Published by Michael Novak in Recovering Nature: Essays in Natural Philosophy, Ethics, and Metaphysics, in Honor of Ralph McInerny, ed. Thomas Hibbs and John O’Callaghan (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1999), pp. 147-161] 1. McInerny’s Exposition of Maritain
Ralph McInerny became the director of the Jacques Maritain Center at the University of Notre Darne in 1979, and wrote an extremely helpful introduction to the thought of Jacques Maritain, under the title of Art and Prudence in 1988. There he gives a short and clear account of Maritain’s arguments concerning both the American founding and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the two arguments are closely related. In McInerny’s honor and following his lead, I would here like to offer supporting evidence from early American sources solely in regard to Maritain’s reading of the American founding.
Most of the interpretation of America’s founding, particularly since the generation of World War II, but even reaching back to Parrington and Beard, has been in the hands of nonbelievers. By this I mean historians or political philosophers who were neither Christians nor Jews but atheists or agnostics; and even those who were agnostics were, perhaps, rather less skeptical of atheism than of Christian faith. Such interpreters have tended to fall in one of two schools. Most have taken their cues from the nonbelieving side of the Enlightenment. The other significant school, following Leo Strauss, has added to the Enlightenment a good deal of wisdom from the ancients.
Both of these schools agree in minimizing the role of Christianity in the American founding. Both stress, almost to the exclusion of biblical faith, the role of the unbelieving side of the Enlightenment, citing especially Thomas Hobbes and a particular interpretation of John Locke. This interpretation leaches the Christian faith out of Locke, and presents his true meaning as both atheistic and directly subversive of a Christian view of humankind.
The American founding, in both views, is a child of the Enlightenment, built upon the ejection of biblical faith from public institutions and its confinement to private quarters. It should be added that not a few Christian theologians today especially far right Catholic theologians, hold an analogous views.
As late as his fifty-fourth year, Maritain held a not entirely dissimilar view of America. In Integral Humanism (1936), he held capitalism responsible for much that is worst in the world, and the United States was by then the leader of world capitalism. In addition, he had, as he later confessed, the typical Continental disdain for America’s form of “bourgeois democracy.”
As the shadows of Hitler over Europe grew darker and darker, Maritain’s visits to the United States increased in frequency and in length. He finally took refuge here early in 1940 for the duration of the war years. During these years Maritain gained a fresh and “contextual” understanding of the American wayof life. He could now discern with his own eyes and ears that American life as it was actually lived was not, in fact, what it had earlier seemed to him from afar. McInerny empathizes with Maritain’s fresh reading of daily experience – especially in the American Midwest – and with his judgment about the inadequacy of conventional theories. In its daily practice, the United States is neither a child of the unbelieving Enlightenment nor materialistic, atomistically individualistic, self-enclosed, and walled off from the transcendent. So, at least, it seemed in the 1940s and 1950s. No one, Maritain wrote, can walk among the American people and observe how they live, how they speak, and what they hope for, and then force such theses upon the facts.
By this time, Maritain had thought more deeply about several themes crucial both to philosophy and to political philosophy than any one in the preceding centuries of the tradition of the philosophia perennis. Since these themes include such concepts as person and liberty they are crucial to Christian philosophy (a species that Maritain was one of the First to identify with adequate precision). On these points, of course, Maritain had teachers, Thomas Aquinas foremost among them. But, on the one hand, Thomas Aquinas had not faced the same kinds of concrete questions as arose from the social and political experiments of the last two hundred years (especially those between, say 1745 and 1945). On the other hand, very few scholars who knew the thought of Aquinas had had the complicating experience of life under “the new science of politics” in this “new world.”
New distinctions cried out to be made, and Maritain made them. New terms cried out to be invented to give old principles new applications, or applications in unprecedented contexts, and Maritain invented them. In these achievements, it would be difficult to show that Maritain strayed from the Catholic tradition. On the contrary; he advanced that tradition in a living, vital, and even lifegiving manner.
In the larger world, his efforts helped to bring to life the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which later popes have paid homage. In that effort, Maritain proposed a sophisticated and profound extension of the reasoning of St. Thomas on two points: on practical reason and on the often-denied but never-failing workings of the first principles of natural law.
In the same vein, Maritain extended the reach of the philosophia perennis in regard to democracy religious liberty and pluralism. He extended this perennial tradition into the realm of new social arrangements and new human experiences, and no one shows how he did so better and more succinctly than McInerny. McInerny’s account is clearer than Maritain’s, and I draw on it here.
2. Four Requirements of a Good Society
Maritain holds that four foundational ideas must be clearly understood and well institutionalized in a society worthy of humankind. Such a society must be personalist, communitarian, pluralist, and theist. Each of these receives a brief comment from McInerny. First, such a society must respect the dignity of the human person. Then it must nourish the many ways, natural and voluntary, by which the person thrives in communion with others. Third, it must give to Caesar the things that are Caesars, and to God the things that are God’s, respecting, in particular, freedom of conscience in private and in public. Finally it must either manifest in its public life due respect to the Source of human rights and the Supreme Judge of consciences (as the U.S. Congress did with respect to Thanksgiving Day in 1789), or at least be effectively open to the transcendent, permitting to its citizens free expression of homage thereto.
Maritain holds that these four concepts have been given temporal shape – both in theory and in practice – in the institutions of American democracy. In this context, “democracy” does not mean rule by a majority in direct plebiscite; on the contrary it means both representative government and limited government bound by the rule of law (i.e., a constitutional democratic republic). Such a government, furthermore, operates through the separation of legislative, judicial, and executive powers; under due process; and with ample safeguards both for the rights of individuals and minorities and for averting tyranny by a majority. These distinctive elements in the American practice of democracy have been added by trial and error down the centuries, and in English-speaking countries in particular under the sway of the common law and common sense. (An excellent supplement to Maritain’s work, although conceived on other lines, is Russell Kirk’s The Roots of American Order. )
In English-speaking countries down the centuries (as those of us who are immigrants from non-English-speaking lands have noted with admiration), many religious persons were champions of liberty; and religion and liberty have often been allies. This good fortune was seldom matched on the Continent, where proponents of liberty often felt thrown into rebellion against the forces of tradition and power, the ancien régime in which church was united with state.
In Britain and America, therefore, common sense still carries with it a tacit religious sensibility and understanding. Further, what the Scots described as “moral sentiments” usually carried with them an implicit religious significance, Adam Smith’s appeal to “sympathy” for instance, was defined in terms appropriate to a Christian sentiment. In America, too, one did not have to choose between liberty and faith. On the contrary it was quite often religious faith that nourished the most ardent appeals for independence from Britain, in the three hundred or so local declarations that predated the congressional one of July 4, 1776.
Coming from France, which had already experienced several great declarations and many constitutions, and in which unbelievers who favored secular goals often fought pitched battles in the street against traditionalists and believers, Maritain read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States not only with admiration but with a willingness to be instructed. He did not esteem the achievement of Paris in 1789 as he did that of Philadelphia in 1787. Of the latter he wrote:
Peerless is the significance, for political philosophy of the establishment of the American Constitution at the end of the 18th century. This Constitution can be described as an outstanding lay Christian document, tinged with the philosophy of the day. The spirit and inspiration of this great political Christian document is basically repugnant to the idea of making human society stand aloof from God and from any religious faith. Thanksgiving and public prayer, the invocation of the name of God at the occasion of any major official gathering, are, in the practical behavior of the nation, a token of this very same spirit and inspiration?
Maritain further insisted:
The concept of natural law played, as is well known, a basic part in the thought of the founding fathers. In insisting . . . that they were men of government rather than metaphysicians and that they used the concept for practical rather than philosophical purpose, in a more or less vague, even in a “utilitarianist,” sense (as if any concern for the common good and the implementing of the ends of life were to be labeled utilitarianism), one makes only more manifest the impossibility of tearing natural law away from the moral tenets upon which this country was founded.
There is no doubt about the high regard in which Maritain held the Constitution for its evangelical inspiration and expression of the natural law. The American system embodies the four characteristics of the good society.
(1) Person. Maritain held that the concept of the person is a philosophical concept, accessible to human reason, but thrust into the consciousness of philosophers by theologians. Such theologians were seeking precise ways to express what it is in the Man-God, Jesus Christ, that remains the same when we say that He possesses both a divine and a human nature. In that context, a notion of “person” is needed that is different from the notion of “individual.” A difficulty here arises, since individuals are individuated by their material conditions, not their form. But that cannot be true of God, who is beyond material conditions. Luckily, however, “person” is an available term, denoting a subsistent capable of insight, judgment, choice, and love, that is, the essential capacities of spirit; and spirit that may be either immaterial or embodied (or both). Thus, in human beings the concept “person” designates an independent subject, capable of understanding, loving, and deciding; a subsistent agent who is unique, incommunicable, creative, responsible, and inimitable.
(2) Community. Similarly Aristotle noted that human beings are communitarian in essence, that is, social and political animals whose natural habitat is a polis. Biblical Faith has drawn the attention of philosophers to the universality of the human community as children of the one God, whose concern is especially for the weakest. Today philosophers who describe themselves as atheists, such as Bertrand Russell and Richard Rorty freely acknowledge that they have borrowed such central concepts as compassion and solidarity from the moral teachings of Jesus (even though they regard him as a merely human teacher like Socrates or Goethe). In their philosophical thinking, our “progressives” have gone well beyond the vision of human unity in the reason of Stoicism and universals of Kant; they pay special attention to the poor and the weak, in almost Christian tones.
The preamble to the U.S. Constitution begins “We the people.” It is the ordering document of a political community composed of free persons. It represents, further, a movement among ratifying states, uniting several free political communities in one nation; it is the states, rather than the national government, that are expected to be the character-forming entities (the Constitution assigns no such function to the national government). While the Constitution is not an “atomizing” document, it is not morally perfect. Among other things, it temporized with the evil institution of slavery for the very good communitarian reason that in no other way could a union be formed whose future expansion would with high probability guarantee the abolition of slavery.
The Constitution’s communitarian nature is further shown in its implicit confidence in a joint and united future. It was designed to protect the U.S. from the perpetual self-fragmentation of Europe. In the Declaration of Independence, further, the signers from the different states had pledged to each other (in a communitarian bond) their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. The Declaration was a compact, a covenant, the act of an entire community. Each individual who joined this community placed himself in peril of punishment for high treason. (As the war proceeded, of the 56 signers 9 fought and died, 12 had their homes looted and burned, 17 lost their fortunes, 2 lost sons.) The United States was not founded by or for lone rangers, individual atoms, mere rugged individualists. It was founded for union.
(3) Pluralism (The Realm of Conscience). Further, even the idea of the secular state, as well as the idea of pluralism, is of Christian inspiration. This claim seems contrary to the historical evidence, which shows so many examples of the union of church and crown. During a thousand-year stretch from Charlemagne to Napoleon, 800-1800 A.D., for example, the pope of Rome laid the imperial crown upon the brow of the Holy Roman Emperor, regent of all Europe. Nonetheless, Maritain holds that the teaching of Jesus about what belongs to Caesar and what belongs to God (Matt. 22:21) has finally worked its way out in social history so that Christians, above all, ought to accept it. This ideal, different from the ideal of its historical predecessor, “Christendom,” inspires the formation of states that are not sacral but respectful of diversity of conscience (respectful, too, of religion, not aggressively secularistic). Further, in philosophy and conscience and fealty such states should be pluralistic, not monistic. Finally they should be respectful of both the nonestablishment and the free exercise of religion. (In the U.S., the Constitution forbids establishment at the national level, in part to respect establishment at the state level.) No system, Maritain argues, represents at once a higher and a more practical working out of the gospels in history.
No doubt, such a system bears within it its own perils. Every system in history does, and certainly the systems that went before it did. To take but one random example (well known to many Americans who studied in Innsbruck): the deeply Catholic culture of Austria, directed for centuries by the Habsburgs. The almost sacral culture of Austria did not prevent the widespread popular embrace of National Socialism in 1938, which led to abominations still painful to plumb. Those who worry about dangers to Christianity in American culture, while hankering for something akin to the sacral practices of life in Austria, need to recall that the gospel is always in peril.
The Maritain who in The Peasant of the Garonne turned his full wrath upon the corruptions introduced by interpreters of the Second Vatican Council – a council which his own work had been widely recognized as preparing – would be equally unsparing about the corruptions that have polluted America since he wrote lovingly of her in the 1950s. Of that we can be sure.
(4) Theism (Natural Theology). Finally, Maritain held that a good society, worthy of the human being, while it need not be Christian, must at least be theist. Here, he stood on common ground with the American founders. Text after text from the founding period asserts that institutions of democracy of the American type can only work among a theistic and moral people. James Madison, for instance:
The belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities to be impressed with it.
And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath? I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.
George Washington asserted in his “Farewell Address” of September 17, 1796, that the probability of human beings continuing to be moral while not believing in God is virtually nil. No doubt, the thing can be done, but not by a great many people at once and not for a long time:
... let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
Others in the founding generation argued that in those situations when no one else can observe one’s conduct, self-love is overwhelmed with reasons to bend the moral law to one’s own purpose. Nemo judex in causa sui. Thus, the same reason that impelled nineteenth-century Americans to insist upon checks and balances in matters of public self-government led them to insist upon checks and balances in private self-governance. In their eyes, the decisive check upon self-love is the undeceivable Supreme Judge of all consciences, to whom in signing the Declaration of Independence they appealed for judgment upon their own motives. They insisted that in every court of law, truthfulness should be witnessed by oaths in his name.
Whereas Americans today dread seeming to be judgmental, the founders of our country positively demanded the constant judgment of others upon their thoughts and deeds. They knew full well that every thought and deed is susceptible of being evil or good. To be judged and held responsible, the early generations of Americans held, is the very essence of liberty. And this is the radical, the founding impulse behind the project of republican government. Thus, as Tocqueville notes, from the very beginning John Winthrop distinguished between the liberty proper to animals and the liberty worthy of humans:
Concerning liberty I observe a great mistake in the country about that. There is a twofold liberty natural (I mean as our nature is now corrupt) and civil or federal. The first is common to man with beasts and other creatures. By this, man, as he stands in relation to man simply hath liberty to do what he lists; it is a liberty to evil as well as to good. This liberty is incompatible and inconsistent with authority and cannot endure the least restraint of the most just authority. The exercise and maintaining of this liberty makes men grow more evil, and in time to be worse than brute beasts: omnes sumus licentia deteriores. This is that great enemy of truth and peace, that wild beast, which all the ordinances of God are bent against, to restrain and subdue it. The other kind of liberty I call civil or federal; it may also be termed moral, in reference to the covenant between God and man, in the moral law and the politic covenants and constitutions, among men themselves. This liberty is the proper end and object of authority and cannot subsist without it; and it is a liberty to that only which is good, just, and honest. This liberty you are to stand for, with the hazard not only of your goods, but of your lives, if need be.
Such texts as these indicate the range of the evidence to which Maritain’s analysis appeals.
3. Maritain’s Argument for Pluralism
In his work on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Maritain sharpened further his demand that a good society be theistic. By 1945, the regime of Adolf Hitler had deepened the world’s understanding of the depth of evil. New depths, never before seen, had been explored and evoked almost universal revulsion. Events in our own time, such as the Gulag Archipelago, the Cambodian holocaust, and other huge massacres, as in Rwanda, have shown, of course, that not all peoples learned revulsion; some, alas, learned imitation. But in the aftermath of 1945, there seemed to be a will to start afresh, on a worldwide stage, in a framework larger than the sphere of the Western or Christian horizon. A great representative of the Arab world (Charles Malik), and another of the Asian Third World (Carlos Romulo, president of the Philippines) played especially prominent roles in the drafting and the passage of the UDHR. However reluctantly representatives of the officially atheistic world such as the leaders of the Soviet Union – since the days of Lenin and Stalin stained with blood themselves – were willing to take part; they did not want to be seen as outside the civilized world.
The United States, as we have seen, faced the necessity of forming a union without first abolishing slavery. In an analogous way Maritain and his colleagues sought a way to draft a Universal Declaration of Human Rights that might establish the principles leading to at least the first three of the above-mentioned conditions for the good society. The drafters of the declaration faced a great dilemma: How can a pluralistic world, locked in a vast ideological-moral struggle, come to any agreement on fundamental principles? Here the reflections of St. Thomas on the first principles of natural law and the workings of practical reason gave Maritain an idea for a way through the roadblock.
Maritain’s first move was to get everybody to see that agreement on principles of theory was not possible. Among representatives of different faiths, worldviews, philosophies, ideologies, there was no one theory that all of them shared. On the other hand, Maritain knew from St. Thomas that practice and theory are activities of two different habits, and operate under different constraints and laws. This point is worth a brief excursus, in which I am going beyond McInerny in support of his point.
Sometimes, people do quite well in practice what they cannot explain in theory. Sometimes people who are excellent in the theory fail in practice. Again, theory is curiously impersonal; anyone, from any point of view, should be able to examine a theory and to falsify or verify it in an objective way. But practice is incurably personal; the batting grip that works for one hitter in baseball does not work for another. In practice, coaches, not theoreticians, are of maximal help. (Theory may be highly useful to coaches, but it is not enough.) Moreover, three or four persons often engage in the same practice, even though each has a very different reason for doing so, and even though each has a very different theory and/or life-p1an underlying his practice. This last is the clue Maritain was looking for.
How much agreement can a world body reach regarding practices, even while remaining incurably divided regarding the underlying theory for such practices? This is how Maritain rearranged the earlier question. Maritain’s answer was to raise two further practical questions: Are there not some things so terrible in practice that no one will publicly approve of them? Are there not some things so good in practice, that no one will want to seem opposed to them? This relatively simple and yet often overlooked distinction between agreement in theory and agreement in practice broke the logjam.
One feature of this solution is especially important. Such a distinction allows people to stand firm on all points of principle. In this way it avoids the trap of moral indifferentism or moral relativism. It does not require a Christian to surrender one iota of Christian faith. It did not oblige a communist to abandon communist theory. It faced its signers with one question only: Do you agree that support of this practice and prohibition of that other practice is a worthy criterion for the world community? Do you agree to declare that your nation will live under this code of practices? In the event, the Soviet Union did not veto the action of putting the declaration forward, but then did not sign it.
There were obvious dangers to this course of action. Like the U.S. Constitution, the UN declaration is susceptible to behavior that can break through such legal threads like a whale through a fisherman’s net. On the other hand, after 1975, with the publication of an extension of the declaration in the Helsinki Accords, the Universal Declaration proved of inestimable importance to human rights activists behind the Iron Curtain. Indeed, these “mere words” were credited with being one of the most useful of all tools in the final discrediting and dismantling of the Soviet Union. The failure of that state to live up to this simple and elementary code of practice played a decisive role in delegitimating it, even in the eyes of serious communists of the generation of 1989-91. It worked much as Maritain had hoped it would.
For Maritain, whether it would work was in a sense a testable hypothesis. Even people who deny the existence of the natural law cannot help exemplifying it, he knew, because they are human beings who use practical reason every time they act. Maritain had learned from Aquinas that “natural law” is only the name for the actual working principles of practical reason. (Natural law presents no concrete ordinances, but does make principled demands regarding methods of practical inquiry.
These reflections on the reasoning behind Maritain’s support. For the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also help to illuminate why he held such high esteem for the principles implicit in the founding of the American Republic, and particularly in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The principles of natural law, he noted, are evident in the effort of the Americans to submit the principles of the Constitution to popular understanding, judgment, and ratification – the whole exercise was, explicitly, an exercise in “reflection and choice,” that is, an exercise of the practical reason. Thus, the very opening of The Federalist:
It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to thepeople of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force [emphasis added].
More than that, the founders were explicit about their care and reverence for the natural laws whose authority they invited in judgment upon their work. They did their best to uncover the laws proper to human liberty and to conform themselves to these. Further still, they believed that Christian faith ratifies the workings of natural law. They claimed two witnesses to their own sincerity of purpose: natural reason and faith.
4. Further Evidence from the Founding
Among the eighteenth-century designers of the American Declaration and Constitution, both reason and revelation (Jewish and Christian revelation) were frequently called upon to vindicate their appeal to “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” A good witness to this twofold appeal is Samuel Cooper, one of the prerevolutionary preachers of independence whose words were rescued for our use by the invaluable collection of Ellis Sandoz:
We want not, indeed, a special revelation from heaven to teach us that men are born equal and free; that no man has a natural claim of dominion over his neighbours, nor one nation any such claim upon another; and that as government is only the administration of the affairs of a number of men combined for their own security and happiness, such a society have a right freely to determine by whom and in what manner their own affairs shall be administered. These are the plain dictates of that reason and common sense with which the common parent of men has informed the human bosom. It is, however, a satisfaction to observe such everlasting maxims of equity confirmed, and impressed upon the consciences of men, by the instructions, precepts, and examples given us in me sacred oracles; one internal mark of their divine original, and that they come from him “who hath made of one blood all nations to dwell upon the face of the earth,” whose authority sanctifies only those governments that instead of oppressing any part of his family vindicate the oppressed, and restrain and punish the oppressor.
The American founders held that the Creator and Redeemer of humankind wrote his law in the human heart and wove its lessons into the tapestry of nature and history to instruct us through contemplation both of nature and of the workings of his Providence in events. Even of Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders whose faith was least Christian, his biographer and sympathetic student of his religious life writes: “Jefferson assumed an ordered, theocentric world; chaos was not king. He also affirmed that ours was and is a moral universe; unrestrained libertinism did not, must not, rule.”
To attempt to do justice to the religious views of all those preachers, teachers, magistrates, and yeoman who did so much to put their necks at risk in joining the rebellion against the legitimate monarch, George III, and then placed their fates, with due reflection, under the rule of their new Constitution, would be a very large task. The religious life of the founding generation is not a field in which secular historians of the last fifty years have accomplished much work, but new beginnings have at last become evident. Permit me, therefore, to conclude these remarks with but two citations from the nation’s second president, John Adams of Massachusetts. The first is as follows:
Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty but it is religion and morality alone which can establish principles upon which freedom can securely stand.
The second text is a communication from Adams to the “Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, October 11, 1798”:
We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Maritain, I submit, got it right. The Constitution is a work inspired by evangelical sentiments and due respect for the natural moral law.
While McInerny’s account of Maritain’s thought is unusually clear and helpful, it does suggest a range of problems that have arisen since Maritain’s death. Maritain’s account of the founders, while never carried through with scholarly detail, seems more correct than that of many scholars who overlook the religious sources of the founding almost entirely The political principles of the founding do not require moral indifference or an aggressive antireligious secularism. Still, it may be asked whether among the aggressive few and the inattentive many they in time generate such negative developments. In the United States from about 1946 onwards, an aggressive attack upon the public religiousness of the American people has certainly arisen.
An accurate diagnosis of why this is so, and what might be done to correct it, remains to be persuasively presented. My own suspicion is that those who care about the practice of religion both in nonpublic and in public settings would make a great mistake if they regard the United States as ill-founded, jettison the founders as seriously misled, and call for a new Constitution. Not only are they not likely in our time or the foreseeable future, to get a Constitution that is closer to the gospels and to Christian philosophy; worse still, they would be depriving themselves of the prestige, acuity and peerless historical accomplishment of the founders, who are much closer to the Catholic tradition (evangelical and medieval), than to the dry and lifeless relativism of the aggressive secularizers.
The founders were theocentric, convinced that the Creator from all eternity shaped nature; nature’s laws, and the grand drama of history by His gracious Providence. These are for us a precious heritage, which it would be worse than ungrateful to throw away. It would be, to reach for a medieval term, stultus; indeed, self-stultifying.