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PERSONALITY, PROPERTY, AND COMMUNISM JACQUES MARITAIN T HE following article makes no pretence either of , treating the problem of property in its full extent , or of propounding a new theory of property. It relates simply to the doctrine expounded by St. Thomas and his commentators, a doctrine of which it presupposes some knowledge. Its purpose is merely, in a deliberately brief and schematic form, to draw attention to certain fundamental principles bearing on the metaphysic of man's being and action, principles which in our opinion dominate the problem but which have not always been disengaged with sufficient care. It is generally recognized that for St. Thomas Aquinas the problem of property has three successive stages: in the first stage St. Thomas shows that man, considered as a specific type of being, has a general right of appropriation over all material goods, the vocation of these being to serve man, and their appropriation by man being the ultimate realization of a finality rooted in the nature of things; the use (usus) which human liberty makes of them appears as the common actualization of this liberty, which thus exercises its dominion, and of their natural destination , which is thus achieved.' This is the primary truth which dominates the whole debate, and it shows that every person, by the mere fact of belonging to the human species, ought in one way or another to profit by the advantages of the common destination of material nature to the' good of the human species. At this stage the question of individual appropriation 1St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, II-II, 66, 1. I l THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY does not come up, and it is this very question which I appears to constitute the difficulty of the problem. J At the second stage, St. Thomas shows that the appropriation of external goods should normally be the act of a person. The dominion of man over material goods implies, in effect, a power of managing or administering , and of utilizing, these goods (potestas procurandi et dispensandi),' which in general is properly exercised only by an individual person (only by this means can one hope to obtain in a natural way the necessary care in the management of goods, public tranquillity, and absence of confusion in labour); hence it is natural reason which establishes as the fundamental rule of the human possession of goods the rule of individual appropriation: For if a particular piece of land be considered absolutely, it contains no reason why it should belong to one man more than to another, but if it be considered in respect of its adaptability to cultivation, and the unmolested use of the land, it has a certain commensuration to be the property of one and not of another man ... ,3 It is none the less true, however, that the use (usus) . of these goods ought to be common and ought to be of advantage to everyone by reason of the common destination of all material goods recognized at the very outset: The second thing that is competent to man with regard to external things is their use. I n this respect man ought to possess external things, not as his own [UI proprios], bu t as common [ut communes], so that, to wit, he is ready to communicate them to others in their need.' The thi rd stage relates to the particular modalities of property. These are subject to historical evolution: legislation and custom cannot, without violating natural 'lhjd., ll-JJ, 66, 2. a/hid., II_II, 57, 3. 'Ibid., ll-II, 66,2. 168 PERSONALITY, PROPERTY, AND COMMUNISM . law, abolish the principle of the right to private property, but they can variously regulate the exercise of this right as the common good demands.' It is with the second of the three stages here distinguished , with the problem of individual appropriation considered in general and apart from its particular modalities, that this article is concerned. Its objectis to determine more precisely what it is in human nature which supplies the general foundation for the right of personal property; or, to put it in another way, what it is in human nature which demands that material goods should be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 167-184
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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