Obligation

Paul Babie in ‘How We Control The Earth And Others’ [ewl, 279-292] uses different language to describe a shortcoming in property law and seeks a different solution. In so doing, he touches upon different approaches. He speaks of ‘obligation‘ (rather than ‘responsibility’) and seeks solutions in monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam–rather than indigenous wisdom). But he faults the same problem: anthropomorphism, and his suggestion of a solution, while on the surface may differ, really has the same goal: inclusivity of an ever-wider community, not just individual concerns. Within the problem of anthropomorphism, he critiques the idea of liberalism, with its emphasis on the individual’s needs, for in liberalism the individual’s needs result in extreme ideas of private property at the expense of the community’s needs (ie, the individual’s needs have little to no sense of obligation to the community). Providing for the community’s needs is a challenge; without individual obligation, growth has been a solution.

However, Babie notes that individualism fails to solve the problems presented by climate change, which does not recognize individuals nor even nation-state borders. In fact, far from being parts of the solution, growth and individualism may be parts of the problem. The solution he finds in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, for they restrain growth and individualism, providing a sense of obligation of the individual to the community. He admits that religions can divide, but they can also unite, for they share much.

Fear for me has been a signpost, as I wrote elsewhere. Babie quotes L.S. Underkuffler, who explicitly identifies the existential fear, assuaged by faith in private property, that ‘we will leave no evidence of our passage through this world’–dare I go there? Isn’t that the hope I hold in writing these words, that you, many centuries from now, will read them? But, for example, even much of Aristotle’s writing has been lost; maybe, as a friend and former glassblower says, maybe eternity is over-rated. But love, unlike property, is infinite. My fears die with me, but my love, even anonymous, remains. Who cares for my words?

 

 

 

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