Freedom and Authority in Our Time ed. by Bryson, Finkelstein, Maciver and McKeon, Christian Liberty by David A. O’Connell, O. P. (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 16, Number 4, October 1953
- pp. 565-582
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BOOK REVIEWS Freedom and Authority in Our Time. Edited by BRYSON, FINKELSTEIN, MACIVER and McKEON. New York: Harper, 1953. Pp. 767 with index. $6.00. Christian Liberty. By DAVID A. O'CoNNELL, 0. P. Westminster: Newman, 1959?. Pp. 142. $3.00. One infallible sign of the deepening of the moral crisis in our time is the fact that the headlines in the daily papers can be explained only by recourse to the most profound intellectual and moral principles, so that the ordinary citizen must turn to the philosophers and theologians before he can even digest the day's news. The problems of censorship, public accusation, international conspiracy, the protection and the abuse of the Fifth Amendment, academic freedom, the legitimacy of World Government, the principles governing our dealings with Soviet Russia, repatriation, the revolt of subject peoples--ali of these are moral issues. All of them, moreover, touch upon the problem of human freedom or, more accurately, upon the complex problem of freedom and authority. Two recent publications indicate that thinking men within the Church and without have accepted the responsibility of considering the problem of freedom and authority in the manysided context of private and public life. Freedom and Authority in Our Time is a collection of papers presented and discussed at the twelfth conference on Science, Philosophy and Religion held in New York in Sepiember HJ5l. Christian Liberty, by David A. O'Connell 0. P., is the latest work in the series entitled Thomistic Studies, edited by the faculty of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D. C. The papers presented in the Freedom and Authority symposium are grouped under diverse sectional headings ranging from the more practical discussions on Freedom and Authority in Practical Life, Freedom and Governmental Authority, Freedom and Legal Authority, Freedom and Authority as a Cultural and Social Phenomenon, to a final investigation of the ontology of freedom in Postulates of Theories of Freedom and Authority and Definitions of Freedom and Authority. Within the generic scope of these sections room is left for a dissection of the freedom: authority dichotomy in relation to Labor Unions, Psychiatry, Social Security, International Relations and World Law, Ethics, Politics, Constitutional Law, Citizenship, Human Rights, the Structure of Cultures, the 565 566 BOOK REVIEWS Interpretation of Science, the Poetic imagination, the Arts, the Pathology of Persecution, Education and Intellectual Development. The task of summarizing the valuable insights contained in this symposium is rendered more diificult by the diversity of subject matter and the diversity of viewpoint. Yet one can discern recurrent leitmotifs which appear again and again throughout the essays, whatever be the subject matter, whatever the intellectual predispositions of the particular author. There is first of all the Authority vs. Freedom school, those who imply that freedom and authority are contraries, a position which is at least suggested by the very title of the symposium. Thus Ernest J. Simmons writes: " Our notion of democracy is based on the rights of the individual against both Church and State." (p. 154) Professor Cohen begins his discussion on the relation of law to freedom and authority with a typical formulation of the antinomy: "H law is a form of authority; if authority implies coercion, and coercion restraint; if the essence of freedom is the absence of restraint-it is obvious that, implicit in any discussion of law, is the problem of freedom." (p. 217) " This brings us to the fact that to a greater or lesser degree authority conflicts with freedom...." (Dorsey, p. 322) This we may call the extreme position and its specific danger is that those who accept it may easily become devotees of one of those "polar 1 ideas " to the detriment of the other. Invariably they gravitate towards the affirmation of a freedom which subordinates authority. This extremt> position tends, therefore, to create another position which may be classified as the Authority for Freedom school. This distinctive resolution receives a theological coloring in Nels Ferre's essay on authority and freedom: " Our thesis is that absolute authority inheres only in the will of God. . . . The will of God ... is always for the fullest possible measure of practicable freedom, and is finally for the perfect freedom of...