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Love, Power, and Justice: Ontological Analysis and Ethical Applications (1954)

de Paul Tillich

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This book presents Paul Tillich at his very best--brief, clear, stimulating, provocative. Speaking with understanding and force, he makes a basic analysis of love, power, and justice, all concepts fundamental in the mutual relations of people, of social groups, and of humankind to God. Hisconcern is to penetrate to the essential, or ontological foundation of the meaning of each of these words and thus save them from the vague talk, idealism, cynicism, and sentimentality with which they are usually treated. The basic unity of love, power, and justice is affirmed and described interms that are fresh and compelling.… (mais)
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QUOTES FROM TILLICH’S “LOVE, POWER, AND JUSTICE”

A life process is the more powerful, the more non-being it can include in its self-affirmation, without being destroyed by it. … Power is the possibility of self-affirmation in spite of internal and external negation. …power of being remains hidden if actual encounters do not reveal it.

I’ve wondered if one who is interested in this power of being is more willing to remain in relationship. A high interest in power of being allows one to remain in a relationship that continuously provides encounters that allow one to incorporate non-being and practice the creative justice that can only be done with Love. …to remain in a relationship that frequently confronts one with encounters of ‘the other.’

Everything that makes reunion impossible is against love.

Love, if it does not include justice, is chaotic self-surrender, destroying him who loves as well as him who accepts such love. … The love of this kind is the desire to annihilate one’s responsible and creative self for he sake of the participation in another self which by the assumed act of love is made responsible for himself and oneself. The chaotic self-surrender does not give justice to the other one, because he who surrenders did not give justice to himself. It is justice to oneself to affirm one’s own power of being and to accept the claim for justice which is implied in this power.

To be just towards oneself means to actualize as many potentialities as possible without losing oneself in disruption and chaos.

Man becomes man in personal encounters. Only by meeting ‘thou’ does man realize that he is an ‘ego.’ …

He is limited only by his finitude. But these limits can be reduced infinitely. Nobody can say where the final limits of human power lie. In his encounter with the universe, man is able to transcend any imaginable limit. But there is a limit for man which is definite and which he always encounters, the other man. …like a wall which cannot be removed or penetrated or used. He who tries to do so, destroys himself.

Man can refuse to listen to the intrinsic claim of the other one. … But in doing so he meets the resistance of him who has the claim to be acknowledged as an ego. And this resistance forces him either to meet the other one as an ego or to give up his own ego-quality. Injustice against the other one is always injustice against oneself. … The slave by his very existence hurts the master as much as he is hurt by him. The external inequality is balanced by the destruction of the ego-quality of the master.

…the absolutely valid formal principle of justice in every personal encounter, namely the acknowledgement of the other person as a person.

…For the creative element in justice is love.

Love has the same relation to justice which revelation has to reason. … Both of them transcend the rational norm without destroying it. Both of them have an ‘ecstatic element.’

…three functions of creative justice, namely, listening, giving, forgiving. In none of them does love do more than justice demands, but in each of them love recognizes what justice demands. In order to know what is just in a person-to-person encounter, love listens. …No human relation, especially no intimate one, is possible without mutual listening. Reproaches, reactions, defenses may be justified in terms of proportional justice. But perhaps they would prove to be unjust if there were more mutual listening. All things and all men call on us with small or loud voices. They want us to listen, they want us to understand their intrinsic claims, their justice of being. They want justice from us. But we can give it to them only through the love which listens.

The second function of creative justice in personal encounters is giving. It belongs to the right of everyone whom we encounter to demand something from us, at least that even in the most impersonal relations the other one is acknowledged as a person. But this minimum of giving drives toward a maximum—including possible self-sacrifice if the occasion demands it. Giving is an expression of creative justice if it serves the purpose of reuniting love.

The third and most paradoxal form in which justice is united with love is forgiving. … Paul’s and Luther’s doctrine to accept as just him who is unjust. …the only way of reuniting those who are estranged by guilt.

Forgiving love is the only way of fulfilling the intrinsic claim in every being, namely it’s claim to be reaccepted into the unity to which it belongs. Creative justice demands that this claim be accepted and that he be accepted who is unacceptable in terms of proportional justice. In accepting him into unity of forgiveness, love exposes both the acknowledged break with justice on his side with all its implicit consequences and the claim inherent in him to be declared just and to be made just by reunion.

Being means have space or, more exactly, providing space for oneself.

Tillich is talking of the ambiguities when he speaks of libido, and this captures a quote that was of interest to me, though it’s only a part of his whole discussion of the ambiguities of love:
Libido has become unlimited and has fallen under the tyranny of the pleasure principle. It uses the other being not as an object of reunion but as a tool for gaining pleasure out of him. Sexual desire is not evil as a desire, and the breaking of conventional laws is not evil as the breaking of conventional laws, but sexual desire and sexual autonomy are evil if they bypass the centre of the other person.

Back to his discussion of ambiguities, he says:

Spiritual power is not the conquest of these ambiguities by resignation of power, because this would mean resignation of being. It would be the attempt to annihilate oneself in order to escape guilt.

The Spiritual power gives a centre to the whole personality, a centre which transcends the whole personality and, consequently, is independent of any of its elements. And this is ultimately the only way of uniting the personality with itself.

I had a sentence in my mind that captured this book for me, and I’ve lost it in it’s poignant form. It was something like….encounters of powers of being allow for creative justice determined by Love. Proportional justice may be definable in concrete situations, but creative justice is not definable…it is creative, and it listens. ( )
  lgaikwad | Jul 29, 2007 |
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This book presents Paul Tillich at his very best--brief, clear, stimulating, provocative. Speaking with understanding and force, he makes a basic analysis of love, power, and justice, all concepts fundamental in the mutual relations of people, of social groups, and of humankind to God. Hisconcern is to penetrate to the essential, or ontological foundation of the meaning of each of these words and thus save them from the vague talk, idealism, cynicism, and sentimentality with which they are usually treated. The basic unity of love, power, and justice is affirmed and described interms that are fresh and compelling.

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