Integralism as a Pre-political Anthropology & Meta-political Norm Grounded Philosophically in Natural Theology – The Pre-political Grounding of both Liberal & Illiberal Regimes

Liberal & illiberal regimes may all have their times & places.

Licit regimes will share certain theoretical foundations, hence, criteria of liceity.

Consistent with such foundations, then, consider the following criteria:

Public laws serve as one of many means toward just ends.

We critique political strategies, diagnosis their deficits & prescribe their optimality by prudentially judging them per criteria defined by just ends.

Sufficient strategies will attain a modicum of justice as realized in public virtue, order & peace.

Confluent with other just ends, we exercise the end of freedom by being who & doing what we ought, i.e. properly forming & duti-fully exercising our consciences to flourish in & as community, where the necessary goods of a sufficient material progress serve as a means to higher moral & spiritual ends.

Freedom’s inherent duties, thus objectively & communally ordered, realize the aretaic & deontological ends (teloi) of eternal & natural laws.

We grow in freedom through a formative & liberative process of learning, which will necessarily include the increasingly habitual practice of these duties.

Freedom’s rights remain correlative with & inseparable from its duties to be/come who & do what we ought.

Radically finite, the concrete states of both individual & communal realities constantly evolve, so, continuously, we must prudently discern the means of their flourishing and adapt our public laws & political strategies to those states.

Laws & policies must variously prioritize & subordinate agreed upon (at least practically if not substantively) rights & interests and, when those rights unavoidably & truly compete, adjudicate them, balancing & reconciling them through accommodations that, foremost, preserve & foster the common good, but only ever limiting the rights & interests – or burdening the consciences – of individuals in the least restrictive manner practicable.

The abovementioned criteria obviously share certain theoretical foundations.

Even if only implicitly & inchoately, we can anthropologically & philosophically ground rather substantive (suboptimal but satisficing) agreements regarding theories of humanity & of the cosmos, of truth & of knowledge, of goodness & of beauty.

We thus abide some degree of ethical pluralism derived – not from an insidious relativism or vulgar pragmatism, but – from a moral probabilism consistent with an appropriate epistemic humility & suitable metaphysical fallibilism. Our de-ontologies should therefore be as modest as our ontologies are tentative.

A given community may well move beyond such an implicit & inchoate philosophical grounding, e.g. natural theology, to an explicit & definitive revealed theology. In that case, any agreed upon rights & interests may more optimally reflect humanity’s ultimate telos, condiligentes, i.e. as co-lovers with God.

In such a community, religious conversion can further foster, even trans-value, its members’ realizations of humanity’s proximate, erotic-agapeistic-eudaimonistic teloi.

Beyond a given community’s vision of ultimate teloi, transcultural realities & religious pluralism invite further excursus, e.g. regarding shared orthocommunal (topos), orthodoxic (or polydoxic logos ), orthopathic (pathos), orthopraxic (ethos) criteria.

17 thoughts on “Integralism as a Pre-political Anthropology & Meta-political Norm Grounded Philosophically in Natural Theology – The Pre-political Grounding of both Liberal & Illiberal Regimes

  1. Teleology, final causes, and divine design were initially seen as central to understanding Smith’s writings

    The Secret, Natural Theological Foundation of Adam Smith’s Work by James E. Alvey, Senior Lecturer in Economics Department of Applied & International Economics, Massey University, New Zealand

    Journal of Markets & Morality Volume 7, Number 2 (Fall 2004): 335–361


  2. Integralism
    Edmund Waldstein, O.Cist.

    That is, to desire God based on one’s natural knowledge of Him through His effects is really to desire God, in Whom those effects really participate. Here the Platonic notion of anamnesis that Ratzinger takes up (in a text very dear to David Schindler) is extremely helpful. When one comes to know God by natural reason, one “recognizes” in Him the infinite ocean of perfection in which one’s own and all created being participates. But of course this knowledge is very imperfect, confused knowledge; the light of faith gives a much more distinct knowledge of Whom it is that one desires.


  3. Antonio Sosa
    ·Jan 30
    Is Catholicism the necessary theological backbone of integralism or can one also speak coherently of integralism while having a deistic or generically theistic understanding of God?
    Replying to @pleonidasp @Antelechy and @sancrucensis
    I defer to Pater’s interpretation of his famous definition, but I’d say: just as Catholicism is the fullness of the truth, Catholic integralism is the full perfection of integralism — although it is possible that non-Catholic theistic regimes might be imperfectly ordered to God.

    Sobert Sylvest

    Indeed, one would more swiftly & w/less hindrance grow in habitual virtue w/Catholic-formed sensus fidei?

    B/c all are graced via connaturality & disposed preconceptually to moral truths of natural law & theist truths of natural theology, other regimes should work to some degree?


  4. De Lubac and Balthasar, of course, strenuously deny that their account destroys the gratuity of grace. Is their denial convincing?

    Do some integralists, in turn, deny that
    gratuity of creation, which gifts the efficacies of connaturality with its tacit & preconceptual grasps of the true, good & beautiful, which gifts philosophical knowledge of goodness via natural law & of God via natural theology? All of which may well be both necessary & sufficient to ground an essential political philosophy, which would be further developed prudentially into various licit regimes, whether liberal, illiberal or integralist?


  5. See: Dignitatis Humanae – Not a Mere Question of Church Policy by M. Rhonheimer, Nova et Vetera, Spring 2014 (Vol. 12, No. 2)

    re: 1) Essential Secularity of the State grounded in Natural Law 2) Against Political Augustinianism 3) pastoral jurisdiction & means vs temporal juridical & political means


  6. A licit & broadly conceived #integralism will properly relate descriptive sciences, evaluative-normative cultures & philosophies, interpretive religions & ideologies and liberative polities & regimes as “axiologically integral” while “methodologically autonomous.”


  7. People appear to have various takes re whether or not an integralist regime has/n’t been or could/n’t be prescribed, doctrinally (ir/reformably) & is subject or not to doctrinal/disciplinary changes.

    Do any schools of thought, however, suggest that it’s a priori proscribed, e.g. even prudentially? To thus proscribe a confessional state (that presumptively conforms to natural law, e.g. tolerant) would, paradoxically, seem to abrogate natural law (re choice of polity, etc)?


  8. I’m struggling to frame different aspects of integralism; so many critiques of it engage caricatures. I resonate w/it’s pre-political theological anthropology. And take subordination to be neither a political polity nor regime. Integralism’s anthropology, ontologically, would certainly implicate various norms, deontologically, aretaically & prudentially. I’m getting lost b/c beyond subordination’s pre-political significance, it has meta-political impetus? Many (ok, a few) subscribe to subordination, anthropologically, in principle, & it gets realized, practically, to various degrees in chosen polities & regimes, subject to evidential & prudential critiques (some hyperbolic). Is subordination also in a meta-political category?


    1. Thinking this thru, pre-theologically, philosophically, why wouldn’t, perhaps oughtn’t, we aspire to an holistic integralism in every sphere of human concern, including our meta-political commitments & norms? consistent w/natural law & one’s ultimate concerns? aspiring to proleptic realizations of our eschatological teloi? whatever one’s religion/ideology? as a matter of existential authenticity & philosophical coherence? Natural law constrains coercive levels via a proportionality that proscribes hard/prescribes soft power disciplines for ultimate teloi.


  9. I’m starting to think that no too few of us are, essentially, anonymous integralists, subconscious subordinationists. We otherwise differ only regarding w/Who or what integrates our lives, making temporal & ultimate claims on our being, believing, belonging, desiring, behaving & becoming.

    Perhaps some conceive integralism as an essential, meta-political norm, philosophically, derived from an existential authenticity & philosophical coherence, but not fully practicable, prudentially.

    Others might further conceive integralism as an essential doctrine of any given faith, but presently imprudent, disciplinarily, in different ways & to various extents.

    Not to suggest that there have been no historical, proleptic instantiations or could be no future anticipatory realizations of integralism’s near-eschatological teloi, only to recognize that strategic constraints abound.

    Further, integralist subordination can be realized implicitly & inchoately as well as explicitly, all in varying degrees.

    There are no essential (in principle) concerns regarding integralism & coercion, for natural law would constrain it via the dictates of proportionality. Not to say that prudential concerns wouldn’t abound (in practice).


  10. I’ve always been a practical but not theoretical universalist, defending the reasonableness of the hope that all may be saved (not the necessity of same).

    I’m essentially an integralist, theoretically, just not prudentially, unable to defend a hope that it’s practical, yet.


  11. I’ve been a practical but not theoretical universalist, defending the reasonableness of the hope that all may be saved (not the necessity of same). I’m essentially an integralist, theoretically, just not prudentially, unable to defend a hope that it’s widely practical (YET).

    Even if one stipulates to an integralist ideal, whether philosophically & meta-politically or theologically & doctrinally or both, only to prudentially conclude its not presently practicable due to developmental deficits, one shouldn’t imagine those would all necessarily lie w/the prospective governed & none w/the prospective temporal & ecclesiastical powers, clerisy & clergy.

    Integralism writ large seems but a near-eschatological reality? w/some imperfect historical, proleptic instantiations? w/MUCH sociocultural AND ECCLESIAL transformation ahead?


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