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sábado, 14 de julho de 2012

Lecture 4, Nicholas Wolterstorff, "Justice: Theory Meets Practice" Seminar in Honduras



Nicholas Wolterstorff: Fides Quaerens Intellectum - CCT Conference



domingo, 1 de julho de 2012

Second Review: Nicholas Wolterstorff

Second Review: Nicholas Wolterstorff

A second review of our new book, Faith Seeking Understanding, has now come in from the insightful philosopher, Nicholas Wolterstoff (Penn State historian Phillip Jenkins kindly wrote the first)

Faith and intellectual inquiry are often pitched against each other, not only by unbelievers but also by believers. David Marshall's FAITH SEEKING UNDERSTANDING is a collection of seventeen engaging stories of search in which the two are intertwined. Some are stories of seeking to understand what one is longing for; some are stories of seeking to understand better what already one believes; some are stories of seeking to understand the world in the light of what one believes. What makes the collection especially fascinating and valuable is the individuality and particularity of the stories -- a concrete testimony to the fact that the Christian intellectual life takes many forms.

 Nicholas Wolterstorff

 Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University
 Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture, University of Virginia.

Faith Seeking Understanding is due out this fall.

sexta-feira, 18 de maio de 2012

Nicholas Wolterstorff and George Grant -- by Henry Smidstra

In response to my review of Nicholas Wolterstorff’s book, Justice: Rights and WrongsJustice: Rights and Wrongs Ron Dart asked how this book compares to, or differs from, George Grant’s book, entitled English Speaking Justice, 1974. That will take some effort at recall, as it has been a while since I read Grant’s book. I thank Ron for asking that question in that it is making me realize the amount of work I still need to do to grasp the justice and human rights issues, especially Grant’s critique of contractual justice (contractarian, the “social contract” concept) of liberal democracy. Wolterstorff does not address the topic of the social contract. 
Now, I am not an expert in the discussion on human rights, coming at it from reading and research on criminal justice and restorative justice. I am also coming at the topic from a still developing, personal theological and historical perspective, having being raised and educated in a neo-Calvinist tradition. Ron’s question, I am coming to realize, is tremendously important for my personal contemplation, and also for wider dialogue on justice issues. I have come to see that justice and politics are intimately related, a multifaceted reality of life, like faith, not merely a personal and private affair between me and God. There are numerous perspectives on justice and some paradoxical strands of theory and practice in my own Reformed and Evangelical tradition. I am convinced that our emotional intelligence and cognitive frameworks, as related to personal models of justice, are intimately linked to the kind of “politics” we experienced in our families and communities of origin. To think differently about justice and the role of the state, as both are intimately interconnected, takes considerable introspection and contemplation. I have learned much about the role of the state by taking a close look at the criminal justice system and its last “door”, the prison, the execution chamber of life-time, as implied by the neo-classical maxim, “you do the crime, you do the time.”

From my notes of reading Grant’s book quite some time ago, I would say that both he and Wolterstorff definitely agree on the transcendent value that God places on all human beings by virtue of His creation and love. They also underline that goods precede rights, and not as in the liberalism’s apothegm, that rights precede goods.  Justice is what we are due, or as Grant puts it, justice is what we are fitted for. Justice is ours, not by virtue of a personal choice and contractual agreement, but by virtue of the value God has inhered in us and in all humanity, as Wolterstorff suggests. Wolterstorff also notes that rights are relational, responsive unconditionally to others as human beings, to serve human flourishing; rights are normative social bonds. He denounces possessive individualism, and he explicates in detail how Stoicism, with its vital interest in personal tranquility and self-control, so to express justice, cannot be grounds for the concept of justice as inherent rights. However, Wolterstorff has little to say about liberalism, the social contract, or about John Rawls, the modern advocate of contractualism, or contractarianism. Grant on the other hand is explicit in warning about the weakness and danger of liberalism’s flower child, the social contract. Liberalism’s concept of the social contract seeks to serve individual happiness, but ultimately destroys the social fabric of the common good.

It seems that Wolterstorff is reticent to speak on areas other than moral philosophy; his focus is on rights relating to the interpersonal realm of life, and he does not declare himself in the area of political or economic philosophy. Perhaps there are other reasons for his avoidance of discussing the social contract and the modern political economic belief systems that support the cash-cows of modern technological society. He suggests that Rawls is probably an inherent rights theorist, and not a right order theorist, but does wonder if Rawls’ project of a non-transcendently grounded theory of justice will succeed. Wolterstorff maintains that only a theistically grounded notion of rights can safeguard the unconditional worth of all human beings. However, I would like to see how Wolterstorff would intertwine his theory of individual inherent rights with the public, political-economic spheres of society. I found him “evading” in the issue of retributive justice. Public, rectifying justice (retributive) is generally considered the sole responsibility of the state; and, likewise, I suspect, in the public political realms for Wolterstorff, justice is to be regulated by social contract, that the rule of law is sufficient and sovereign, facilitated by the state for the benefit of the individual.

George Grant clearly does not endorse the concept of the social contract as a way of governance for public life. Grant declares that justice is what we are fitted for based on transcendent Good, and he clearly distinguishes this good from justice grounded in the social contract.  Liberalisms’ rule of justice has become wholly contractual and abstract, absolutzing faith in contractual technology, in the service of techne, according to Grant.  Horizontal ordering of life by contract within the public for individual interest, gives, gives technology free reign in the gap between the individual and the fabric of social and national life, for unrestrained service for profit and progress: not in the service of primary good for public human life.  Justice as a good for which human beings are fitted, loses its transcendent grounding, sacrificed to utilitarian pragmatism for economics’ sake. Without a transcendent grounding, there is a moral vacuum as a result, and social contracting makes ends up as it goes; morality becomes whatever public opinion or public confidence happens to be.   Grant passionately prophetic, out of concern for the common good of human life, alerts us that in our modern liberal society, “winning is not only everything, it is all there is.”  And, I add, so much for the good of those Christ advocated for, societies’ losers.  Grant bids us to be vigilant and consistent for the moral transcendent nature of justice as what we are fitted for, not just in one’s personal private interests, but especially in our public life of economics and justice for the common good.  We will need to change the way we think about justice. We cannot solve modern problems of poverty, and crime and punishment, by the same thinking that created the problem in the first place. We may need to look at pre-modern wisdom here.

Wolterstorff spends very little time on Rawls, or on theory of the social contract, and I suspect that Wolterstorff is implicitly contractarian in his political philosophy; whereas Grant adamantly adheres to a non-contractarian transcendent orientation for justice, and prophetically critiques public resource development as it proceeds unhindered in serving the pursuit of individual happiness. Wolterstorff offers little direction in the area of public, political policy of “possessive individualism”.  Both George Grant (Lament For a Nation,1965) and Ron Dart, (The Canadian High Tory Tradition: Raids on the Unspeakable, 2004)) point out  that the traditional Canadian political focus on the common good has moved  toward the American Republican tradition of autonomous freedom for the pursuit of individual happiness.  Justice becomes merely what human beings can agree on with laws of their own creation, constrained only by the libertarian utilitarian creed of negative rights. A basic challenge for us is to look at how the 16th 17th century concept of the social contract, as well as its modern applications, relate to a theistic or transcendent source of authority for all of life. How justice as inherent human rights and the common good fit together harmoniously. How do Calvinists, evangelicals, and Christians generally, relate to the values and attraction of liberalism’s creed of unfettered progress and wealth for autonomous individual self-interest? Also, what theoretical model do they think and act from in terms of criminal justice?  Here I wish Wolterstorff would intertwine his theory of primary relational justice as inherent rights, with justice in the political and social economic public sense as justice for the common good of  all human beings, for as Wolterstorff declares, all are precious in God’s sight.

Grant suggests that Calvinists especially, are susceptible to contractualism; could it be that Calvinists, who find liberalism and humanism abhorrent, are latent liberals anyway, favouring libertarian creeds of individualism and unfettered free enterprise? The sovereignty of God is a matter of confession by Calvinists, and no doubt their social political stance reflects an implicit individual responsibility in the social contract they have “signed on to”; but how does that relate to all the other autonomous contracts being made in the community and society in which they live and move and have their being?  We no longer live in the largely homogenous, yet socially stratified, cultural and social systems of the 16th 17th and 18th centuries when the social contract made its way into social political life and thought. By 1688, after a century of immense change and conflict, at the “victory” of the Glorious Revolution, law and contract was king, and Kings were mere figure heads; the sovereignty of God was transferred to inhere in the laws and contracts made here below on earth, usually to benefit the realms of estates of the emerging managerial class for profit in the newly developing economic and industrial structures. A new paradigm was born, sovereignty for the individual, versus state authority. Modern liberal thought focuses on the individual and the economy. However, I will add, the utility matrix, rational choice, the social contract, and retribution, are also the foundation of the modern criminal justice system.  Using Wolterstorff’s suggestion that we need to change the way we think about justice, I will extend to both our thinking on social justice, and to criminal justice.

British Criminologist, David Garland, in his insightful book, Punishment and Modern Society,1990, uses the image of a palimpsest in attempting to capture the multiplicity of factors in penality. A Palimpsest was used as a rewritable manuscript , however, after each use a residue of old script remained on the parchment, and after numerous uses, there were many invisible traces of old narratives along with contemporary images. I suggest that this is an apt way to think about modern political economic philosophy as well.  Imbedded in the script of the social contract are the old narratives of fear, one of fear of earthly governments, and the other fear of humanity.  There is an inherent phobia about “big government” that intervenes in the affairs of personal freedom; and there is a fear of people, especially the masses who must be restrained by the state otherwise chaos will return to earth, with vagrants and knaves, all depraved, rising up and disturbing the social order. So two main roles for the state: to punish the wrongdoer, and to maintain a social order in which the economy of each individual can flourish. The fathers of state formation and the social contact of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, men such as Hobbes, Locke, Paine, and Kant, wrote under the influences of the conditions of their time. However, some of their old scripts of fear and bias are still implicit in social contract theory today.

Perhaps the folks that drew up this philosophy for public governance knew little what they were getting in to. The fathers of 17 and 18th century state-formation created a bifurcation of authority and power; that of the State was differentiated absolutely from that of the church, and thus social theories were isolated from any direct explicit religious direction. No wonder then that there is a moral vacuum, a disconnect, between the lordship of Christ, and His cause for justice, and the state; Christ was champion of the poor and marginalized. Christ certainly did not walk around in fear and loathing of the masses either, he joined in with them as incarnated God. He did not demonize people, he humanised them. He did not place people on pedestals and enthrone them as autonomous individuals either. He treated them with worth, addressed real existential creational needs within the social political context of that time. Neither Christ nor St. Paul glorified the rule of the state, not Caesar, nor the Sanhedrin; they did not demonize the state either. The state is to be servant for the Good; the state has a transcendent, theistically grounded, mandate to serve for the common good. Abuse of this mandate does happen, but that does not annul the state sovereignty altogether.

 Social contract thinking is linked to the 16th and 17th century struggle for freedom from oppression of the doctrine of divine right of kings at that time in history. However, sovereignty was reduced to the individual who chooses, regulated by new laws and the implicit social contract. The resulting technology for governance via the social contract was an individual calculation to choose for personal pleasure and to avoid pain of retaliation should wrongs be done: the calculation was to serve deterrence.  By personal conscientious contract, individuals join in an implicit social consensus of individuals, individually agreeing to abide by the restrictions to individual freedom to avoid pain.  Anyone who violates that contract has chosen the hard punishment of the law to be enforced and administered by the magistrate. Thus the baby of a transcendent grounding of justice has been thrown out with the bath water of the struggle for personal liberty; and, now in the 21st century, contractual separation of the individual and politics, the driving force of modern technology has achieved a virtual oppressive life of its own.  The individual is now at the mercy of technology, and the social fabric is frayed by social distance.

 Violation of the social contract is now also the grounds for retributive justice, by design of the liberalism’s classical school of criminology of the 18th century as crafted by Beccaria and Bentham. They combined the rational calculus and the apothegm of utilitarianism: choosing pleasure versus pain, “lightning calculus”. Violating the social contract was grounds for punishment; equally for all. However, we know, then as now, that equality of resources is a myth, and the rich get a good lawyer and counselling, while the poor and “undesirables” get jail.  Criminal acts are theorized to be failures of  personal utilitarian calculus, of rational choice; wrongdoers are assumed to be absolutely healthy and rational all the time, and simply bring punishment onto themselves. No need for compassion or empathy here, they made their bed so to speak. To be clear, oppression by any ruler, or harmful violation of another and the common good, is not part of God’s intention for life, and demands rectification. God’s design for the common good is for life flourishing. Our modern criminal justice system, built on liberalism’s design of individual rationality, the social contact, and deterrence, has created more war than peace, and the common good is wanting.

In speaking casually with people, many comment on politics, on what’s going on in Ottawa or Victoria, as much as they might about the weather.  Two topics often come up: crime, and the economy. What I hear are passionate opinions, implicitly reflecting certain theoretical models of justice and state that are believed to be morally right. Personally, I have come to understand the criminal justice system, from experience and study, as the coercive power and monopoly of the state, one of the most legal invasive powers in society over personal freedom and human and civil rights; a coercive power, I insist, we should use as seldom as possible and sparingly. The state does have an important role in providing alternatives here, however, but there is usually considerable disagreement about the role of the state in distributing resources and facilitating justice.  We have a right to the goods of personal freedom and safety, and so do all our neighbours. How we respond to wrongdoers defines us, and reflects our assumptive world view of the state, the economic, and the punishment system.  David Garland suggested we think of our present practice of crime control as civil war in miniature, revealing a struggle within ourselves.  Wars are declared, which by contractual consensus we actually wage on ourselves, for we are all co-human beings, image bearers, neighbours, all our own flesh and blood. Modern liberalism seems to declare war on almost everything, on crime, drugs, poverty, especially if wrongs violate the profit or property principle. Reflecting on what Dostoyevsky and Churchill implied when they suggested that the measure of a nation’s civilization or social health is revealed by looking inside a nation’s prisons. Jesus implied that a nation’s justice is indicated by the health and wellbeing of its poorest members, not society’s notion of righteousness. The common good is not indicated by looking at the bottom line of an aggregate sense of contracted individual self-satisfaction, or the balanced nature of a nation’s economy.  It seems to me that we need to look at the more excellent way that St. Paul suggested the way of love, of compassion, and of reconciliation, nourishing healthy community and national life; a more ancient way of looking at justice, the state and the common good.

sexta-feira, 16 de março de 2012

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice in Love

The central problem--or at least one articulation of it--for Catholic legal theory is the relation of justice and love, and so I have been eager to read Nicholas Wolterstorff's most recent book, Justice in Love (Eerdmans, 2011), which is a sequel to his remarkable Justice: Rights and Wrongs (Princeton, 2008). Justice: Rights and Wrongs was a powerful articulation (with an echo in Catholic social thought and the work of Catholic scholars such as John Finnis) of rights from within the Christian tradition (though I disagree with Nick's argument that rights are inconsistent with Thomism and other forms of eudaimonistic ethics, but that's a topic for another day). Justice in Love gets a tough review from Emory's Timothy Jackson at the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here, where Jackson takes Wolterstorff to task for his rejection of "modern day agapists," including Anders Nygren, Soren Kierkegaard, Karl Barth, and Paul Ramsey. (I suspect I'm with Wolterstorff in his reservations about a tendency to "love monism" in these figures, even if each of them presents particular complications.) But whatever one's assessment of this or that aspect of the overall Wolterstorff position, we can be grateful that one of the great Christian philosophers of our day--after taking up projects on epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, aesthetics, John Locke, and Thomas Reid over the course of a long career--is spending his "retirement" producing a lasting legacy for Christian political thought with Justice: Rights and Wrongs, Justice in Love, and the forthcoming The Mighty and the Almighty: An Essay in Political Theology (Cambridge, 2012)


Nicholas Wolterstorff

Justice in Love

Published: March 12, 2012

Nicholas Wolterstorff, Justice in Love, Eerdmans, 2011, 284pp., $35.00 (hbk), ISBN 9780802866158.

Reviewed by Timothy P. Jackson, Emory University


Nicholas Wolterstorff's Justice in Love (2011) is the companion volume to his Justice: Rights and Wrongs (2008), which is a deft and balanced treatment of the language of "rights" and "duties" and of the proper relation of that language to Christian ethics. In Justice: Rights and Wrongs, Wolterstorff drove the final nail in the coffin of the view that talk of "rights" and "mutual respect" is merely a product of the Enlightenment or a form of Christian apostasy. Wolterstorff demonstrated, on the contrary, that rights and reciprocal justice have been crucial to the Christian tradition and are essential to any viable Christian morality. That being the case, readers of his first book on justice would be entirely justified in expecting a similarly fair and insightful treatment of agapic love[1] in the second. But, alas, in one key respect they would be disappointed.

For reasons that still elude me, in Justice in Love Wolterstorff spins "the classical version of modern day agapism" into a gossamer man by equating it with the overheated views of Anders Nygren. Nygren's Agape and Eros (1930-36) notoriously set agapic love at odds with both erotic desire and justice, and Wolterstorff is correct in criticizing this position.[2] The problem is that he tries to tar all "modern day" agapists -- from Søren Kierkegaard to Karl Barth to Paul Ramsey -- with the same brush. He argues that their accounts of agapic love, like Nygren's, must lead them not merely to be neglectful of justice but also actively to perpetrate injustice. This is a misreading. Wolterstorff's critique hits home in some places, but Kierkegaard, Barth, and Ramsey differ significantly among themselves, and Wolterstorff often blurs this fact. Worse, he lumps them together with Nygren's assault on eros and justitia and thus treats them unfairly.

Wolterstorff marshals telling criticisms of "love monism" -- the view that agape is the only virtue -- and his elaborations of the claims of justice are often innovative and credible. In many ways, Justice in Love is a superb text. Nevertheless, it is marred by a fundamental misapprehension. There is no such thing as "classical modern day agapism," as Wolterstorff describes it.

I. Some Representative Passages

Here are some representative passages from Justice in Love:

All the modern day agapists agreed that if one loves someone agapically, one does not treat him as one does because justice requires it, and conversely, if one treats someone as one does because justice requires it, one is not loving him agapically. Loving someone agapically and treating him as one does because justice requires it are conceptually incompatible. Agapic love casts out all thought of justice and injustice. Agapic love is blind and deaf to justice and injustice. (p. 42)

Agapic love is blind to all requirements coming from the side of the recipient. It is in that way spontaneous. But when I seek to treat you justly, I treat you as I do because your worth requires it. (p. 43)

There is another aspect of the nature of forgiveness that Nygren and the other agapists ignore. Notice that one cannot dispense forgiveness indiscriminately hither and yon. I can forgive you only if you have wronged someone, and only for the wrong you did them. (p. 54)

Not only can one not understand oneself as forgiving someone without employing the concepts of rights and wrongs, justice and injustice. One cannot even perform the act of forgiving someone without employing those concepts. (p. 55)

Agapic love perpetrates injustice. (p. 57)

The position of the agapist implies that I am sometimes permitted to do what I ought not to do [perpetrate injustice]; sometimes it is even the case that I should do what I ought not to do. (p. 61)

What can one say in response to these provocative lines? Let me mount a defense of some modern forms of agapism by drawing several important distinctions.

II. Agapic Love as Sometimes Rising above Justice but Never Falling Below It

Compare Wolterstorff's words above with those of Paul Ramsey:

sometimes love does what justice requires and assumes its rules as norms, sometimes love does more than justice requires but never less, and sometimes love acts in a quite different way from what justice alone can enable us to discern to be right. When one's own interests alone are at stake, the Christian governs himself by love and resists not one who is evil. When his neighbor's need and the just order of society are at stake, the Christian still governs himself by love and suffers no injustice to be done nor the order necessary to earthly life to be injured.[3]

Wolterstorff fails to register that not being limited to justice is not the same as being blind and deaf to justice or to violating justice. If modern justice is plausibly defined in terms of rewarding merit, punishing demerit, or keeping contracts, it is quite possible to go beyond these practices without either ignoring them or offending against them. Wolterstorff himself makes the point that, in Jesus' parable of the vineyard (Matt. 20:1-16), the owner commits no injustice: he pays to the early-comers the amount agreed upon, even though he also generously gives the late-comers an equal sum (p. 60). This important point is devastating against Nygren, but not against Ramsey.

Wolterstorff marks the crucial contrast between acting in accordance with justice and being motivated by justice (p. 45), and he argues persuasively that an agapist as such may do the former without doing the latter. The main question, nonetheless, is not whether an agapist must be motivated by justice in all circumstances but whether she may be so motivated in some circumstances. One might maintain that, by definition, an agapist who is motivated by justice is, to that extent, not an agapist. But that begs the question of whether agapic love and justice are compatible or even cooperative. For his part, to repeat, Wolterstorff thinks that classical modern agapists must be unconcerned with justice and even actively violate it. Paul Ramsey disagrees, as do many (if not most) contemporary agapists. I myself have contended that concern for distributive, retributive, and procedural justice goes hand-in-hand with agape but that agape has priority over them and often goes beyond them.[4] Hans Urs von Balthasar explicitly ties love to awareness of guilt and thus injustice: "the spirit of love cannot teach man the meaning of the Cross, without laying bare the guilt of the world."[5] He is convinced that "love alone can fulfill the law," but, rather than ignoring or contravening justice, he relates it to love: "the Church's proclamation of the principles of social justice, and any efforts she may make to realize them, must be steeped in the love of the New Testament."[6] Was von Balthasar not a classical modern day agapist?

Wolterstorff rightly returns contemporary Christian ethics to the teachings of Jesus and Saint Paul. But modern day agapists have not been as forgetful of how those teachings intimately connect love and justice as Wolterstorff claims. Building on Scripture and Paul Ramsey, I have argued for many years that justice is an indispensable ally of love.[7]Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind as explicitly and actively tying love to the combating of injustice: "Love, agape, is the only cement that can hold this broken community together. When I am commanded to love, I am commanded to restore community, to resist injustice, and to meet the needs of my brothers."[8] Was King not a classical modern day agapist?

Wolterstorff's own version of agapism ultimately "incorporates" (p. 72) justitia into agape: "doing justice is an example of love" (p. 84). Biblical teachings do not simply identify love and justice, however. Jesus himself praises agapic love foremost -- his final love command is "love [agapao] one another as I have loved you" (John 15:12) -- but he also sanctions the demands of justice, honesty, humility, and piety. The parable of the vineyard reconciles contractual justice and "generosity" (Matt. 20:1-16), as Wolterstorff recognizes, but it also distinguishes them. Jesus was no love monist who imprudently reduced ethics to fairness-blind benevolence: think of his indictment of the scribes and Pharisees as "hypocrites" for neglecting "the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith" (Matt. 23:23). (Note that "justice" (krisis) and "mercy" (eleos) are mentioned serially, not conflated.)

III. The Case of Reinhold Niebuhr

Interestingly, Wolterstorff considers Reinhold Niebuhr a "non-classical" agapist. "Classical modern day agapists" hold that one must love one's neighbor agapically "under all conditions," Wolterstorff writes, but Niebuhr allows that "there are conditions under which one should treat one's neighbor as justice requires rather than loving him agapically" (p. 25). In spite of his noting some of the complexities of Niebuhr's position, here again Wolterstorff overstates the case. He accents Niebuhr's conceding the impossibility of Christian love, at least on the group level, and construes him as saying that we must simply leave agape behind as a political ideal, favoring justice instead. Otherwise, agape will "perpetrate injustice or invite victimization" (p. 63). Yet this reading misses Niebuhr's exquisite, sometimes tortured ambivalence. Admittedly, Niebuhr is not always consistent. InMoral Man and Immoral Society, for example, he writes:

A rational ethic aims at justice, and a religious ethic makes love the ideal. A rational ethic seeks to bring the needs of others into equal consideration with those of the self. The religious ethic . . . insists that the needs of the neighbor shall be met, without a careful computation of relative needs.[9]

Given his frequent claims that agape is nonresisting while politics is built on the balance of power, it is tempting indeed to ascribe to Niebuhr a sharp (almost cynical) discontinuity between love and justice, Christianity and politics; but this too easily resolves the central paradox of prophetic morality. The Kingdom is "both here and not yet."

Reminiscent of Kierkegaard's pseudonyms, Niebuhr's character­istic trope is to resist all reductive gambits and to depict Christianity paradoxically. The law of love, for example, is both a cogent norm and an impractical ideal; it is neither simply possible nor simply impossible, but rather an "impossible possibility."[10] A philosophical turn of mind will immediately pounce on this as contradictory, and so it is on one level. Niebuhr's point, however, is that prophetic religion avails itself of myths and mysteries which transcend philosophical reason. Any rationalistic attempt to dismiss the love command as impractical and therefore irrelevant, and any romantic attempt to preach it as fully realizable and therefore straightforwardly binding, evacuates Christian piety of its distinctive tension, according to Niebuhr. "Prophetic Christianity . . . demands the impossible," Niebuhr writes, and yet "the prophetic tradition in Christianity must insist on the relevance of the ideal of love to the moral experience of mankind of every conceivable level."[11] To see in Niebuhr, as does Wolterstorff, a simple or complete disconnect between agapic love and social justice, is to lose Niebuhr's nuance.[12]

IV. Agapic Love as a Duty to the Individual

Wolterstorff contends that agape is unmotivated by the being or doing of the other and is thus a form of "benevolence" or "gratuitous generosity" (p. 42). He recognizes that such love "seeks to promote the good of [the] person as an end in itself" (p. 22), but he is oddly insensitive to the fact that agape earnestly attends to the needs and potentials of the neighbor in all their concreteness. Even if unintentionally, Wolterstorff gives the impression that agapic love, as interpreted by moderns, is a form of optional philanthropy that wells up in the giver utterly arbitrarily and independently of "the recipient." Otherwise, to use his phrase, "the serpent of requirement would have wriggled its way into the garden of pure agape" (p. 45). Wolterstorff surely knows, however, this is not how many modern agapists understand the virtue. For Kierkegaard, agape is "spontaneous" and "unconditional" in not being premised on "worth," defined as achieved merit or demerit, and in not demanding reciprocity. Yet Kierkegaard spends numerous pages in Works of Love (1848) elaborating "our duty to love the people we see."[13] Von Balthasar echoes the sentiment in claiming that "absolute love" is a "duty" that "transcends individual 'inclination'."[14] For both men, agape affirms obligations that are grounded in the reality of God and the neighbor, especially her need for love. Otherwise, it is mere abstract well-wishing, if not self-indulgence -- a kind of moral masturbation.

For many present-day agapists, the "requirements" of charity have a different basis from those of justice; in my estimation, charity looks to sanctity, the image of God borne by all, whereas justice looks to achieved dignity.[15] But charity, including forgiveness of sins, is not simply supererogatory. Justice cannot demand forgiveness as something actively deserved, as Wolterstorff seems to concede (p. 55), but this does not mean that forgiveness is not obligatory and directed toward the other. This realization is very near the heart of Christian ethics: out of gratitude to God and concern for both self and others, forgiveness is required of the victim but cannot be insisted upon by the victimizer. This is precisely why it is a duty of charity and not of justice. If agape and forgiveness were merely supererogatory, Jesus could not have commanded them, Kierkegaard and von Balthasar should not have considered them duties, and Ramsey would not have focused on the "Thou shalts" of Matthew 22.

V. Agapic Love as Equal Regard rather than Identical Treatment

Wolterstorff seems to think that having equal regard for the neighbor must entail treating everyone the same or as close to the same as possible, however unjust this might be.[16]This is not so. Most agapists from Kierkegaard to Ramsey to Gene Outka have recognized that love must respond to the individual in his or her particularity -- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving solace to the grieving, forgiving the guilty, and so on. If one tries to feed the satiated, clothe the well-dressed, comfort the joyful, or forgive the innocent, this will be folly, not charity. Outka has been especially careful to highlight the equal consideration vs. identical treatment distinction,[17] but Wolterstorff mentions his work only in passing. Moreover, Outka takes great pains not to oppose charity and justice, even affirming that "justice may have a limiting effect on agape qua radical other-regard."[18] For him, nothing about agape requires or even permits one to behave unjustly, including giving the prize to the loser in a competition (cf. Wolterstorff, p. 57). Is Outka not a classical modern day agapist?

VI. Agapic Love as Not Unqualified Self-sacrifice

Wolterstorff finds fault with any account of agape that is uncritically self-sacrificial or that vilifies self-love. Unqualified calls for self-sacrifice would inevitably make agapists complicit in tyranny and thus be a threat to justice, as Wolterstorff perceives, even as the failure to respect one's own worth is a kind of moral "malformation" (p. 95). But who, other than Nygren, disagrees with this? Jesus Christ endorses self-love at least eight times in the Gospels, and he prudently escapes the violent crowd when his time had not yet come.[19] He is open to surrendering himself and his legitimate interests, but only under the proper circumstances. Jesus is pre-modern, but many modern feminists have made similar points about the limits of self-sacrifice.[20] In my own work, I have argued that moral self-immolation must be properly motivated (kindness rather than masochism), properly structured (voluntary rather than coerced), and properly effective (productive rather than profligate).[21] I have also contended that "agapic love is antithetical to neither erotic desire nor reasoned justice for oneself or one's friends."[22] Am I not a classical modern day agapist (at least in theory)?

VII. More on Kierkegaard on Love and Justice

Before concluding, let me say more about Kierkegaard and Wolterstorff's appraisal of him. Woterstorff notes that, unlike Nygren, Kierkegaard admitted the legitimacy of self-love (p. 25), but Wolterstorff leaves us with the impression that Kierkegaard shared Nygren's blanket rejection of eros and justice. To be sure, Kierkegaard was very wary of preferential affinities, such as eros and philia, and he does refer to agape as "true love." But he repeatedly makes it clear that romantic love and friendship are not inherently evil or somehow antithetical to agape. They are unstable and tend to overweening pride, thus they must be "dethroned," but they have their proper place. As Kierkegaard puts it inWorks of Love,

Love the beloved faithfully and tenderly, but let love for the neighbor be the sanctifying element in your union's covenant with God. Love your friend honestly and devotedly, but let love for the neighbor be what you learn from each other in your friendship's confidential relationship with God![23]

The Christian may very well marry, may very well love his wife, especially in the way he ought to love her, may very well have a friend and love his native land; but yet in all this there must be a basic understanding between himself and God in the essentially Christian, and this is Christianity.[24]

"Christianity through marriage has made erotic love [Elskov] a matter of conscience,"[25] Kierkegaard maintains, and clearly he allows a more positive role for preferential desire than does Nygren.

And what about justice? Wolterstorff rightly observes that Kierkegaard recommends transcending the adversarial calculations of justice. According to Kierkegaard, "justice pleads the cause of its own, divides and assigns, determines what each can lawfully call his own, judges and punishes if anyone refuses to make any distinction between mine andyours."[26] In contrast, "take away entirely the distinction 'mine' from the distinction 'mine and yours.' What, then, do we have? Then we have the self-sacrificing, the self-denying-in-all-things, the true love."[27] Justice does "shudder" before the revolution of love.[28] It is worth underscoring, nonetheless, that it is the "mine" that is removed from the equation, not the "yours." The Kierkegaardian agapist ignores justice for him or herself, but this might be compatible with championing justice for others. There is more room for this reading than Wolterstorff seems to think, but there is no escaping that the author of Works of Love does not leave it at that.

Kierkegaard goes so far as to aver that "Christianity does not want to make changes in externals; neither does it want to abolish drives or inclination -- it wants only to make infinity's change in the inner being." This sentiment does indeed make social justice impossible, and I wish he hadn't said it. It is not Kierkegaard at his best. This familiar Lutheran dualism is actually a betrayal of his account of "spirit" and "the self" given in The Sickness Unto Death. In that work, any existence that accents one pole of selfhood to the neglect of the other -- soul over body, freedom over necessity, infinitude over finitude -- is a form of "despair" (i.e., sin). Yet the contrast between "internals" and "externals" in the quote from Works of Love reflects precisely this kind of "disrelationship." To think that one can change "the inner being" and leave "externals" alone is to treat the person as if he or she were an angel: disembodied and atemporal. It is to fail to synthesize infinity with finitude. Genuine social justice is inconceivable on such a dualistic basis.

To the extent that Kierkegaard obscures the rights and wrongs of justice, Wolterstorff has a valid case against him. Toward the end of his brief life, however, Kierkegaard himself appears to have seen the light: hence his "Attack on Christendom" (1854-1855). Reportedly, he would sit out in front of a church on Sunday and encourage people not to go in. This is not quite Jesus driving out the money-changers, but even Kierkegaard could not finally leave externals alone. Even the man Wolterstorff considers the father of modern agapism eventually wanted public reformation, as well as private faith, hope, and love.


There is no denying Nicholas Wolterstorff's dialectical skill and historical sophistication. He is a consummate philosopher, deeply versed in and creatively contributing to Christian theory and practice. This makes it all the more surprising that he conjures the bugbear of "classical modern day agapism." One can only speculate on why he takes this tack. The most charitable answer I can offer is that he is so concerned to vindicate justice, as well as to vanquish inappropriate paternalism, that he overcompensates. Wolterstorff's depiction of justice is often compelling, but his characterization of "modern agapism" slips into parody. Some moderns who extol charity virtually equate it with justice (Simone Weil and Joseph Fletcher); at least one puts it directly at odds with justice (Nygren); at least one sees it as entirely unrelated to justice (Kierkegaard); and still others view it as distinct from but symbiotic with justice (Barth, von Balthasar, Martin Luther King, Jr., Ramsey, and Outka). So who are the true "modern agapists"?

Of course, one can stipulate that "modern agapism" is ignorant of and/or antithetical to justice. But this is far too rarified a description. It is, as I say, to construct a gossamer man. If a "straw man" is less morally substantive than one's actual interlocutors, a "gossamer man" is painted as hyper-moral, absurdly oblivious to the real world and its rights and wrongs. Christ-like love, in contrast, gives all neighbors their just due, but it also goes "the extra mile" freely to bestow goodness on those who can benefit from it. Pace Nygren, there should be no conflating Christ's life and teaching with a blithe self-destructiveness or an angelic irresponsibility that is inconsiderate of other virtues, including justice. PaceWolterstorff, this truth has not been lost on all (or even most) modern day agapists.


[1] I use "agape," "agapic love," "charity," "love of neighbor," "Christ-like love," and "Christian love" interchangeably. When I write simply of "love," I have agape in mind.

[2] Wolterstorff also defends Nygren after a fashion, appreciating the "influence" and "systematic rigor" (pp. 21-22) of his claims, even while disagreeing with them.

[3] Ramsey, War and the Christian Conscience (Durham: Duke University Press, 1961), p. 178.

[4] See Jackson, The Priority of Love (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).

[5] Von Balthasar, Love Alone: the Way of Revelation (London: Sheed and Ward, 1968), p. 76.

[6] Ibid., p. 105. The title, Love Alone, can make von Balthasar sound like a love monist, but the quote cited illustrates that he endorses both love and justice.

[7] "Love without justice or a love that lapses into injustice is less than loving, but a justice without love or that does not aspire to love becomes less than just"; see The Priority of Love, p. 38.

[8] King, Stride Towards Freedom (New York: Harper and Row, 1958), p. 106.

[9] Niebuhr, Moral Man and Immoral Society (New York: Scribner's, 1960), p. 57.

[10] Ibid., p. 37.

[11] Ibid., pp. 62-63, emphasis added.

[12] These paragraphs on Niebuhr are taken largely from my The Priority of Love, pp. 101-103.

[13] Kierkegaard, Works of Love, trans. by Howard V. and Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 154-174, emphasis added.

[14] Love Alone: the Way of Revelation, p. 97, emphasis added.

[15] See Jackson, "The Image of God and the Soul of Humanity: Reflections on Dignity, Sanctity, and Democracy," in Religion in the Liberal Polity, ed. by Terence Cuneo (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2005), pp. 43-73; see also The Priority of Love, esp. p. 211.

[16] See his imaginative discussion of the judges of the Gilmore Award (p. 57):

as convinced agapists of the classical modern day sort, they treat the good of these two [competitors] with equal regard. So they give the honor and money to the loser in the competition. . . . this comes as close to treating them with equal regard as is possible in the situation. But the winner would then be wronged.

[17] See Outka, Agape: An Ethical Analysis (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), p. 20.

[18] Ibid., p. 301.

[19] I discuss Jesus and self-love at some length in Love Disconsoled: Meditations on Christian Charity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), esp. Chs. 1 and 3.

[20] See, for instance, Barbara Hilkert Andolsen, "Agape in Feminist Ethics," in Feminist Theological Ethics, ed. by Lois K. Daly (Louisville: Westminster John Knox press, 1994), pp. 146-159.

[21] The Priority of Love, pp. 21-27.

[22] Love Disconsoled, p. 55.

[23] Works of Love, p. 62.

[24] Ibid., p. 145.

[25] Ibid., p. 139.

[26] Ibid., p. 265.

[27] Ibid., pp. 267-268.

[28] Ibid., p. 266.



sábado, 18 de fevereiro de 2012

Philosophy as The Discipline of The Disciplines por D.F.M.Strauss.

Philosophy as The Discipline of The Disciplines por D.F.M.Strauss.

D.F.M.Strauss, Philosophy as The Discipline of The Disciplines.
715 pp ISBN 978-0-88815-208-4.

This new work by Danie Strauss must now be called The Definitive Statement regarding The Philosophy of The Cosmonomic Idea. In effect, it is the New Critique for the twenty first century in that it not only covers the entire range of the fundamental ideas developed by Herman Dooyeweerd more than seventy years ago, but it does so entirely within the spirit of Dooyeweerd’s work. Strauss systematically develops a number of themes that are troublesome in Dooyeweerd’s formulation and manages to provide us with significant resolutions. Perhaps the single most important contribution to theoretical analysis as such, is his elaboration of the relationship between Conceptual Knowledge and Concept Transcending Knowledge (Idea Knowledge). This relationship is central to all forms of discrimination and is pervasively evident in the cultural traditions of both the East and the West. This work will be the starting point for systematically coherent analysis in all disciplines as Strauss convincingly makes his case that Philosophy is the Discipline of The Disciplines.

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quinta-feira, 2 de fevereiro de 2012

Comentários livro: Justiça em Amor por Nicholas Wolterstorff (Justice in Love by Nicholas Wolterstorff)

Justice in Love by Nicholas Wolterstorff

23rd January 2012
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At the turning point of Romeo and Juliet, the Prince of Verona, having banished our hero, proclaims to his assembled citizens, “Mercy but murders, pardoning those that kill.” Nicholas Wolterstorff mentions neither Shakespeare nor his impetuous romantics in Justice in Love but the Prince’s view on the alleged incompatibility of mercy and justice epitomises the position against which Wolterstorff argues.

Justice in Love, a follow up to the author’s recent Justice: Rights and Wrongs, contends that, contrary to what the Prince of Verona and many more recent ethicists claim, love and justice are not inherently irreconcilable but, properly understood, “fully in harmony with one another”.

The book begins with a section on why ethicists and, in particular, Christian agapists (meaning those who believe that the New Testament concept of agapē, selfless love, should form the basis of one’s ethical system) believe that such ‘agapic’ love is incompatible with notions of justice. This love, the argument goes, is gratuitous and thus blind to the idea of just deserts.

For some agapists, like the Swedish Lutheran bishop Anders Nygren, who features heavily in part 1, this means that Christians must favour love over justice; for others, like Reinhold Niebuhr, the conclusion is the opposite. Wolterstorff refuses to admit the choice in the first place and sets out to reconcile the two in parts 2 and 3.

These, like part 1, are dense and not always easy to follow. The author’s argument turns on an attempt “to work out a defensible version of agapism”, in other words one that “incorporates” justice. Alert readers may object at this point, observing that redefining one moral concept so that it is in harmony with another just because you believe they should be, hardly constitutes a secure basis for argument.
Wolterstorff’s point, however, and indeed the foundation for the book, is that Christian theology doesn’t see God as either just or loving. He is emphatically both. Ditto Christian ethics: “Moses does not pit love and justice against one another. He does not say that we are to love the neighbour and pay no attention to what justice requires.” Wolterstorff is compelled to reconcile love and justice, or at least question their apparent irreconcilability, not by personal taste but by some pretty basic Christian convictions.

His solution is to identify the idea of agapic love as “care”. This is a crucial turn in the argument and so it is perhaps unfortunate that the author has chosen to use this word in this way as it does not make his case significantly clearer. The argument is, in essence, that to care for a person is to seek not only their wellbeing but also, crucially, to pay due regard to their inherent worth.

By drawing on arguments from his previous book, in which justice is identified precisely as that attention paid to the inherent worth of each person, Wolterstorff manages to unite the demands of love and justice in the concept of “care”. It is an ingenious line of reasoning, which the author regularly backs up with New Testament references – crucially, because he is at root trying to show that ‘care’ is the best category we have for understand what agapē means – but one cannot shake off the suspicion that there is some clever linguistic sophistry going on here.

The rest of the book is clearer (and an easier read) but suffers from lying the shadow of part 2. Thus part 3 seeks to show that if agapē is understood as care, the apparent tensions between love and justice disappear. Wolterstorff examines forgiveness, gratuitous generosity and paternalism and argues that none of these instances of love need necessarily violate our idea of justice – providing (again) one understands justice rightly.

Hence, he acknowledges that “if one believes in retributive punishment and holds that, whenever possible, it ought to be imposed on each and every wrongdoer for each and every act of wrongdoing…then one will of course hold that to forgo punishment is to violate justice.” If, on the other hand, one holds to a “reprobative” rather than “retributive” idea of justice, in which justice censures and condemns evil rather than insists on its pound of flesh in recompense, then love and justice are indeed reconcilable. If, as Wolterstorff argues, “the God-given task of government is reprobative punishment, not retributive,” his argument is successful. But once again, there is a sense of the author needing to define his way into harmony.

The last and shortest section of the book looks at justification in Paul’s theology, specifically Romans. It is, in a sense, the climax of the book. Having argued that love and justice can be complementary, he turns to the greatest biblical exposition of the way in which the two interact within the Christian story, and poses the question of whether God’s love, as made manifest in Christ, is just, or, as he puts it, “what is justification and is it just?” It doesn’t quite feel like the climax, however, but more of a tagged-on (if very interesting) bit of biblical exegesis.

This review will not, I fear, have persuaded the reader to invest in a copy of Justice in Love and, truth told, the book is not as good as its predecessor. But if it does not do too much to add to Wolterstorff’s reputation as one the world’s pre-eminent philosophical theologians, it does nothing to detract from it either.

Justice in Love by Nicholas Wolterstorff is published by William B Eerdmans (2011)

This review first appeared in Third Way Magazine.

23 jan 2012
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No ponto de viragem de Romeu e Julieta, o Príncipe de Verona, tendo banido o nosso herói, anuncia a seus cidadãos reunidos, "Mercy, mas assassinatos, perdoando aos que matam." Nicholas Wolterstorff menciona nem Shakespeare nem o seu românticos impetuoso na Justiça, mas no amor vista do príncipe na alegada incompatibilidade de misericórdia e justiça sintetiza a posição contra a qual Wolterstorff argumenta.

Justiça no amor, no seguimento da Justiça recentes do autor: A favor e contra, sustenta que, ao contrário do que o Príncipe de Verona e muitos mais recentes especialistas em ética afirmam, amor e justiça não são inerentemente incompatíveis, mas, bem entendido, "em plena harmonia um com o outro ".

O livro começa com uma seção sobre o porquê de ética e, em particular, agapists cristã (ou seja, aqueles que acreditam que o conceito do Novo Testamento do ágape, amor desinteressado, devem formar a base do próprio sistema ético) acreditam que tal "sufocante" amor é incompatível com noções de justiça. Este amor, o argumento, é gratuita e, portanto, cego para a idéia de apenas desertos.
Para alguns agapists, como o sueco Anders Nygren bispo luterano, que aparece bastante na parte 1, isto significa que os cristãos devem favorecer o amor sobre a justiça, para outros, como Reinhold Niebuhr, a conclusão é a oposta. Wolterstorff se recusa a admitir a escolha, em primeiro lugar e prepara-se para conciliar as duas nas partes 2 e 3.

Estes, como parte 1, são densos e nem sempre fácil de seguir. O argumento do autor se transforma em uma tentativa de "trabalhar para fora uma versão de agapism defensável", em outras palavras, que "incorpora" a justiça. Os leitores atentos podem opor-se, neste ponto, observando que a redefinição de um conceito moral de modo que esteja em harmonia com outra só porque você acha que deveriam ser, dificilmente constitui uma base segura para o argumento.

Wolterstorff ponto, no entanto, e na verdade a base para o livro, é que a teologia cristã não vê Deus como justo ou amoroso. Ele é enfaticamente ambos. Ditto ética cristã: "Moisés não coloca amor e justiça contra o outro. Ele não diz que devemos amar o próximo e não prestam atenção ao que a justiça requer ". Wolterstorff é obrigado a conciliar o amor ea justiça, ou pelo menos questionar a sua incompatibilidade aparente, não por gosto pessoal, mas por algumas convicções bastante básico cristã.
Sua solução é identificar a idéia do amor sufocante como "cuidado". Esta é uma virada crucial no argumento e por isso talvez seja lamentável que o autor optou por usar esta palavra, desta forma, uma vez que não faz o seu caso significativamente mais clara. O argumento é, em essência, que, para cuidar de uma pessoa é buscar não só o bem-estar deles, mas também, fundamentalmente, a atenção devida ao seu valor inerente.

Inspirando-se em argumentos de seu livro anterior, em que a justiça é identificado com precisão como a atenção dada ao valor intrínseco de cada pessoa, Wolterstorff consegue unir as exigências do amor e da justiça no conceito de "cuidado". É uma linha engenhosa de raciocínio, que o autor regularmente faz o backup com referências do Novo Testamento - é crucial, porque ele está na raiz tentando mostrar que "cuidado" é a melhor categoria que temos para entender o que O agápē de Ágape significa - mas não se pode afastar a suspeita de que há algum sofisma inteligente linguística acontecendo aqui.
O resto do livro é mais clara (e uma mais fácil leitura), mas sofre de mentir a sombra da parte 2. Assim, parte 3 procura mostrar que, se ágape é entendido como o cuidado, as tensões aparente entre o amor ea justiça desaparecer. Wolterstorff examina perdão, generosidade gratuita e paternalismo e argumenta que nenhum desses casos de amor necessariamente violar a nossa idéia de justiça - fornecimento de (novamente) uma justiça entende corretamente.

Por isso, ele reconhece que "se alguém acredita em punição retributiva e sustenta que, sempre que possível, deveria ser imposta a todos e cada um malfeitor para todo e qualquer ato de infração ... então, naturalmente, sustentam que renunciar a punição é violar da justiça. "Se, por outro lado, tem-se a um" reprobative "em vez de" idéia "de justiça retributiva, em que condena a justiça e condena o mal, em vez de insistir em sua libra de carne em recompensa, então o amor ea justiça são de fato conciliáveis. Se, como Wolterstorff argumenta, "o que Deus lhe deu tarefa do governo é a punição reprobative, não retributiva", seu argumento é bem sucedido. Mas mais uma vez, há um sentimento do autor a necessidade de definir o seu caminho para a harmonia.

A última seção menor e do livro olha para justificação na teologia de Paulo, especificamente Romanos. É, em certo sentido, o clímax do livro. Tendo afirmado que o amor ea justiça pode ser complementar, ele se volta para a maior exposição bíblica da maneira em que os dois interagem dentro da história cristã, e coloca a questão de saber se o amor de Deus, manifestar-se como fez em Cristo, é justo, ou, como ele mesmo diz, "o que é justificação e é só?" Ele não chega a se sentir como o clímax, no entanto, mas mais de um bit tag-on (caso muito interessante) da exegese bíblica.

Esta revisão não será, receio, ter persuadido o leitor a investir em uma cópia de Justiça no amor e, verdade dita, o livro não é tão bom quanto seu antecessor. Mas se ele não faz muito a acrescentar à reputação Wolterstorff como um do mundo pré-eminente teólogos filosóficos, não faz nada para prejudica-lo de qualquer um.

Justiça em Amor por Nicholas Wolterstorff é publicado pela William B Eerdmans (2011)

Esta revisão apareceu pela primeira vez na Revista da Terceira Via .

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