Father Józef Maria Bocheński, a Dominican, lived in the years 1902 – 95. This great Polish logician and analytical philosopher did not leave any of his works studying the civilization of the West, as other authors, but his very clear image of the main characteristic features for our society and dangers which we are facing, can and should be reminded, as these reflections can be really teaching for us. In the age of the universal insulting and aggressive online comment and skepticism, promoting moral relativism, primacy of materialism, it is necessary to remind about the work by Fr. Bocheński, who stated explicitly that the moral duty of every man are constructive work and defence of his own civilization.

Three fundaments

In the opinion of Fr. Bocheński, our civilization is characterized by three basic features: the Greek attitude to the pure form which is visible in science and art, the Roman attitude to social issues and finally the Jewish-Christian attitude to existential issues. The synthesis of these three factors is very difficult, and it used to collapse in our history.

The Greek created the notion of the pure form. The purpose of science is the very cognition – and nothing more. This cognition can be used variously later. So, one can say that it is the Greek element in which there is the source of our conquering the world.

The second factor is the Roman attitude to society – the Roman law. This is, among the others, the rule: ‘Lex retro non agit” (Law does not work backward). Even today it is impossible to sentence somebody in the name of law decided after an act. There is a different principles – ‘Nulla poean sine lege’ (There is no card without law), etc. Functioning of the foundations of the Roman law also means rejecting the subjective meaning of a guilt and punishment, depending on a fantasy of this or that ruler. This is also a concept of equality of everybody towards law, even for the most dangerous criminal. Fr. Bocheński warned that the Roman law is this factor which is endangered the most today and got destroyed because of blows of ‘unbridled barbarians’.

The third factor is the Jewish-Christian attitude to existential issues – religious attitude. Science concerns facts, whereas assumptions with a religious hypothesis comprise also moral and valuing sentences. Fr. Bocheński quoted the works of St. Thomas of Aquinas (1225 – 74). He reminded that he was a philosopher showing the action of these three powers which cooperate to create a whole. He was also a mystic, a saint and a prominent scientist. According to Thomas, a religious man is the greatest rationalist, as he believes that the world and the human reason were created by God, so studying with the reason cannot be contradictory with faith. We should quote words of St. Thomas on law: ‘Lex est quaeadm rationis ordination ad bonum commune, ab eo qui curam communitatis habet promulgate’ (Law is managing the reason for the common welfare given and informed publicly by the one who guards the community. For: John Paul II, Publishing House Znak, Kraków 2005, p. 139). Human law, according to Thomas, is binding as long as it is compatible with proper principles. Facing it, it is obvious that it should derive from the eternal law. As long as it diverges from these proper principles, it is not a righteous law; it has not got any features of law, but it is a breach of law.

Ill but unique

Fr. Józef Maria Bocheński wrote that the factor of our civilization is also democracy. It has got its roots in all the three mentioned factors. For example, in the Roman law there is an idea of a citizen who cannot be treated as an object. St. Thomas wrote about autonomy of the human conscience, and then there was the French revolution with human rights. Fr. Bocheński emphasizes that everything is European, as people created everything. Despite Christian authors he stated that if we clean the French revolution from elements hostile to our civilization, its message derives from the Greek thought, from where rationalism is flowing through scholasticism. Also there are thesis about equality deriving from Christianity, and are the most important for this revolution.

Fr. Bocheński referred to the theory of Arnold Toynbeeg in his statements. This English philosopher wrote that we know twenty-odd civilizations in the history, out of which five are alive, and four are dying. We have a kind of civilisational genocide: our civilization kills all the others. In the opinion of Fr. Bocheński, symptoms of the illness of our civilization are disappearing religion to a large scale and to some extent disappearing law. He wrote that we do not know whether it will lead to the collapse of our civilization.

In the opinion of Fr. Bocheński people do not believe in anything, which is widespread and dangerous. So, this is not Marxism which is the most severe danger, but it is skepticism. Skepticism which is belief in superstitions. For a skeptic there is no certain cognition. The reason for this attitude is the social decomposition, as ill civilizations will always produce skepticism. Alfred Skorupka reminds that the decomposition of social structures was described by Durkheim, a great French sociologist: he proved that beginning with the collapse of religion, there appears moral destruction, then – theoretical decomposition, skepticism and finally collapse of law which leads to chaos.

At present European civilization is acceptable: it is ill but unique. Chinese civilization is dying. The Chinese were trying to murder their civilization, similarly as the Bolsheviks who nad nearly murdered Russian civilization.

Fr, Bocheński admitted that in the Western civilization, like in other civilizations, there are a lot of drawbacks. In his opinion, we should remember that the worst things in our country are better than what we see in other countries. Rejecting our civilization would cause a return to what we know from the ancient history and the first dark centuries of the Middle Age. Fr. Bocheński ascertained that it is all about the achievements of lots of centuries, whose rejection at the moment when everything proves that we are standing on the eve of the triumph of the idea and its excellent results, is the biggest nonsense and the worst crime.

Translation: Aneta Amrozik

„Niedziela” 1/2018 (7 I 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl