphs in length, that is, when they are not summed up in maxims or aphorisms. Themoralistesin the French tradition are, therefore, judged by their qualities as persons of letters,...

    • 7 The Philosophe: The Prefiguration of the Intellectual
      (pp. 97-123)

      Calling eighteenth-century French authors eitherphilosophesor moralists is a misnomer in both cases, for they were usually neither. They identified themselves asphilosophes, but they had little in common with philosophers like Hume or Kant. There was no intention to deceive on their part. By posing asphilosophesthey intended to stand in the name of reason, outside any considerations of religion or even of metaphysics. Unlike most of their predecessors, who usually stopped short of tackling revelation, thephilosophesopenly crossed this threshold and claimed total intellectual freedom. Abstract metaphysics was also put aside in favour of a...

    • 8 The Revolutionary Reading of Justice
      (pp. 124-132)

      The different opinions expressed during the French Revolution crystallize conceptions of the individual and society that thephilosopheshad entertained but never completely developed. On the whole, the revolutionary ideologies expressed values that were far from liberal; thus they provided fertile ground for the emergence of the intellectuals. TheDéclaration des droits de I’homme et du citoyen(1789) together with the writings of Sieyès, who is quite representative of his time, and the discourse of the Jacobins, show a convergence of ideas that share a perception of reason and its function in the workings of society.

      The preamble of the...

    • 9 An Anti-Individualist Liberalism
      (pp. 133-144)

      The decades that followed the Revolution were, in France, a period during which authors from all political horizons drew conclusions about thephilosophesand the consequences of their writings. Whether thephilosophesdid or did not have the influence frequently imputed to them matters little in the context of the present discussion. What does matter is rather the status they were assigned by their successors. In other words, how was the role of the intellectual appreciated in nineteenth-century France? As weakened, obliterated, or as strengthened?

      Traditional conservatives such as Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821) and the Vicomte de Bonald (1754-1840) made...

    • 10 Positivism: The Path Leading to the Intellectual
      (pp. 145-151)

      Even though French positivism is correctly identified with Auguste Comte (1798—1857), the formative influence of Henri de Saint-Simon( 1760—1825), Comte's predecessor, should not be neglected. Comte borrowed much from Saint-Simon, and both authors celebrate the social role of the scientist. Comte did indeed depart from Saint-Simon; Comte was more organically inclined and less organizationally oriented than his predecessor.

      Auguste Comte is best known for his theory of the law of three stages in the development of history: the theological, the metaphysical, and the positive stages. Saint-Simon more than prepared the way for this theory. Both authors agreed on...

    • 11 The Emergence of the Intellectual
      (pp. 152-166)

      The last three decades of the nineteenth century in France witnessed a significant interest in ethics.¹ This trend coincided with the onset of the Third Republic. The Third Republic was proclaimed in 1870 but was more officially established through a series of laws which culminated in 1875. Thinkers of the time envisioned the republican era as providing a solid ground on which to build a secularized state. The debate over secularization, which progressively materialized from the early 1880s to the famous Combes legislation of 1904 testifies to the importance of the issue on the political agenda of the time.


    • 12 The Consecration of the Intellectual
      (pp. 167-179)

      Jean-Paul Sartre was the intellectual who most closely approximated the ideal type. He was the intellectualpar excellencebecause of both his writings and his frequent participation in political debates. He consciously placed himself in the tradition begun by Voltaire and continued by Zola. In this respect, he was faithful to the examples set by his predecessors. He was innovative in that he asserted that a commitment to politics was compulsory for writers, whereas his predecessors had considered political involvement to be a matter of discretion.

      Sartre’s itinerary follows a progressive path that leads ultimately to the consecration of the...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 180-188)

    Intellectuals comprise a supposedly enlightened elite who become involved in political matters in order to offer guidance to the masses in the search for their true objective interests. The role of intellectuals is derived from and legitimized by an ethical system that relied on reason to discover and explicate objective justice. While Protestant ethics (particularly Calvinism) is conducive to a subjective understanding of interests in which feelings provide the measuring rod, the Catholic ethical tradition tempers the individual’s ability to determine her or his own rules of conduct. Intellectuals claim that because of their ability to reason, they have direct...

  8. APPENDIX The Latin American Experience
    (pp. 189-202)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 203-236)
  10. Index
    (pp. 237-242)