Philosophy of Democratic Government / by Yves R. Simon

Authority as Cause of United Action

Throughout the preceding exposition we emphasized the substitutional character of paternal authority. We now must consider whether authority has essential functions. That it has no essential function at all is a proposition current among liberal writers.

Let us bear in mind the picture of a society made exclusively of clever and virtuous persons. If such a picture was necessarily utopian, it might still satisfy the conditions of a mental experiment. In fact, it is not unreal; e.g., a man and his wife make up a society; both of them may be virtuous and enlightened. There exist societies whose members are all perfectly good; but these societies are very small. We want to know whether such societies need authority. If they do, authority is not devoid of essential function.

Even in the smallest and most closely united community, unity of action cannot be taken for granted; it has to be caused, and, if it is to be steady, it has to be assured by a steady cause. Here are a man and his wife -- both are good and clever, but one thinks that the summer vacation should be spent on the seashore, and the other would rather spend it in the hills. If they remain divided, one goes to the seashore, the other to the hills, and common life ceases temporarily. It would come to an end if a similar divergence concerned an issue of lasting significance.

Now unity of action depends upon unity of judgment, and unity of judgment can be procured either by way of unanimity or by way of authority; no third possibility is conceivable. Either we all think that we should act in a certain way, or it is understood among us that, no matter how diverse our preferences, we shall all assent to one judgment and follow the line of action that it prescribes. Whether this judgment is uttered by a leading person or by the majority or by a majority within a leading minority makes, at this point, little difference. But to submit myself to a judgment which does not, or at least may not, express my own view of what should be done is to obey authority. Thus authority is needed to assure unity of action if, and only if, unanimity is uncertain. The question is whether unanimity can be established in better than casual fashion among the perfectly clever and well-intentioned members of a society which is, by hypothesis, free from deficiencies.

In science, lack of unanimity always has the character of an accident, and there is something scandalous about it; people spontaneously trace it to failure, for science is supposed to proceed by way of demonstration and demonstration is held to communicate knowledge with necessity. What is taught and learned in our courses and treatises under the name of science contains a large amount of opinions and beliefs; but it also contains an inconspicuous, though all-important, nucleus of propositions possessing certainty, universality, and clarity, which satisfy all requirements for steady communicability. De jure, it is always possible to necessitate unanimous assent to a scientific proposition; unfolding the demonstration is all that needs to be done. Let it be said that a genuinely scientific proposition is, de jure, communicable without limits. Yet, when a proposition fails to win assent beyond the boundaries of a group of kindred minds, one should not infer, from this sheer fact, that it is devoid of scientific character. A proposition may be, de jure, communicable without any limit, though its de facto communicability proves narrowly limited. That a discrepancy should take place between de jure and de facto possibilities is a common occurrence in this world of contingency. The propositions of positive science are incomparably more communicable, in fact, than those of philosophy; yet some philosophic propositions are fully demonstrated and consequently possess the objective foundation of unlimited communicability; their relative incommunicability is purely factual. It is by accident that only a few people can understand the terms out of which they are made, know what the question is all about, master the prerequisites to the demonstration, and follow the demonstration itself.

Thus, in the field of scientific thought, unanimity is guaranteed, de jure, by a process of rational communication whose possibility results necessarily from the nature of scientific objects. Faultless scientific minds, no matter how many, would be unanimous with regard to scientific truth. The problem with which we are now concerned is whether what holds for scientific propositions holds also for those practical propositions which rule the action of a multitude: Do they possess the power of commanding unanimous assent, at least when conditions are entirely normal?

The theory of practical certainty and of practical truth, worked out by Aristotelianism, is a first step toward an answer. The very exacting definition of science in the Posterior Analytics seems to make hopeless the case of certainty in practical matters. If the certainty of science demands that the scientific object should possess the kind and degree of necessity that is found in universal essences alone, it seems that practical knowledge admits of no certainty, for human practice takes place in the universe of the things that can be otherwise than they are.{12} Events constantly give the lie to our prudence. After careful deliberation we conclude that this course of action is the right one, yet what it brings about is a catastrophe. The head of a family, for instance, decides, after having conscientiously weighed advantages and disadvantages, that a certain trip would be a good thing for his family. A train wreck occurs. A child is killed. Yet this honest man had a right to believe in the course of action that he had selected.

Such a simple example is all we need to perceive the twofold meaning of a practical proposition. "This trip is going to be a good thing" -- this proposition is given the lie by the train wreck; it is found at variance with facts; between it and the real, there turns out to be no relation of conformity; it happens to be false, it never was certain. However, and no matter what happens, it will remain everlastingly true that the proposition "this trip is going to be a good thing" was the right conclusion of a properly conducted deliberation. No one could do better. Our calculations are not supposed to be infallible. This proposition was what it was supposed to be. It was what good will and loving devotion wanted it to be. Its agreement with the real was but probable, for the operation of a railroad line is subject to accidents; but its agreement with the demands of a good will was certain. Such agreement is a kind of truth, and the train wreck is no ground for charging the man with lack of judgment. He judged well, inasmuch as his judgment was what it was supposed to be. The conformity of a practical proposition with the real cannot be perfectly established; but such conformity is absolute truth, theoretical truth; it is not the truth that belongs to the practical proposition qua practical. Practical truth is a relation of conformity between a judgment or a proposition and the requirements of an honest will.{13} When a decision is what honesty demands that it should be, this decision is true in a practical sense, and its practical truth is certain and unqualified. The uncertainty of our calculations entails painful consequences, but it does not affect the possession of practical truth, which retains its firmness amid ruins.

So far as its cause is concerned, the judgment possessed with practical certainty must be described as a particularly clear and familiar case of affective knowledge." In rational knowledge, a judgment which is not self-justified owes its justification to antecedent cognitions and finally to self-justified or obvious cognitions. The dispositions of the will and the heart have nothing to do with the determination of knowledge; they concern only its exercise. It is not by being docile to the inclinations of our heart that we shall ever establish the true answer to a question of theoretical science. On the contrary, when I am concerned with the question "What do I have to do, here and now, in the midst of this unique, unprecedented and unrenewable congeries of circumstances, in order to make a good use of my freedom, in order to preserve the good of virtue?" I know that no deduction, no induction, no argumentation, can supply the final answer. The science of ethics, i.e., the rational knowledge of morality, would supply an initial answer but not the final one. Between the last rationally established conclusion and the entirely concrete rule that action demands, there is a gap that no argumentation can bridge. Doubt cripples action, or an uncertain rule is issued, unless the will and the heart are so dedicated to the good of virtue that their inclinations can be relied upon. The ethical man may be unable to explain why, ultimately, he comes to such and such a decision; he may have nothing to say, beyond mentioning an inclination to act in this way and an insuperable repugnance to act in the opposite way. That is all he needs to direct his action, but more would be needed to bring about conviction in the mind of his neighbor. Unlike scientific judgment, practical judgment, for the very reason that it is ultimately determined by the obscure forces of the appetite, does not admit of rational communication. It is, as it were, a secret.

Let these propositions be exemplified briefly. When a teacher of ethics shows that the right of private ownership is suspended in case of extreme necessity, so that a starving person may use things which under ordinary circumstances belong to his neighbor, some listener inevitably raises the following question (which constitutes, in the listener's mind, an unanswerable objection): "But who is going to decide whether or not I do find myself in the state of extreme necessity?" The only possible answer is calculated to discourage those who expect of the science of ethics things that no science can ever procure. Let the answer be that everyone has to make such decisions for himself and that the conditions to be satisfied, if such decisions are to be made safely, are extremely costly. In order to know for sure whether I find myself in the state of extreme necessity, I must possess the virtue of justice; by it I shall be inclined away from my neighbor's property and prevented from using goods that do not belong to me until my want is actually extreme. But unruly desires would interfere with the operation of justice; thus temperance also is required. And so is fortitude, for a coward would act too early, out of fear of a danger, or too late, out of fear of another danger. In short, practical wisdom or prudence, the virtue whose act is certain knowledge of practical truth, presupposes all moral virtues.

In an early writing on the subject of authority I stated that, on account of the incommunicability of the prudential judgment, unanimity in practical matters is always precarious or casual.{15} I wish to criticize this view, in which I now recognize a serious error.

Consider a group of persons confronted with a duty of united action for the common good. We assume that they are all virtuous; by their virtues they are properly related to the common good as end. We assume also that they are all enlightened and that no ignorance or illusion interferes with their ability to determine the proper means. Unanimity cannot be brought about by demonstration, for the proposition that such and such a course of action ought to be followed is not demonstrable. Attempts at its rational establishment, no matter how sound and helpful, will fall short of necessitating the assent of the minds. Let an example be that of a nation threatened in its freedom and existence by an ambitious competitor. A time comes when survival demands war-readiness, and a time comes when fighting alone can preserve the common good. Yet it is never possible to demonstrate that whoever loves the common good must support a policy of war and that whoever opposes such a policy is wrong. Who knows? Decisive factors often are extremely unobvious. A policy of abstention may not bring about the calamities whose unfolding is considered evident by some. And war is a risky enterprise. The dialogue goes on, though the situation imperatively demands that all should contribute full measure of devotion, with all their minds and hearts, to a uniquely determined policy. The question is whether such disagreement can take place among citizens that are both good and enlightened.

One thing is plain: if unanimity can be achieved in non-fortuitous fashion, it is not by way of necessitating argumentation and rational communication. But the analysis of practical judgment, which rules out rational communication as a steady cause of unanimity in these matters, shows also that a steady cause of unanimity is found in the inclination of the appetite, whenever the means to the common good is uniquely determined. If there is only one means to the common good, only one proposition -- viz., the proposition expressive of this means the only one that admits of practical truth. It is the only one that conforms to the requirements of a properly disposed appetite, and a properly disposed appetite cannot make any other proposition win assent. The community of the end and the unique determination of the means bring about a situation distinguished by happy simplicity.

The proper mystery of practical wisdom (prudence) has been so commonly ignored by philosophers that its rediscovery is not unlikely to cause some sort of intoxication. In sharp contrast to the youthful ideal of a science-like knowledge of action, the theory of prudence describes a universe of normally and necessarily different judgments, each of which, on close examination, turns out to bear a mark of secrecy. Two brothers, for instance, would govern their families in strikingly different ways, and each of them may be unable to understand why the other one uses what seems to him queer and irrational methods. Unless they answer similar problems in similar fashions, should it not be said that one of them is wrong, or both? But the situations of two individuals are really dissimilar whenever the unique implications of individual history play a part in the statement of the problem. A feeling for the mysterious operation of individual history in the regulation of individual conduct is a most important element of practical wisdom. When such a feeling has just awakened in our souls, we come to imagine the ethical destinies of individual men as a multitude of universes governed by so many unique and incommunicable rules of action. But all at once the spirit of rebellion endangers the universality of the law and the unity of common action. Indeed, diversities resulting from the uniqueness of individual situations never can supply a ground for dispensing with the law, for it is within the unity of the law that they take place. As to the necessary unity of common action, how could it be affected by the diversity of our individual histories? When there is a question of common action for the common good, such diversity no longer matters; the only history which matters is that of the community. In the case of two individuals who pursue individual goods belonging to the same genus, duality on the part of the good intended and duality on the part of the agent supply grounds for possible divergencies regarding the rule of action. In the case of a community in quest of its common good, the good intended is one and the intending agent is one; the only just ground for divergent opinion is the diversity of the means capable of leading the same collective agent to the same common good. Whenever there is only one means, there ought to be unanimity, and failure to achieve unanimous agreement is traceable to some deficiency.

Consider, again, the case of a nation whose salvation, in justice, demands that war be fought. What about dissenters? They may be ill-intentioned citizens, who do not love the common good but wish for the enemy's victory or who place above anything else the specific pleasures that attach to obstinacy. They may be well-intentioned citizens but lack intelligence; or they may have intelligence and good will but lack information and, by accident, be fooled into believing that they have all the information needed for the uttering of a fully determinate judgment as to what the country should do. From our present viewpoint, whether or not these erring citizens retain their respectability does not matter. What matters is that their error is definite and traceable to a deficiency, which may or may not involve guilt.

In the daily life of small communities -- I refer principally to the couple and the family -- unanimity plays a great part as a factor of unified action. When the means to the common good is uniquely determined -- the only case in which there is a firm foundation for unanimity -- it is not infrequently recognized and assented to in unanimous fashion. In large societies -- state, nation -- the astonishing thing is not that complete unanimity is never realized but rather that situations closely resembling unanimity, so far as most practical purposes are concerned, arise not rarely when the threat to the common good is dire. Notice that a situation resembling unanimity does not necessarily imply overwhelming majority; a substantial majority within the part of the nation -- perhaps a minority -- which is actively interested suffices. If no such situation is produced, in spite of the seriousness of the common predicament, salvation becomes uncertain, and a doubt appears whether there still is anything to be saved. For it can be wondered whether a multitude incapable of achieving some kind of unanimity in the hour of extreme peril retains the character of a community; it is feared that disintegration is too far advanced. The hopeless plight of a society that is no longer capable of achieving an approximation to unanimity bears witness to the absolutely normal character of unanimous assent to the uniquely determined means of common salvation.

To sum up: When the means to the common good is uniquely determined, affective community supplies an essential foundation for unanimous assent; unanimity is, then, the only normal situation, and, if everything is normal, authority is not needed to bring about unified action. Unity of action requires authority in so far as not everything is normal, in so far as wills are weak or perverse and intellects ignorant or blinded. The function of authority remains substitutional.

But when, on the other hand, there is more than one means of procuring the common good, there is no foundation whatsoever for unanimity. Anyone may disagree without there being anything wrong either with his intentions or with his judgment. It is only by chance that unanimity can be achieved, for it has no essential cause. Even in a very small society it will partake of the unsteadiness of the fortuitous and fail to assure unity of action; yet unity of action may be indispensable and all-important in spite of the plurality of the means leading to the common good. Shall we drive on the left side of the road, as in Great Britain, or on the right side, as in most countries? The common good, i.e., order and safety, admits of either method, and prior to the establishment of definite habits it seems that neither method enjoys any superiority. Here the rule of action is entirely optional. But it is all-important that one and the same rule should govern the behavior of all drivers; lack of unity of action, in such a simple case, would entail catastrophes. The common good does not demand that we should drive on the right side, and it does not demand that we should drive on the left side; but it does demand that all should drive on the same side. Of the two opposite judgments (drive right, drive left), it does not make either one mandatory, but it demands that one of them should become mandatory and be obeyed by all, regardless of their preference. In other words, the common good demands that a problem of united action which cannot be solved by way of unanimity should be solved by way of authority.

Considering, thus, the function that authority plays as an indispensable principle of united action when there are several means to the common good, let the question be asked whether this function is essential or substitutional. Since the need for authority here is properly caused by the plurality of the means, the real question is whether this plurality of means is itself caused by a deficiency or by the good nature of things; in the latter case alone will the function under consideration prove to be an essential one.

Without being stated in these very terms, this question was often examined and was given a definite answer by various schools of scientific anarchism. Ever since the awakening, early in the nineteenth century, of a rationalistic enthusiasm for the possibilities of social science, it has been a current belief that the indetermination of the means, which makes unification by way of authority necessary, is but an appearance due to our inability to identify the appropriate means. The situation could be described as follows: on the basis of our incomplete information, a, b, and c seem to be so many adequate means to the good that we are aiming at. United action, if needed, has to be procured by the decision of authority. But if we knew more about a, b, c, . . . , there would be no need for such decision; for we would realize that only one course of action is really appropriate and to this uniquely determined course of action honest and clever people would give unanimous assent. In other words, our ignorance opens a phase of indetermination that authority, in blind fashion, closes. Better knowledge would eliminate the phase of indetermination and its unenlightened ending. Authority substitutes for a determinate knowledge of a situation which is really determinate -- its role remains substitutional.

In order to ascertain the real meaning of this argument, let us apply it to a simple example. Consider, again, the case of a family that is deliberating about the summer vacation: some would like to stay home, some would rather go to the hills, and some to the seashore. Let it be granted that these three are the only existent possibilities. According to the argument that we want to test, one of the three ways is right and the other two are wrong. But, as an effect of insuperable ignorance, these people, in spite of their good will, may remain divided, in which case unity will be brought about by authority.

Later developments, in fact, sometimes show that, out of several ways which all seemed proper, only one was really conducive to the good; we really had no choice, although we honestly believed that we had plenty of it. But the relevant question is this: Supposing that there is only one real means, what kind of factor causes it to be uniquely determined? and supposing that there is a plurality of genuine means, what kind of factor causes them to be several?

One obvious reason why a family should stay home during the summer is the high cost of a vacation in the hills or at the seashore. Thus poverty is a factor of unique determination. Wealth, on the contrary, makes for choice; this is what men of property know very well, and poor people still better. One obvious reason why a family should not stay home during the summer is the condition of the health of its members; if some of them, or all, are in such bad shape that, without the stimulation of a period of rest in the hills or at the seashore, they are likely to catch bad diseases next winter, then (all other things being equal) one possibility out of three is ruled out. If, on the contrary, all are in very good health, they can stand, without ill effect, a summer in town. Supposing that they leave home, one reason why they may have no choice between hills and seashore would be the restlessness of some or all, since restless people at the seashore tend to become sleepless and more restless than ever. It happens also that a family, in spite of financial strain, feels obliged to move to the country for a while, just because a young man is going through a period of moral uncertainty out of which he can be helped by a change in environment and by wholesome entertainment. If all the family, on the contrary, are robust characters, you can trust that they will fight their way through, regardless of whether they stay at home or go away. In short, wealth, health, and strength are factors that cause independence from particular courses of action, dominating indifference, mastery over several means, freedom. Destitution, ill health, uncertainty, weakness, are factors that cause dependence upon determinate means. Plenitude causes choice, poverty leaves no choice. Deficiency, such as lack of knowledge, may render the genuine means undistinguishable from the illusory one and thus make a pluraliry of means appear where there is really no more than one. But fulness, actuality, determination, achievement, accomplishment, power and greatness, knowledge and stability, produce or increase liberty in societies and individuals as well. A society enjoying a supremely high degree of enlightenment would, all other things being equal, enjoy much more choice than ignorant societies and have to choose among many more possibilities. It would not need authority to choose between two courses of action one of which is bound to lead to disaster, since, by hypothesis, knowledge would rule out illusory means. But it would need authority, more than ever, to procure united action, for, thanks to better lights, the plurality of the genuine means would have increased considerably. The function of authority with which we are concerned, i.e., that of procuring united action when the means to the common good are several, does not disappear but grows, as deficiencies are made up; it originates not in the defects of men and societies but in the nature of society. It is an essential function.{16}

Doubts affecting this issue result from a general philosophic situation which confusedly tends to identify freedom and indetermination. In fact, freedom is indifference, and there are two sorts of indifference.{17} There is the passive indifference of the indeterminate subject which can receive any of several determinations precisely because it is indeterminate. The highest degree of such indifference is realized in prime matter, a pure "out of which" that is not of itself any determinate thing and therefore cannot exist by itself but can receive any essential determination and exist under it. Nothing is further removed from freedom than the indetermination of matter, for freedom is mastery and proceeds not from a lack of determination but from a particularly full and hard kind of determination. A free cause is a superdeterminate cause. The trouble comes from the fact that these two opposite realities -- the indifference of indetermination, passivity, inachievement, and the indifference of superdetermination which is freedom -- have in common the property of being distinct from sheer determinate causality. Further, there is in the human will a combination of active indifference and of passive indifference. The latter is an obstacle to freedom; yet it is not always easy to distinguish, in the twilight, the force which is supposed to be overcoming (i.e., active indifference, that is, freedom) and the force which is supposed to be overcome (i.e., passive indifference, indetermination, perplexity, irresolution) if the former is to assert itself. When psychologists do not altogether deny freedom of choice, they generally trace it to an imperfection or uncertainty of the will, to an element of looseness in its operation. Similarly, many social thinkers, when confronted by a seeming plurality of means, trace it to inadequate knowledge and fail to see that plurality of genuine means can be caused by excellence of knowledge and power. In both cases a misunderstanding concerning indifference results from an insufficiently elaborate notion of causality.{18}

{12} On the theory of prudence see Aristotle Ethics 6; Thomas Aquinas Sum. theol. i-ii. 57. 4, 5, 6; 58. 4, 5; 65. 2; ii-ii. 47-56; John of St. Thomas Cursus Theologicus i-ii, disp. 16, a. 4, 5 ([Paris: Vivès, 1885], VI, 466 ff.); disp. 17, a. 2 (VI, 534 ff.).

{13} On practical truth see Aristotle Ethics 6. 2. 1139a21, trans. W. D. Ross: "What affirmation and negation are in thinking, pursuit and avoidance are in desire; so that since moral virtue is a state of character [habitus] concerned with choice, and choice is deliberate desire, therefore both the reasoning must be true and the desire right, if the choice is to be good, and the latter must pursue just what the former asserts. Now this kind of truth is practical; of the intellect which is contemplative, not practical nor productive, the good and the bad state are truth and falsity respectively (for this is the work of everything intellectual); while of the part which is practical and intellectual the good state is truth in agreement with right desire." Also: Com. of St. Thomas, les. 2; Sum. theol. i-ii. 57. 5 ad 3, trans. A. C. Pegis: "As is stated in Ethics VI, truth is not the same for the practical as for the speculative intellect. For the truth of the speculative intellect depends on the conformity of the intellect to the thing. And since the intellect cannot be infallibly in conformity with things in contingent matters, but only in necessary matters, therefore, no speculative habit [habitus] about contingent things is an intellectual virtue, but only such as is about necessary things. -- On the other hand, the truth of the practical intellect depends on conformity with right appetite. This conformity has no place in necessary matters, which are not effected by the human will, but only in contingent matters which can be effected by us, whether they be matters of interior action or the products of external work. Hence it is only about contingent matters that an intellectual virtue is assigned to the practical intellect, viz., art, as regards things to be made, and prudence, as regards things to be done." [I wish to express my gratitude to Random House, Inc., New York, for permission to quote extensively from The Basic Writings of Saint Thomas, trans. A. C. Pegis.] Cajetan's commentary on this text is very enlightening.

{14} On knowledge through affective connaturality see Thomas Aquinas Sum. theol. i. 1. 6 ad 3, trans. A. C. Pegis: "Since judgment pertains to wisdom, in accord with a twofold manner of judging there is a twofold wisdom. A man may judge in one way by inclination, as whoever has the habit [habitus] of virtue judges rightly of what is virtuous by his very inclination towards it. Hence it is the virtuous man, as we read [Aristotle Ethics 10. 5. 1176a17] who is the measure and rule of human acts. In another way, a man may judge by knowledge, just as a man learned in moral science might be able to judge rightly about virtuous acts, though he had not virtue." Also i-ii. 65. 1, 2; 95. 2 ad 4; ii-ii. 45. 2, John of St. Thomas Cursus Theologicus i-ii. disp. 18, a. 4, ([Paris: Vivès, 1885], VI, 634 ff.); J. Maritain, Réflexions sur l'intelligence (Paris: Nouvelle Librairie nationale, 1924) (later eds., Paris: Desclée De Brouwer), pp. 88 and 110 ff.

{15} Nature and Functions of Authority (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 1940). After having established the incommunicability of the prudential judgment, I wrote (pp. 28-29): ". . . it can never be shown evidently that this or that practical judgment, to be taken as a rule for our common action, is the best possible one. However conscientious the deliberation may be, since it cannot afford to prove its conclusions, anybody can, at any time, object that a better course of action could be conceived, and the unity of action which is supposed to be required by the pursuit of the common good will ceaselessly be jeopardized unless all members of the community agree to follow one prudential decision and only one -- which is to submit themselves to some authority." I was assuming that rational communication alone can assure unity of judgment. For the correction of this error, as well as for countless greater blessings, I am indebted to Professor Maritain. In a discussion of my booklet (Review of Politics [Notre Dame, Ind.], III, No. 2 [April, 1941], 250-54) he sums up my exposition as follows: "Let us suppose . . . a community made up of perfectly intelligent and perfectly virtuous human beings. Even in this case, the necessity of a ruling authority is required by the nature of things; because in the order of prudential judgment no agreement is certainly and de jure to be expected even from perfectly intelligent, perfectly well-informed and perfectly virtuous men." Professor Maritain goes on with these critical remarks: "Now this seems to be certainly true even of perfectly intelligent and perfectly well-informed men. But if they are at the same time perfectly virtuous, what must we say? Prudence as such is infallible; therefore, if we suppose two men perfectly intelligent, well-informed and virtuous, placed in the same circumstances, will not the prudential judgment of these two men necessarily be the same, since in both of them it is taken in conformity with an appetite that perfect virtues cause to be right toward the end? If such is the case, we should say that in a community made up of perfectly intelligent, well-informed and virtuous human beings, there will surely be agreement among them in the prudential judgments concerning the good of this community, -- an agreement which is not due to any demonstration, but to the common rightness of their appetite for the end." The problem of the plurality of the means is not considered here. Plainly, "the common rightness of their appetite for the end," which causes unity with regard to the end and the necessary means, does not cause unity with regard to a particular means in no necessary connection with the end.

{16} In his Theoretical Essay on Natural Law Taparelli d'Azeglio emphasizes the function of authority as cause of united action. To my knowledge he fails to show that this function is merely substitutional when there is but one means to the common good; and he does not show clearly that, even when it is essential, it is not (as we shall see) the most essential function of authority (see Luigi Taparelli, Saggio teoretico di dritto naturale [Palermo: Antonio Muratori, 1840], II, 67-68): "Society consists in a union of intelligent beings which tend toward a common end; now whence comes to these essentially free intellects this common tendency? A common end is already a principle of social unity. However, in the present case, the end is not connected with any determined means in such a close way that all minds be bound, and spontaneously agree, to consider it as a necessary means; reason and experience show, on the contrary, that unanimity of opinions and sentiments is a thing rare and difficult to obtain. On the other hand, the good and the perfection of society pressingly require the conformity of tendencies, the co-ordination of internal and external means in relation to this end; since, for lack of such a co-ordination, the aim is not attained or is attained but in an imperfect way. . . . In short, being endowed with intellect and free-will, the members of a society must tend by several means toward a common end; they can choose between those means. Since diverse and opposite means would abolish social unity and destroy the essence of society, it is necessary to have an intelligent principle regulate the minds and impress the same tendencies on all the wills. Now we call authority this power which binds all members of society. Thus authority is an essential element of society."

{17} On the all-important subject of the two indifferences found in the human will see Thomas Aquinas Sum. contra Gentes i. 82; John of St. Thomas Cursus philosophicus iv, q. 12, a. 2 (Marietti, III, 387); Cursus theologicus i. disp. 24, a. 4 (Solesme, III, 89); i-ii, disp. 3, a. 2 (Vivès, V, 373).

{18} Unity is needed in action toward the common good (order of means); it is needed, also, as a most important element of the common good itself (order of ends). In either case unanimity is unable to procure it except in precarious and casual fashion.

The consideration of unanimity supplies a fitting background to the theory of unity in government proclaimed by Aristotle, with the help of a Homeric line, at the climax of his Metaphysics: " . . . and they give us many governing principles; but the world refuses to be governed badly. The rule of the many is not good; one ruler let there be" (Met. 12. 10. 1076a3; trans. W. D. Ross). This is the answer of Thomas Aquinas to the question Whether the world is governed by one? ". . . since the end of the government of the world is that which is essentially good, which is the greatest good, the government of the world must be the best kind of government. Now the best government is government by one. The reason for this is that government is nothing but the directing of the things governed to the end; which consists in some good. But unity belongs to the notion of goodness, as Boethius proves from this, that, as all things desire good, so do they desire unity, without which they would cease to exist. For a thing so far exists as it is one. Whence we observe that things resist division, as far as they can, and that the dissolution of a thing arises from some defect in the thing. Therefore the intention of a ruler over a multitude is unity, or peace. Now the proper cause of unity is that which is one. For it is clear that several cannot be the cause of unity or concord, except so far as they are united. Furthermore what is one in itself is a more apt and a better cause of unity than several things united. Therefore a multitude is better governed by one than by several. From this it follows that the government of the world, being the best form of government, must be by one. This is expressed by the Philosopher . . . [above]" (Sum. theol. i. 103. 3; trans. A. C. Pegis). Commenting on this article, Cajetan writes: ". . . the essential cause (per se causa) of unity is what is essentially one (per se unum). This is manifested by the consideration that the many do not cause the one except insofar as they are in some way united. But a thing is more fittingly produced by a proper cause than by an incidental cause. Therefore . . ." (from the Leonine ed. of the Sum. theol.).

If government by one is compared with government by unanimity, the contrast between proper cause and incidental cause plainly holds. An assembly subjected to the rule of unanimity is but incidental cause of unity. But what about an assembly proceeding by majority vote and so organized as to make a tie impossible? The many who make up this assembly are but the incidental cause of unity; it is not on account of what they are that they cause unity but on account of something superadded to their multiple entities, viz., the form which gathers them into an assembly subjected to a system of rules and bound to elicit definite conclusions by majority vote. Considered with its form, this assembly is no longer a merely incidental cause of unity. In so far as it is actually informed by its constitution, it has within itself a pattern of unity on account of which it produces unity in no incidental fashion. An assembly acting by unanimous vote lacks such pattern. Now, because regulations admit of loopholes and can be disregarded, an assembly may be unable to reach a decision; it may also endanger unity by frequent change in policies according as influence shifts from one component, person, or group to another. Thus an assembly subjected to a rule of majority is in imperfect fashion an essential cause of unity. A human monarch does not, either, cause unity in perfect and indefectible fashion. Just as conflict of groups may deadlock an assembly, so a person may be doomed to perplexity and inaction by conflicting inclinations, and he may change his policies according to changing whims. Between an assembly bound by the rule of unanimity and an assembly proceeding by majority vote, the distance is immensely greater than between the latter and a single ruler.

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