"A'Bhean-bainnse Iùdhach" le Rembrandt (1667)
an raoin-lagha MHORALTA.
GRÀDH na thùs-sheagh modalach
agus analoidean sna raointean eile.
The original meaning-nucleus
of the MORAL law-sphere.
LOVE in its original modal sense
and its analogies in the other aspects.
Every attempt at defining the ethical sphere without indicating its modal meaning-kernel must result in an inescapable conflict with the central religious sphere of human existence.
One may try to solve this conflict either by reducing religion to morality or by reducing the latter to the former. Both attempts, however, are tantamount to a destruction of morality in its temporal meaning and are a serious threat to the central place of the radical commandment of Love in the fulness of its religious sense.
On the other hand, every serious attempt at an analysis of the modal meaning-structure of the moral relation leads us back to love as its irreducible kernel. There can be no single really moral 'virtue' which in the last analysis is not a manifestation of this modal nucleus of the ethical law-sphere (1).
(1) This is clearly seen by CALVIN in his Comment. in ep. ad Col. 3 :14, where he observes that 'the whole chorus of virtues is summarized in love. For it is the rule of the whole of life and of all actions; everything that is not reduced to it, is wrong, how great the splendour may be it has in another respect.'
["Agus thar na nithean seo uile, cuiribh umaibh gràdh, nì as e coicheangal na foirfeachd." (Colosianaich 3:14)
"Über alles aber ziehet an die Liebe, die da ist das Band der Vollkommenheit." (Kolosser 3:14 Luther Bibel 1545)
"And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity." (Colossians 3:14 NIV)]
But love in this temporal nuclear meaning cannot be the same as love in its religious fulness. The former is only a temporal modal meaning-refraction of the latter, determined by the whole inter-modal coherence of the different law-spheres in the order of cosmic time. Love, as the moral modality of human experience, cannot exist apart from its immediate foundation in the retributive meaning of the juridical aspect. The preceding modal aspects refer to it in the moral anticipations of their modal structures. In the biotic aspect, for instance, it is anticipated by the human sexual drive in its natural direction to moral unity in love: in the (sensory/psychic) feeling-aspect we meet with the moral feeling of love disclosing itself in different typical ways (cf. the feeling-impulse to help a fellow man who is in distress; the feeling-impulse of filial or parental love etc.). Even in the anticipatory structure of the logical aspect there is an inner coherence with the moral meaning-kernel of Love in the theoretical eros which has to direct the whole of our scientific activity and is a guarantee of 'logical morality' and integrity. In the cultural (historical) aspect we discover a moral anticipation in cultural love of our form-giving task in human civilization. In the lingual aspect a moral anticipation is implied in the love of a language, a tendency to signify our feelings, volition, thoughts etc. in the linguistically most adequate way inspired by the affection for language in its pure form.
Love and the conventions of social intercourse.
In the modal aspect of [social] intercourse the social conventions have an inner anticipatory connection with love in its moral nuclear meaning.
This is clearly shown by Jesus Christ who contrasts the love of the prostitute who had anointed his feet with very costly spikenard, with the uncourtly attitude of the pharisee who had invited him but had omitted to observe the eastern forms of courtesy towards the Rabbi of Nazareth. Jesus shows here that courtesy and social convention in general are not indifferent things. They should be directed and animated by love. Nevertheless the conventions of social intercourse as such are not to be reduced to morality in its original modal meaning-nucleus. Therefore it is confusing to call them 'positive morality', as is done by the so-called empiricist trends in ethics.
The economic aspect, too, has an anticipatory coherence with the moral meaning-nucleus. The frugal manner of administering scarce things in their alternative destination for the satisfaction of human needs, acquires a positive relation to morality if it is directed by love towards our neighbour. Here it implies a voluntary restriction of our own needs for the sake of the needs of our fellow-men. In this sense frugality is rightly called a virtue, but only if it is considered from the moral viewpoint of love.
Eros and Agapè.
The aesthetic aspect opens its inner connection with the moral law-sphere in its anticipatory meaning-moment of aesthetic love. This is the eros, as PLATO has described it in his splendid dialogue Symposium, an aesthetical love-drive to the beautiful which functions as a mediator between sensory life and the super-sensory Idea of beauty.
Modern Christian ethics has paid much attention to the radical difference between this Greek aesthetical eros and the Christian agapè. Indeed neither PLATO, nor any Greek thinker, knew the religious fulness of meaning implied in the central commandment of Love. Nor did PLATO know love as the original modal meaning-kernel of morality. His eros is nothing but an analogy of love in the modal structure of the aesthetic aspect. But the Platonic conception of eros should not be criticized from the dialectical viewpoint of modern existentialism. That is to say, we should not think that the aesthetic eros is opposite to the Christian agapè as the contemplative experience with its I—it relation to the existential sphere of the I—thou relation. On the contrary, it is necessary to stress the inner meaning-coherence between the aesthetical eros and love as the modal meaning-kernel of the moral aspect in order to relate both to the central religious sense of the Agapè.
It is clearly testified both in the Old and the New Testament that 'aesthetic love' has its legitimate place in the entire temporal coherence of the aspects of God's creation and has a concentric relation to the central commandment of Love. In the temporal order of experience the love of God implies the aesthetical enjoyment of the beauty of His creation which is worthy of this human eros. But the latter appeals to love in its modal nuclear meaning and should reflect the central love to God and the neighbour within the modal boundaries of the aesthetical sphere. The very orientation of the Platonic eros to the Greek form-matter motive reveals its apostate direction.
(Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol II/ Part I/ Chapt 2/§5 pp 151-154)