Sunday, November 20, 2011

The tyranny of possession

I'm not a grammarian or logician, so this is probably in need of correction.

In English, and in other languages, one can predicate one thing of another through "to be" but also "to have." "My hair is black" vs. "I have black hair" -- how different is the meaning of these two sentences. But is thinking in terms of possession potentially dangerous because it may be coupled with an erroneous understanding of dominion or ownership?

I have a body. --> I own my body. --> I can do with it as I please.

One can make the first statement about physical reality without having a wrong attitude of self-ownership. But isn't it the case that our moral attitudes can distort our understanding of physical reality, and not just of the ethical life?

What is it to have something? To be able to use or control it, but also to have the first claim (not necessarily an exclusive claim) to its use? To be able to use or dispose of it at will? It is mine, and not yours. To define it in terms of "ownership" does not clarify, since our understanding ownership follows having and is not prior to it?

"To have" may be in different ways, but the problem is to understand it only with reference to absolute sovereignty?

This is related to an ethics grounded upon the good. It can make a significant difference between conceiving of the good as something to be done as opposed to something that is possessed. Striving to possess something as opposed to acting well (or virtuously) -- having God vs. living or being in union with God. Thinking in terms of habitus may foster too much of a subjective conception of happiness that exacerbates self-love?
Daniel McInerny, Moral Absolutes and Foyle's War
The Word on EWTN

Documentary on the new translation of the Roman Missal.