We Are by Nature Dependent Upon Others

We_are_naturaly_dependent_on_othersSuch dependency is an important part of our personal development since we cannot perfect ourselves alone. We depend on community—especially the family, intermediary associations, and the Christian State—to supply our deficiencies and thus reach the perfection of our essentially social nature. So important is community that Heinrich A. Rommen emphatically writes, “Any kind of seclusion from the fullness of community life ultimately means for the individual a personal loss, a self-mutilation, an atrophy, a defect in self-realization.”1

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Thus, we are by nature dependent. As medieval English writer Ralph of Acton notes, “When God could have made all men strong, wise, and rich, He was unwilling to do so. He wished instead that these men should be strong, those weak; these wise, those foolish; these rich and those poor. For if all were strong, wise and wealthy, one would not be in need of the other.”2

Finding the Balance
Such a concept differs greatly from that of the individualist man whose autonomy prevents him from recognizing his natural limits and the weaknesses of his fallen nature. He is a self-made man beholden to no other. This is well expressed in the ravings of Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote that “no man should have to be dependent on another man.”3 Ironically, this same “autonomous” man is totally dependent, not on men, but on the modern interdependent systems into which he is inserted.

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1 Rommen, State in Catholic Thought, 136-137.

2 G. R. Owst, Literature and Pulpit in Medieval England: A Neglected Chapter in the History of English Letters & of the English People, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1961), 561.

3 Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce, vol. 2 of Civilization and Capitalism 15th-18th Century, 514.