Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

The Claim for Secularization as a Contemporary Utopia

Academic journal article Journal of Markets & Morality

The Claim for Secularization as a Contemporary Utopia

Article excerpt

The article focuses on the chasm that modern philosophy has wrought in human nature, thus giving rise to various dichotomies--intellect-morality, religion--science, and faith--reason. A belief has grown that these dichotomies are permanent and nothing can bridge them. Today, some people claim that economic activity may succeed regardless of moral considerations. No wonder then that we are facing conflicts, clashes, and dishonesty. Generally, we fall prey to a utopia.

Such was also the state of affairs in the nineteenth century. Its thinkers acquired the heritage of modernity against which they (Acton, Bastiat, Newman) had to stand up, but, instead of growing desperate, they resorted to an integral concept of the human person and went beyond modernity. Like Newman, they resolved to place intellect and morality, faith and reason, and religion and science "under one roof."


I hope everybody would agree that politics alone is insufficient for a proper understanding of ongoing social matters. In other words, politicians who are to represent the nation are expected to make decisions, rather than provide the structural framework or lay foundations of political systems. Therefore, when liberalism or liberal democracy, for instance, are under consideration, we shall be more prudent if we turn to philosophers to provide proper definitions of what European liberalism means and what it meant in the writings of its founding fathers. Only in this manner can we gain the appropriate contexts and historical background, and save ourselves from expediency to which politicians so often resort. They frequently satisfy themselves with what is useful rather than with what is right because they want to win followers and be reelected. Therefore, they have no qualms about calling themselves socialists, democrats, or liberals without even knowing what the underlying doctrines here denote. They excuse their ignorance by saying that they have adopted a pragmatic attitude. This pragmatic approach is oftentimes misleading and biased, especially when it comes to the interpretation of political facts. (1)

Driven into a network of concepts and categories, we need to develop the habit of demanding their definitions, unless we want to be completely confused and at a loss. It is especially urgent now when different political allies are all too eager to name any behavior an expression of freedom and demand that it be safeguarded by way of state legislation; when political correctness actually removes from the social sphere what was once called traditional and moral; and, eventually, when tolerance, specifically understood, in fact reduces our freedom by banning certain manifestations of our liberty. (2)

In terms of philosophical inspiration, European liberalism is typically traced back to two main sources. One of them is French rationalism and the other is British empiricism. I think we need to add yet one more that goes beyond rationalism and empiricism to the great traditions of Christianity--to Saint Augustine and the natural-law tradition. Philosophy has called it personalism. Rationalism and empiricism evolved the idea of ego-cogito, the individual; personalism developed a concept of the person. Rationalism and empiricism brought an end to Aristotelian qualitative physics and ensured a quantitative investigation of the world, thereby pushing it on the path of technological and industrial progress.

Now personalism grounded European civilization on the dignity of the human person, the priority of the person over institutions, and the priority of society over the state. These are the values with which European liberalism is imbued as well; they permeated it at various stages of its development. The dignity of the human person is rooted in both philosophical and religious traditions. As for the philosophical tradition, let it suffice to mention Kant with his time-honored claim that we should never use another person as only a means to an end. …

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