Summer 2011

Introduction: Work

J. Budziszewski, in “The Lower Is Not the More Solid,” poses the question, pertinent to our common life in the work of the economy, “What might it take for an adult population, and their rulers, to become virtuous—or at least to become more nearly virtuous than they are?” Drawing on the thought of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Augustine, Budziszewski corrects several typical mistakes concerning virtue before showing how virtue is the only adequate foundation for our common life.

The discussion on work closes with Benedict XVI’s 2008 address to representatives of culture in Paris, on “The Origins of Western Theology and the Roots of European Culture.” In this address, the pope argues that the monastic quaerere Deum “remains the basis of any genuine human culture.” Directly relevant to our theme, the pope discusses how the Benedictine ora requires completion in a distinctive sense of labora.

In recent years the question of whether the cessation of brain activity is sufficient to determine the death of the human person has provoked sharp debate among Catholic moral philosophers and scientists. The editors of Communio hope to advance the discussion with two essays that present opposing views on this question of “brain death.” Both authors have been invited to reply in a future issue. Nicholas Tonti-Filippini, in “You Only Die Twice: Augustine, Aquinas, the Council of Vienne, and Death by the Brain Criterion,” argues in support of brain death as the criterion of death on the grounds that “the brain is essential for integration of the body and without it the parts of the body cease to be an integrated whole.” “Without the brain,” he continues, “the body loses its form, so to speak, as the parts cease to be an integrated dynamic unity.” Robert Spaemann, in “Is Brain Death the Death of a Human Person?” presents an extended argument against the new definition of death in terms of total loss of brain function. He challenges the hypothesis that the brain is the organ responsible for somatic integration. And, applying the principle in dubio pro vita, Spaemann proposes that “brain dead patients have to be correctly regarded as dying, hence living people in the state of irreversible brain failure.”

Finally, Retrieving the Tradition returns to the question of work with an essay by the Canadian philosopher George Grant (1918–1988) titled “In Defense of North America.” In this seminal chapter drawn from his well-known Technology and Empire, Grant reflects on the historical roots and meaning of America’s peculiar drive to technological mastery of human and non-human nature. Grant shows how the American experience was shaped by the encounter between the alien and yet conquerable land with Calvinist Protestantism availing itself of the new physical sciences. In the eyes of Grant, contemplation—Greek philosophical contemplation as well as the higher contemplation of God’s revelation in Christ— offers the best hope for thinking about the question of technology from outside technology’s own restless dynamism.                      □