Review of Metaphysics 25 (3):568-569 (1972)

This volume by a political scientist has important implications for the philosopher, in particular the ethicist. Schall recognizes the urgency for men to come to grips intelligently and realistically with the issues associated with population control and ecology, but he argues that the central issue at stake is the meaning of man himself. Schall argues that in general in the western philosophical tradition nature is not its own norm but serves a necessary though functional relation to man. Man is the norm of the natural, not vice versa. Man, because of his power of reflective thought and freedom of choice, has been regarded as in some way unique and superior to other beings. In this tradition lower animals and inanimate nature were directly related to man as his natural supports inasmuch as man could know and use them. The world of animals and non-living nature was accorded respect, but this respect was ultimately a respect for man, who, because of his intelligence, could understand this world and improve it. In addition, in this tradition each human being was regarded as something valuable in himself, with a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; he was not regarded as a pure function or instrument of a larger whole, the human species, expendable if he lost his functional utility. Finally, in this tradition man was regarded as essentially two-sexed, male and female, with human offspring begotten by a union of a human male and a human female and brought to maturity and nurtured in a human family. Today, Schall notes, all these characteristics thought historically to constitute man as a distinct being in nature are being seriously challenged and brought into question. Joshua Lederberg, Charles Galton Darwin, Julian Huxley, Eugene P. Odum, Lynn White, Jean Rostand, and many other biologists, geneticists, zoologists and others are urging a new view of man, a view that subordinates the individual to the species, the species to the world of nature, a view that radically separates human sexuality from human reproductivity. What results basically is a new image of what constitutes a "good" man. The good man, in this view, is not the person who has achieved moral goodness as a result of moral choices taken personally by him in the companionship of his fellow men but is rather the result of genetic or behavioral control exercised by an elite during the process of his coming to be and growing to maturity. This well-documented work, despite occasional rhetorical overstatements, merits careful consideration by philosophers today.--W. E. M.
Keywords Catholic Tradition  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest
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ISBN(s) 0034-6632
DOI revmetaph197225334
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