Statul minimal, Statul social
Economic Personalism – A Christian Orthodox Contribution (II)1
Fr. PETRE COMȘA
[Faculty of Orthodox
[Academy of Economic
In its second part, our paper suggests
that a Christian-Orthodox contribution to further
development of the economic personalism could be
beneficial. This contribution could consist in
bringing forward the faith-teaching of the Holy
Fathers of Eastern Tradition. It is argued that, in
this way, the moral dimension which dominantly
defines the Catholic vision of the human person
could be surpassed and even transfigured by the
spiritual dimension which fully inform the Orthodox
vision. Moreover, this pre-eminence of the spiritual
determinants of the human person is expected to
result in a number of significant changes concerning
the way economic personalism is currently conceived
(in terms of its subject matter, basic conceptual
principles, and general mission).
Keywords: economic personalism, the principle
of minimum action, spiritual efficiency
(a) The active component –
The main objective of our analysis within this subsection is to clarify the specific features of the theological vision of the person applied by current economic personalism. The importance of this investigation derives from the fact that, due to its presumed active and dominant role, the nature of the theological vision on person applied is critical for the success of transfigurating the individual-based economic analysis into a person-based economic analysis.
The accepted opinion among the commentators is that economic personalism has precise intellectual sources that inform its vision of the person. According to them, „economic personalism derives mainly from its current Polish definition”2. The Polish personalism has its roots in a group of intellectuals and clerics, mostly Catholic, who offered varied but overlapping visions regarding the human nature based on different existent theories of the philosophic personalism. The unifying element to all these thinkers was represented by the philosophic metodology of the phenomenological realism, developed by Edmund Husserl as an answer given to the kantian idealism. „By demonstrating the intentionality of consciousness and the ability of the mind to intuit essential structures of reality, Husserl provided a new foundation for escaping the solipsism of the idealists”.
Among the Catholic theologians influenced by the philosophic phenomenology and anthropology developed by Husserl’s followers it was also the young – at that time – Polish priest Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II. Wojtyla discovered in Max Scheler’s philosophy (a proeminent disciple of Husserl) a new method of understanding the human being, focusing his attention on the human action and experience. In this way, using the phenomenological analysis, Wojtyla accomplished an ample reexamination and reassertion of many of the essential characteristics of the human being, unlike the manner of analysis that based itself on the classic tomistic anthropology, that prevailed the Catolic theology at that time. In this way, we can consider the former Pope John Paul II – in consensus with the most qualified analysts of the domain -, as the founder father of the Polish theological personalist doctrine, the doctrine which informs the vision of the person of the current Catholic-inspired version of economic personalism3. Later, taking John Paul II a model and source of inspiration, other thinkers have contributed to the development of the new interdisciplinary field (among them we can name Michael Novak – already evoked in the section devoted to the economic theology -, Rocco Buttiglione, Kris Mauren and Rev.Robert Sirico- the last two being also among the founders of Action Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty).
The vision of the human person proposed by Polish theological personalism is part and parcel with some basic principles, namely: centrality of the person; subjectivity and autonomy; human dignity; person in community; participation and social solidarity. Following the analytical lines developed by Gronbacher, we shall further examine them, briefly, each one, in order to obtain a better undestanding of the way the social Catholic theology addresses the problem of the human person. It is our hope that such a procedure will allow us, later on, to better emphasize, in comparative terms, the specificity of the Christian-Orthodox theological vision of the human person.
The centrality of the person. The personalist thought considers the human person as the ontological and epistemological starting point of the philosophical reflection. For the personalists thinkers, the personalist philosophic meditation represents a metaphysical investigation regarding the constitution, statute and dignity of the human being as person. The person’s dignity and value lay in the centre of the personalist philosophy and form the basis for the entire subsequent philosophical analysis.
Subjectivity and autonomy. From the personalists point of view, subjectivity refers to the conscious inner life of the human person. The persons, while living their inner life, remain still open to the surounding world. In line with this idea, the personalist philosophers think that the human beings have a kind of intuitive awareness, in the sense that they cognitively, emotionally and psihologically connect with their external environment. Thus, the sujectivity of a person is an external characterization of that person. This is understood as something dynamic, since it changes constantly as an answer to the occurrence of new circumstances, new needs and values. But, the personalists consider, at the basis of this dynamic structure it always remains the same human subject. There is a real, personal „ego”(„I”) that lays at the foundation of any human action. This „ego” is a personal conscious oneself, it is the person that really exists and acts. The subjectivity is, therefore, the connection between to be and to act4.
In the same way in which, by conscience, a person becomes aware of his subjectivity, through subjectivity he reaches on to understand the particular nature of his own existence, that is the autonomy (independence) of his own living. However, this autonomy cannot be separated, the Polish personalists argue, from the person’s subjectivity and his own nature.
Human dignity. In accordance with the Posih personalism perspective, notes Gronbacher „the incarnation of Jesus has elevated human nature into a position of utter uniqueness by being raised into the unity of the divine person of the Son of God. Every human person is somebody unique and unrepeatable”5. The personalist philosophers think that this assertion regarding the huge dignity atributed to the human being has a profound significance, as it shows the greatness God has given to him. Therefore „The value of the person is not derived from an individual’s contributions, talents, or achievements but has to do with the ineffable ontological significance of their being. Human existence is endowed with dignity, the dignity of a conscious, free, and creative being” [Gronbacher, ibidem]. In this way, centered on the outstanding importance of human dignity, Polish personalism has as its climax the idea that each person ought to be affirmed for his of her own sake. Following this line of reasoning, it is further maintained that „ Acknowledging and respecting a person’s dignity entails the following: (1) the obligation to respect another person’s sense of value, (2) positive affirmation for work performed, and (3) what von Hildebrand and Wojtyla have called ‚value response’, or the possibility for self-transcendence in love insofar as the subject conforms himself to the preciousness and worth of the person for his own sake”6.
Let us note that this centrality attributed to human dignity issues reflects the quasi-absolute attention paid to moral and ethical dimension of the human person. What is surprisingly missing in the analytical discourse of Polish personalism is the lack of proper references to God, namely to transcendental (and spiritual) dimension of the human person. In fact, Polish personalism seems to operate in a „half-measures manner”. On the one hand, it is emphasized that the human being was created in the Image of the Person Jesus Christ, and in this way he is called to be a person itself: „Christ not only reveals God’s salvific will for all humanity but (He) is a revelation of man, of what man was intended to be at creation and is, by reason of incarnation of the Son of God and by reason of the Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension of the God-Man Jesus Christ (...) In this respect, Jesus is the revelation of what humanity now is – a unique refraction of the divine image”7. On the other hand, however, there is no reference to human being’s response to this lovingly calling of Christ. To say that human person’s dignity relies on „the possibility for self-transcendence in love insofar as the subject conforms himself to the preciousness and worth of the person for his own sake” is equal to implicitely saying that there is no response at all, as „the possibility for self-transcendense in love” refers exclusively to fellow-creatures, not to Christ. In other words, what is acctually missing is the crucial dimension of interpersonal communion between man and God, the genuine transcendental and spiritual dimension of human person. This dimension instead is the culminating insight of the Orthodox vision of the human person (as we shall see soon).
Person within community. The Polish personalists think that the flourishing of the human person cannot be achieved but in relationship with the others. Persons, say these thinkers, are born in and for community. For this , their personal existence is, pre-eminently, a relationship existence, and the term of community does not mean an aggregation of individuals but an union of persons. „Any investigation of an aggregate of persons cannot simply posit an objective reality that affects every member equally, but must make a point of focusing on the consciousness and personal experience of the members individually. Only by taking this approach do we perceive the reality of a community and begin to graps its essential meaning”8.
Accordingly, the hallmark of the Polish personalist method seems to be the conviction that the potential to participate is essential to the self. Here the debates in the literature raise the question of individuality and individualism. In this respect, the promoters of the Polsh personalist theology recognize that „the human individual is a unique, substantial self. In this sense, the individual is the building block of the social order” (emphasis added)9. However, the supporters of Polish personalists maintain that the recognition of individuality is not the same as that of individualism: „Individualism is an attitude that isolates the person in an atomistic theoretical construct (...) It is possible to recognize individuals as the ontological foundation of the social order without becoming individualistic” (emphasis added). Person, on the other hand – elaborate further the personalists – has freedom of action but does not maintain an unrestricted liberty to act immorally.
The reason we insisted on these aspects is our intention to draw attention to the fact that Polish personalist theological thought does not operate with a clear-cut conceptual distinction between individual and person. Rather, they are considered as interchangeable notions, despite the fact that „individual” is endowed with a predominantly ontological dimension, while „person” with a predominantly moral one.
Participation and social solidarity. For the personalist thinkers, the achievement of a human social order is conditioned by the preliminary adequate understanding of the nature specific to a human person in relationship with the society. As we could see, their basic postulate is that , due to the inherent dignity and immeasurable value of human being, each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake. The requirement that result from here, the above mentioned philosophers maintain, is that of the affirmation of a person’s right of social participation. In their view, participation means both the orientation toward the others and the option for the involvement in all the spheres of the social life – political, economic and cultural:”Participation helps individuals attain self-realization through interpersonal and social relationships”10. A correlated aspect of the social participation – our thinkers further develop – is the fact that the application of the personalist maxim – each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake – in all social situation has, as an outcome, the affirmation of the authentic, social solidarity, understood as being that state of the social relationship that makes possible the full social participation of all persons.
In sum, the essential principles that Polish theological personalism affirms are as follows:
– the dignity and value of the person resides at the very center of philosophical reflection and provides the foundation for all subsequent analysis;
– each person is an original, unique, and unrepeatable expression of human nature;
– both the dignity and uniqueness of human person are fully reflected in the maxim that each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake. This means that there is a recognition and response to the value of each and every person. The consequence is the requirement that persons never be treated as means to an end;
– persons are born in and for community, so personal being is relational. The person lives and acts with others not only because it is his nature to do so but because he matures as a result.
Let us remind here that the main objective of our analysis within this subsection was to clarify the specific features of the theological vision of the person applied by current economic personalism. The idea was that the nature of the theological vision of person applied is critical for the success of transfigurating the individual-based economic analysis into a person-based economic analysis. In this respect, the message the Polish theological personalism sends is rather misleading:
– on the one hand, specific to Polish personalism is its recognition of the dignity of human person and the concern for justice that stems from this recognition. Consequently, its vision and understanding of the human person are limited to moral and ethical considerations only;
– on the other hand, specific to Polish personalism is its recognition of the fact that „the individual” represents the ontological foundation (the building block) of the social order. Its main concern in this respect is to formulate a clear-cut distinction between „individuality” and „individualism”. Consequently, it operates instead with a flowed distinction between „the individual” and „the person”.
For this stage of our analysis, the overall conclusion is that the theological vision of the person applied by the current economic personalism – as the active component in the process of achieveing an adequate synthesis of theology and economics – is not yet properly equiped to succesfully faciltate the challenging task of transfigurating the individual-based economic analysis into a person-based economic analysis.
In the next subsection, we intend to clarify to what extent the passive component of the process, that is the economic analysis applied by the current economic personalism, tells us a different story.
(b) The passive component – Economic analysis
Economic personalists made, from the very beginning, a clear choice regarding the schools of economic thought that have the greatest affinity with the personalist approach. There are three schools of interest here: the Austrian school, the Chicago school, and the Virginia school. The defining characteristic that draws these different thought schools near is their strong defence of human liberty, in particular economic liberty. Because of this fact, the literature put them together under the name of free-market economics. As a modern conceptual approach, that found the absolute expression during the XXth century, free-market economics examines the market activities from the consumer point of view, fighting against the governmental interventionism in the economic activities and considering this interventionism as a disruptive and disturbing force.
Taking into consideration the above-mentioned facts, one can infer that economic personalism lies on sound economic principles. Our assertion is supported by the fact that free-market economics schools match the philosophical vision and conceptual discourse of economic personalism due to the fact that the unconditioned attachement of these schools to the principles of the economic freedom and private property is organically linked to major principles that define the essence of the Polish theological personalism, namely: (i) person’s subjectivity and autonomy, (ii) person in community, and (iii) human dignity.
(i) Economic personalists consider that economic freedom (assiduously professed by the free-market economics schools) is nothing more than a fundamental aspect of the subjectivity and autonomy of the human person (so much advocated by Polish personalist theology). Personalists argue that, if personal self-determination is taken seriously – as theologians actually do -, then as much as seriously should also be taken into consideration the way this self-determination affects the economic life. In this respect, infer they further, the ontological freedom of human person (studied by Polish personalist thinkers) proves to have doubtless effects on person’s participation and integration in social life; in its turn, this determines, as a logic consequence, the emergence of some forms of political, social and economic freedom.
(ii) Economic personalists share the opinion that „natural resources and goods are not naturally allocated in equal abundance. Some individuals, due to their proximity to resources, creativity, or labour, have more while others have less (…) Natural inequality and the social nature of human person require exchange and cooperation for survival. Absolute self-sufficiency is impossible to atain”. That’s why „persons require the community to flourish and survive”. All these are arguments for concluding that the market, in a sense, spontaneousely arises from interpersonal relationships inside communities11.
(iii) Economic personalism followers declare that the imperative of the economic freedom and that of the private property (as basic principle of the market economy theory) come inevitably from the necessity to understand the central objective of any responsible economic policy – namely, the growth of the life quality of individual citizens and communities – under the conditions of the preservation of the human dignity (as a fundamental principle in the Polish personalism view). In such a natural position of things, the economic personalists argue, the markets are able to develop a number of „natural” indicators (mainly, the prices) that signal out to the participants in the market how to act for maximizing the resources they have. That is why, our thinkers believe, the market principles (as such the demand and supply law) can perform only on the basis of the human free action logic. Under such conditions, when the political structures step in the market using coercive measures (excessive taxes, price control, industrial regulations), they interfere disturbing the natural principles of market (by limitation of the free exchanges and restriction of the property rights) and distorting the prices, so that they can no longer provide accurate information regarding the real state of business in the market.
We believe that it is important to specify that, in spite of those above-mentioned, the economic personalism promoters are not the supporters of the idea of markets entirely unrestricted. On the contrary, they declare themselves in favour of the market restriction, only that the means of restriction that they take into account differ a lot from those advocated by statists12. More precisely, the market restrictions that the economic personalists aimed at are moral restrictions. The personalists take, thus, into consideration only uncoercitive measures aimed at persuading and strengthening of the individual behavior in accordance with the revealed truth about the human person. As a consequence, rather than to give credit to the policies in favour of the market regulation by the governmental authorities, the economic personalists are in favour for the creative use of the cultural and moral institutions of the free societies with a view to influence the individuals that act in the markets. Under the conditions where the moral education, access to culture and socialization take place primarily in the family and church communities, our thinkers consider that the best promotion of a moral code aimed at encouraging the self-regulation and co-operant social behavior can be carried out by voluntary associations as the family, church, general educational institutions, and local communities structures.
6. A Christian-Orthodox perspective of economic personalism
As we already have repeatedly mentioned in our paper, the most important epistemological asset that the current economic personalism brings in is its Catholic theological vision of the person applied to economic realities. The culminating insight of this vision is contained in the maxim that each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake. This means that there is a recognition of the dignity of the human person and a concern for justice that stems from this recognition. Consequently, the current economic personalism focuses upon adjudicating economic arrangements which promote or denigrate human dignity.
At the same time, as we already have also repeatedly mentioned in our paper, in its attempt to achieve a true synthesis of economics and theology, economic personalism holds an outstanding epistemological potential: the theologically-inspired transfiguration of individual-based economic analysis into a person-based economic analysis. The conclusion we came at is that the theological vision of the person applied by the current economic personalism is not yet properly equiped to succesfully fulfil this challenging task.
In any case, there is no doubt that economic personalism is at present a relatively obscure system of thought, untested in many respects, and by no means comprehensive in scope or expertise. On the other hand, however, it is in its nascent stages of development, and so it remains open to enlargement, realignment and refinement. Under such circumstances, the Christian-Orthodox contribution to further development of economic personalism could consist in bringing forward the faith-teaching of the Holy Fathers of Eastern Church regarding the human person. In this final section of our paper we shall try to formulate some preliminary considerations in this respect.
We think of outmost importance to mention from the very beginning that, according to Holy Fathers, „the person” is a mysterious supernatural Revelation, revealed to us in the Person of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, the Son of the God. The patristic Orthodox theology shows that The Holy Trinity, from Whom both the order of creation and the order of redemption proceeds, is an infinite communion of self-giving love. And so the Person of Jesus the Saviour is the Image of the Father. As being created in Holy Trinity’s Image, the human being is an icon of the the Image of the Person Jesus Christ, and in this way he is called to be a person itself. In other words, each human being is called to achieve the perfection of his own personhood by entering into interpersonal communion with Christ. At the same time, Holy Fathers say that Christ is the Head of the Church, while we are members of the Christ’s Church. It comes out from here that each human being is also called to enter into interpersonal communion with his or her fellow-creatures.
This central and critical importance that Orthodox theology attaches to human person’s interpersonal communion with God and with others, shows us explicitly the importance it attaches, at the same time, to the distinction between „the individual” and „the person”. In this respect, let us recall that Saint Maximus the Confessor speaks about the distinction between man’s „natural will” and „gnomical will”.13 Natural will is the expression of human nature (character) created by God, which is oriented, by the act of Creation itself , towards the communion with God. This will is an attribute of human nature created in God’s Image so that natural will (energy) implies natural liberty, that is natural inclination towards God, the genuine liberty. At the same time, gnomical will is the expression of the man’s fallen hypostasis; it is the „free will”, that is hypostatical liberty, man’s possibility to choose without any prohibitions14. The Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky says:”However, following Saint Maximum the Confessor’s approach, this freedom to choose (that is, gnomical will – our addition) is already in itself a non-perfection, a limitation of the genuine liberty. A perfect (human) nature does not need to choose, as it knows innately „the good”: its liberty is founded on this knowledge. Our free will shows the non-perfection of the fallen human nature, the losing of our resemblance to God”15.
In accordance with these considerations, the Romanian Orthodox theologian Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae shows that man has the capacity to consciously look at, and to freely tend to what is „beyond” the created world – in other words, beyond himself and even beyond his state, his condition of creature -, that is towards his Creator. Consequently, when man chooses, in accordance with his gnomical will, to separate himself from his natural will – the will that guides him towards the interpersonal communion with God –, in this case he remains in the condition of individual16. To put it differently, in his condition of individual, man rejects his communion with God and chooses autonomy in relation to Him. As individual – further elaborates Fr.Stăniloae – man remains an existence which is closed, imprisoned both in itself and in this earthly world; he remains imprisoned within the created order level of existence, actualizing in this way the possibility to part from the God and his fellow-creatures. As individual, he remains just a mere exemplar among many others of his species; his uniqueness derives exclusively from his individuality as an exemplar of his species17. He is dominated by mere material concerns, while the spiritual and otherwordly aspects of his life are downplayed in favour of the material and temporal. As individual, he consequently remains in a fallen condition of existence: being primarily concerned with fulfilment of his material needs, he conceives of social relations as tension-filled exercises in the claiming and limiting of rights, isolating himself in a self-centered attitude that views all the life as directed inwardly toward the self.
On the contrary, when man chooses to accord his gnomical will with his natural will, in this case he elevates himself to the condition of person. As person, man actualizes his potential capacity to consciously look at what is beyond himself and his condition of creature, that is towards his Creator. As person, man is always in interpersonal communion with God and with others. As person, man is primarily concerned with fulfilment of his spiritual needs, thus deepening his interior life and experiencing an inner transformation as expressions of self-giving love to God and to others.
Trying to capitalize on what has been said above, we would like to underline that, in our opinion, the culminating insight of Orthodox personalist thought appears to be the idea that human being is called to enter into interpersonal communion with Christ and with others. Depending on the answer offered, a clear-cut distinction between man’s fallen condition of individual and his elevated condition of person is made. This means that central to Orthodox thought are spiritual values. Accordingly, as part of our preliminary considerations, we would like to say that by bringing forward the teaching of the Eastern Holy Fathers, the moral dimension which dominantly defines the Catholic vision on human person could be surpassed and even transfigured by the spiritual dimension which fully inform the Orthodox vision.
This pre-eminence of the spiritual dimension of human person could generate significant changes in the way economic personalism is currently conceived as an emerging interdisciplinary domain. These changes are expected to occure in relation to the subject matter of the domain, to its basic conceptual principle and also to its general mission. In the following last few pages of our paper, we shall try to elaborate a little bit more along the mentioned lines of analysis, applying a comparative approach.
(a) Subject matter
As far as the current Catholic perspective is concerned, economic personalism proves to be an attempt to analize economic activity in terms of its moral significance. This includes a detailed explanation of actual market structures and practices in the light of the Catholic theological vision of the human person. Specific to Catholic theology is its recognition of the dignity of the human person and the concern for justice that stems from this recognition. In accordance with the moral stance adopted, Catholic- inspired economic personalism focuses upon adjudecating the economic which arrangements promote or denigrate human dignity.
With reference to expected contribution that the Orthodox perspective could bring new into the picture, we would like to underline that economic personalism should analyse economic activity in term of its spiritual significance. In this sense, the Orthodox theology is particularly preoccupied with the humility of the human person (Saint Siluan the Athonite, Saint Ambrose of Optina) and the gentleness that crowns the humble person. Saint Basil the Great says that gentleness is the”unchanged judgment on the things that God is pleased with” and Saint John Chrysostom explaines that the gentle person is that who” inherits the Earth”. In accordance with these views of the Holy Fathers of Eastern Tradition, it results that an Orthodox-inspired economic personalism should accordingly focus on the spiritual content of the interpersonal relations in marketplace and, as such, it should be concerned with promoting virtuous economic behaviour.
(b) Basic conceptual principle
The basic conceptual principle adopted by Catholic perspective postulates that each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake. This means that there is a recognition and response to the value of each and every person. This also means that people should never be treated as means to an end.
In its turn, according to its spiritual stance, the Orthodox-inspired economic personalism would advocate that human person ought to comply with the principle of minimum action. This principle was originally developed by the science of physics18 and postulates that a physical entity (a body), while moving from one point to another, follows that trajectory – out of a multitude of possible trajectories– which implies a minimum action, that is a minimum energy consumption. Bringing this reasoning to its logical consequences, it follows that the entire Creation of God complies with this principle. For this reason, one can infer that a person obeys the will of God provided his or her actions comply with this principle.
Under these circumstances, it is expected that the Orthodox approach will suggest that the principle of minimum action lies at the basis of any human action (be it economic or spiritual). Therefore, one can further infer that human economic actions (that is production, exchange, distribution, and consumption activities) comply with the minimum action principle provided the consumption of economic (material) resources is minimized (economic efficiency). Likewise, human spiritual actions that accompany interpersonal relations in the marketplace (that is, personal feelings, thoughts, emotions and so on generated during, and due to, a particular business transaction) comply with this principle provided the consumption of useless soul energy (that is sins and passions) is also minimized (spiritual efficiency).
It comes out that the humble and gentle person, the „poor in spirit”, is exactly the person who acts in accordance with the principle of minimum action. And, it is important to make clear that, in this way , the „poor in spirit” reaches spiritual efficiency. And even more than that; reaching spiritual efficiency first will consequently be followed by reaching economic efficiency, too. Says Saint John Chrysostom: „ Since it is believed that the gentle one loses all that he has, that is why Christ promises the opposite, saying that the gentle man, the man who is not bold, nor proud, holds in complete security his possessions, while the one lacking the gentleness loses in most cases even the wealth inherited from his parents, and loses also his soul”19. Patristic writings teach also that the humble and gentle person has peace (as the Saviour says), has true devotion, „sees creation as eucharist”20, and he considers himself – as should do any economic agent who opted for acting as a person in his business and personal life alike – a steward of God’s wealth (likewise the priest is the steward of Christ’s Mysteries – according to St. Paul the Apostle). Humble and gentle person considers his fortune as a talent that he has to use as a good servant. He „does not consume more than it is absolutely necessary„21 and the remainder of his fortune considers to belong to God, the overall goal being that the entire creation (therefore any wealth, too) become Christ’s Church.
(c) General mission
The general mission assumed by Catholic perspective aims at promoting a human economic order that benefits from market activity but does not reduce the economic agent to just another element in economic phenomena.
In terms of general mission likely to be assumed by the Orthodox perspective, we share the opinion that it should aim at preventing the extinction of the religious faith in modern and post-modern societies either due to increased material welfare in times or prosperity or due to incresed poverty in times of crises.
7. Some concluding remarks
Since more than a hundred years a separation of economics from theology has been accepted by most economists and not quite as many theologians. As a consequence, the importance of religion for economics is seldom recognized by contemporary economics. However, economists who have rejected the separation have argued for different forms of religious economics on the assumption that economic theory is not theologically neutral and has to be evaluated theologically. More recently, an upsurge of interest by some economists in extending the economic approach to religion has stimulated the emergence of a new field of investigation called economics of religion. Both religious economics and economics of religion have provided valuable contributions in helping to illuminate religion as well as to enrich economic theory.
Replicating these inquiries, theologians went into more depth with their investigations on relationship between theology and economics as they aimed at achieving a conceptual synthesis of the two disciplines. A first important step in their endeavour was the attempt to combine theology and economics in a normative social theory. The outcome, liberation theology, could hardly be considered a success having in view its major epistemological vulnerability (namely, the isolated, „on his own” monodisciplinary approach) and its most important theoretical constraint (that is, the lack of sound economic principles as it utilizes Marxist economics). The second important step is represented by a recently initiated interdisciplinary effort to synthesize Catholic moral theology and neoclassical free-market economics under the name of economic personalism. Its most important contribution is the application of a personalist theological vision to the study of economic realities. In this way, economic personalism affirms an outstanding epistemological potential: the thelogically-inspired transfiguration of the individual-based economic analysis into a person-based economic analysis.
Centered on moral values (dignity, justice, participation), Catholic vision of the person proposes the idea that human beings never be treated as means to an end, that is as a mere economic resource in a production function (along with capital, technology, or information). Its culminating conceptual insight is reflected in the maxim that each person ought to be affirmed for his or her own sake. In accordance with the moral stance adopted, Catholic- inspired economic personalism focuses upon adjudecating which economic arrangements promote or denigrate human dignity.
Taking into consideration the shortcomings of its theorizing performance (the vision and understanding of the human person is limited to moral and ethical considerations only, while the critical distinction individual-person is flowed by the erroneous supposition that „the individual” – and not „the person” – represents the ontological foundation of the social order), it comes out that the current Catholic-inspiered economic personalism succeded only partialy in developing the outstanding potential we have mentioned above.
Under these circumstances, an Orthodox-inspired version of economic personalism promises to contribute to further development of this potential. Centered on spiritual values (humbleness, gentleness, compassionateness), Orthodox vision of the person proposes the idea that human being, in order to elevete himself or herself to the condition of person, has to bring into accord his or her gnomical (free) will with his natural will. Its culminating conceptual insight is reflected in the urge that each human being freely and consciously chooses to enter into interpersonal communion with Christ and with others (fellow-creatures). In accordance with its inherently spiritual stance, an Orthodox-inspired economic personalism would focus on the normative imperative that economic activities are to be governed by criteria that take full account of both economic efficency and spiritual efficiency, as each business transaction implies not only an exchange of tangible and intangible material (earthly) goods, but it simultaneously implies an exchange of spiritual (heavenly and otherwordly) goods: altruism vs selfishness; moderation vs greed; cooperation vs competition; generosity vs envy; care vs indifference; forgiveness vs revenge; love vs hate. All these apear to indicate that the Orthodox-inspired economic personalism could be better positioned to achieve the desired theologically-inspired transfiguration of the individual-based economic analysis into a person-based one.
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This study represents a revised and extended version of our paper „Economics and religion – a personalist perspective”, The Journal of Philosophical Economics
, Volume II, Issue 2, Spring 2009, 5-33.
First part of this article was published in Sfera Politicii
, no. 4 (146), April 2010.
Gregory M.A. Gronbacher, „The Need for Economic Personalism”, in The Journal of Markets & Morality
1, No.1 (Spring ), 1998, 4.
Gronbacher, The Need.
Karol Wojtyla (1979): The Acting Person
, Boston, D. Reidel Publishers, p.36, apud Gronbacher, The Need.,
Gronbacher, The Need.,
Gronbacher, The Need.,
George Huntston Williams (1981): The Mind of John Paul II: Origins of His Thought and Action
, New York, The Seabury Press, pp.265, 279, apud Gronbacher, The Need.,
Karol Wojtyla (1981): Toward a Philosophy of Praxis: An Anthology
, in Alfred Bloch and George T. Czuczka (eds.), (New York: Crossroad Publishing Company), 25, apud Gronbacher, The Need.,
Gronbacher, The Need.,
Wojtyla, Toward a Philosophy
, 29, apud Gronbacher, The Need.,
Gronbacher, The Need
Gronbacher, The Need
For an extensive presentation and analysis of Saint Maximus’s teaching see J. Meyendorff, Teologia bizantină.
The relationship between the natural will and the gnomical will is similarily debated in Saint John of Damascus, Dogmatica
, chapter XXII, 79-83 (apud Lucian Șușanu (2001): „Personalism ortodox și individualism liberal”, in Dilema
, anul IX, nr.456, 23-29 noiembrie, 12.
See also Șușanu, Personalism ortodox
Vladimir Lossky , Teologia mistică a bisericii de răsărit
, (București: Editura Anastasia), 1995, 111.
Fr. Dumitru Stăniloae, Studii de teologie dogmatică ortodoxă
, (Craiova: Editura Mitropoliei Olteniei), 1991, 30.
Fr. Stăniloae, Studii de teologie
Richard P. Feynman, Fizica modernă
, vol. 2, translated by Oliviu Gherman, (București, Editura Tehnică), 1970.
Saint John Chrysostom, „
Omilii la Matei”, în Scrieri
, Partea a treia, vol. 23, Colecţia PSB, translated by Fr. Dumitru Fecioru, (București: Editura IBM al BOR), 1994, 178.
Ioannis Zizioulas, Creatia ca Euharistie
, translated by Caliopie Papacioc, (București: Editura Bizantina), 1999.
Chrysostom, Omilii la Matei
Fr. PETRE COMȘA
– Senior lecturer with the
Faculty of Orthodox Theology in Targoviste, Romania.
Currently serves as a priest at The Saint Elijah-Grant
Church in Bucharest.
– Full-professor with the
Academy of Economic Studies in Bucharest, Romania.
Currently teaches International Corporate Finance and
Psychological Economics at the Faculty of International
Economics and Business.