The first of these interviews is with Giuseppe De Rita, and deals with a topic which is close to his heart: the increasing split between the global and local dimensions in human experience, and the possible implications of this development for the size and the functioning of states and supra-national entities.
It is a topic which has its counterpart in Dante's reflections on Guelphism, local autonomy, papacy and empire; we hope his reflections offer some answers.
Good morning, Dante, it's an unexpected pleasure to be able to interview you. You're so famous that I'll skip the introductions and move straight on to the questions.
Our age, like yours, is an age of transformation. The emergence of new political realities has called into question what once seemed to be unarguable certainties..
In the context of these changes, what do you think should be the ultimate goal and purpose of human society?
The true root and foundation of the honour due to the emperor is the need men have to exist in society, which is directed to one end, a life of happiness. No individual is capable of attaining this by himself, without the help of others, since everyone has many needs that he cannot satisfy on his own. Hence the Philosopher's dictum that man is by nature a social animal.
To achieve this goal, how should society be organised? What kind of social structure should there be?
And just as the individual for his fulfilment requires the domestic society of a family, so the household requires for its fulfilment to be part of a neighbourhood: it would otherwise be lacking in many ways, and thus be precluded from attaining happiness. Again, a single neighbourhood cannot satisfy all its own needs; for this the city is required. For the sake of trade and defence, the city in its turn needs to cooperate with, and have friendly relations with, surrounding cities; and so the kingdom was born.
So every large social grouping that becomes established organises itself politically; you often refer to these entities as 'kingdoms'. What is the relationship between one kingdom and another? How are the inevitable differences and probable disagreements between kingdoms to be dealt with and resolved?
Since the human psyche cannot be content with possessing a limited amount of land, but, as experience tells us, always desires the glory of making further acquisitions, quarrels and wars inevitably spring up between the various kingdoms. These are the scourge of cities, and through cities of neighbourhoods, and through neighbourhoods of households, and through households of the individual. The result is that it is impossible to attain happiness.
To eradicate these wars and their causes, it is, then, absolutely necessary that the entire world, and all that the human race is capable of possessing be a monarchy, that is, that it be under the dominion of one rule and one ruler: the ruler would himself possess everything and have nothing further to desire, and so he would ensure that kings be content to remain within the bounds of their kingdoms, and thereby keep peace among them. As a result, cities would be at peace, neighbourhoods in this peace would live in friendship, and households through this friendship would obtain all that they need, so that, finally, the individual would live happily, which is the end for which he is born.
Your line of argument has various implications.
The first concerns the right of the Monarchy (or Empire) to impose its supra-national authority over individual kingdoms and different regional or municipal entities.
Where does this right come from?
Confirmation of this line of reasoning can be found in what the Philosopher says in the Politics: in a plurality directed to one end, one member must direct and rule, and all the others must be ruled and directed. A ship is a good example: on it the various tasks and ends pursued by the sailors are directed to a single end, that of reaching their destined port after enjoying a prosperous voyage. Here we see that just as each officer directs his particular activity to its particular end, so there is one person whose concern is all the particular ends, and who directs them to their single final end: he is the captain and all must obey his commands.
The same obtains in religious communities, in armies, and in all spheres where, as I have said, there is one end in view. It is clear, then, that for the community constituted by the entire human race to attain fulfilment, there must be someone analogous to a captain: one person whose office it would be to have command of all by universal and unquestionable right, directing all the other officers that he deemed to be required by the various situations in the world.
And this, the supreme office, is called rule or empire without qualification, since the function of this office is to govern all other offices of government. Similarly, whoever is appointed to this office is called emperor, since he governs all others who govern; his word is law for all, and must be obeyed by all, and all other government must draw its force and authority from his. It is clear, then, that the honour and authority that belong to the emperor are unsurpassed in human society.
Forgive me, but I don't think a syllogism, no matter how well constructed, can in itself constitute an adequate proof of the legitimacy of any political power, and especially not of imperial power. Can we find some other argument in support of your thesis?
Therefore, to complete the task we set ourselves, we must give a 'positive' proof that the emperor, or world ruler, is directly dependent on the prince of the universe, who is God.
In order to understand this it must be borne in mind that man alone among created beings is the link between corruptible and incorruptible things; and thus he is rightly compared by philosophers to the horizon, which is the link between the two hemispheres.
For if he is considered in terms of each of his essential constituent parts, that is soul and body, man is corruptible; if he is considered only in terms of one, his soul, he is incorruptible. Hence the appositeness of Aristotles remark when he said of the soul, as being incorruptible, in the second book of the De anima: "And it alone, being immortal, can be separated from the corruptible."
Thus if man is a kind of link between corruptible and incorruptible things, since every such link shares something of the nature of the extremes it unites, man must necessarily have something of both natures.
And since every nature is ordered towards its own ultimate goal, it follows that mans goal is twofold: so that, just as he alone among all created beings shares in incorruptibility and corruptibility, so he alone among all created beings is ordered to two ultimate goals, one of them being his goal as a corruptible being, the other his goal as an incorruptible being.
Ineffable providence has thus set before us two goals to aim at: i.e. happiness in this life, which consists in the exercise of our own powers and is figured in the earthly paradise; and happiness in the eternal life, which consists in the enjoyment of the vision of God (to which our own powers cannot raise us except with the help of Gods light) and which is signified by the heavenly paradise.
Now these two kinds of happiness must be reached by different means, as representing different ends. For we attain the first through the teachings of philosophy, provided that we follow them putting into practice the moral and intellectual virtues; whereas we attain the second through spiritual teachings which transcend human reason, provided that we follow them putting into practice the theological virtues, i.e. faith, hope and charity.
It is for this reason that man had need of two guides corresponding to his twofold goal: that is to say the supreme Pontiff, to lead mankind to eternal life in conformity with revealed truth, and the Emperor, to guide mankind to temporal happiness in conformity with the teachings of philosophy.
And since none can reach this harbour (or few, and these few with great difficulty) unless the waves of seductive greed are calmed and the human race rests free in the tranquillity of peace, this is the goal which the protector of the world, who is called the Roman Prince, must strive with all his might to bring about: i.e. that life on this threshing-floor of mortals may be lived freely and in peace.
Obviously the authority of spiritual power can only come from the sphere of the transcendental. And according to you the authority of temporal power comes from the same source. What is the relationship between these two different powers, each of which finds its legitimacy in the same transcendental will?
The whole of the argument which follows will therefore be addressed to those people who assert that the authority of the empire is dependent on the authority of the church in the same way as a builder is dependent on the architect. They are influenced by a number of different arguments, which they draw from the holy Scriptures and from certain actions both of the supreme Pontiff and the Emperor himself; but they seek to have some support from reason on their side as well.
Firstly they say, basing themselves on Genesis, that God created "two great lights" - a greater light and a lesser light - so that one might rule the day and the other rule the night; these they took in an allegorical sense to mean the two powers, i.e. the spiritual and the temporal.
They then go on to argue that, just as the moon, which is the lesser light, has no light except that which it receives from the sun, in the same way the temporal power has no authority except that which it receives from the spiritual power.
The present question, therefore, which we are now to investigate, concerns the "two great lights", that is the Roman Pope and the Roman Prince; and the point at issue is whether the authority of the Roman monarch, who is monarch of the world by right, as was proved in the second book, derives directly from God or else from some vicar or minister of God, by which I mean Peter's successor, who assuredly holds the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
But what is your own opinion on this question?
Thus I say that the temporal realm does not owe its existence to the spiritual realm, nor its power (which is its authority), and not even its function in an absolute sense; but it does receive from it the capacity to operate more efficaciously through the light of grace which in heaven and on earth the blessing of the supreme Pontiff infuses into it.
So what is the relationship, as you see it, between spiritual power and temporal power, if we accept that temporal power receives its authority autonomously?
But the truth concerning this last question should not be taken so literally as to mean that the Roman Prince is not in some sense subject to the Roman Pontiff, since this earthly happiness is in some sense ordered towards immortal happiness.
Let Caesar therefore show that reverence towards Peter which a firstborn son should show his father, so that, illumined by the light of paternal grace, he may the more effectively light up the world, over which he has been placed by Him alone who is ruler over all things spiritual and temporal.
It does seem though that this equilibrium is unstable, that the two spheres of influence have not remained separate, and that this has resulted in conflict and damage.
For Rome, which made the world good, used to have two suns; and they made visible two paths-the world's path and the pathway that is God's. Each has eclipsed the other; now the sword
has joined the shepherd's crook; the two together must of necessity result in evil, because, so joined, one need not fear the other.
So these two powers find themselves in conflict, and thus two parties are born: the Guelph party, which takes its strength from the autonomy of the cities and the support of the pope, and the Ghibelline party, whose origins are in the feudal nobility and the power of the emperor.
This conflict between local power (the rise of the mercantile bourgeoisie and the cities) and supra-national power (belonging to the emperor and his vassalls) has its counterpart in the modern world, which is developing in two seemingly antithetical directions: a global direction, in which forces are at work which are relevant to the whole planet, and a local direction, which is characterised by an increasing sense of local rootedness in collective life, in cultural identity and in productivity.
What is your view of this conflict and, if you had to take sides, which side would you favour?
But mankind can be ruled by one supreme ruler, who is the monarch. On this point it must of course be noted that when we say 'mankind can be ruled by one supreme ruler', this is not to be taken to mean that trivial decisions in every locality can be made directly by him - even though it can happen that local laws are sometimes defective and there may be a need for guidance in implementing them, as is clear from what Aristotle says in the fifth book of the Ethics when he commends the principle of equity.
For nations, kingdoms and cities have characteristics of their own, which need to be governed by different laws; for law is a rule which governs life.
So your thinking envisages a specific place for local autonomy. But where does one draw the line between imperial rights and those of the individual local entities such as signorie, communes, kingdoms.
It is rather to be understood in this sense, that mankind is to be ruled by him in those matters which are common to all men and of relevance to all, and is to be guided towards peace by a common law. This rule or law should be received from him by individual rulers, just as the practical intellect, in order to proceed to action, receives the major premiss from the theoretical intellect, and then derives the minor premiss appropriate to its own particular case, and then proceeds to the action in question.
And it is not only possible for one person to do this, but necessary for this to come from one person, to avoid any confusion about universal principles.
Moses himself writes in the Law that he did just this when, having chosen certain leaders from the tribes of the sons of Israel, he left less important judgments to them, retaining for himself alone the more important ones which concerned all of them; these judgments of more general relevance were then applied by the leaders to their tribes, according to what was appropriate for each particular tribe.
What are the distinguishing features of just government as compared with unjust (or 'crooked') government?
To clarify the first of these it must be noted that the thing most contrary to justice is greed, as Aristotle states in the fifth book of the Ethics. When greed is entirely eliminated, nothing remains which is opposed to justice; hence Aristotle's opinion that those things which can be resolved by law should in no way be left to the judge's discretion. And it is fear of greed which makes this necessary, for greed easily leads men's minds astray. But where there is nothing which can be coveted, it is impossible for greed to exist, for emotions cannot exist where their objects have been destroyed.
But there is nothing the monarch could covet, for his jurisdiction is bounded only by the ocean; whereas this is not the case with other rulers, whose sovereignty extends only as far as the neighbouring kingdom, as is the case, for instance, with the kings of Castille and of Aragon. From this it follows that of all men the monarch can be the purest embodiment of justice.
Moreover, just as greed, however slight, dulls the habit of justice in some way, so charity or rightly ordered love makes it sharper and brighter. So the man in whom rightly ordered love can be strongest is the one in whom justice can have its principal abode; the monarch is such a man; therefore justice is or can be at its strongest when he exists.
So if I've understood you correctly, the ultimate cause of conflict and bad government is greed, and wanting to be rich?
What else, day after day, endangers and destroys cities, regions, individuals so much as yet another amassing of wealth by someone? This very amassing releases further desires, which cannot be satisfied without someone paying the price. What else are the two branches of law, canon and civil, designed to remedy if not the damage done by cupidity, which grows with the very amassing of wealth "when she has fed, she's hungrier than ever"? "
Time is running out, but I'd like to ask you a final question. It is a question for the politician, the concerned citizen, the peace-maker, the thinker: seven centuries after the journey to the afterlife which made you famous, what is there in your political thinking that you consider to be still alive, productive and stimulating?
Domanda interessante, alla quale Lei, ben esperto dei problemi dell'Italia d'oggi potrebbe forse rispondere meglio di me. Lei sa bene che quel mio pensiero, maturato attraverso eventi drammatici, ha avuto fasi diverse: dal guelfismo moderato e schiettamente municipale degli anni anteriori all'esilio (febbraio 1302) ai primi contatti, dopo la seconda guerra mugellana, con la signoria Scaligera e al drastico distacco dalla "compagnia malvagia e scempia" dei Bianchi poco prima della rotta della Lastra (giugno 1304), cui fece seguito, come Lei sa bene dalla profezia di Cacciaguida nel canto XVII di Paradiso, il mio "far parte per me stesso", e la riflessione profonda, testimoniata dal trattato IV del Convivio, circa la necessità dell'Imperatore, di un "cavalcatore della umana volontà", per il benessere del mondo. Idea-forza, quest'ultima, che, anni dopo animerà il trattato sulla Monarchia, dove i rapporti, nella teoresi e nella prassi, tra le due Guide preposte dalla Provvidenza all'umanità tutta, sono analizzati minutamente. Ma di questo abbiamo già parlato. E Le ricordo che ho trascorso i miei ultimi anni tra Verona e Ravenna, animato dal vigoroso disegno di Cangrande della Scala di uno stato ghibellino nell'Italia settentrionale.
Quello che sento ancor vivo (cioè utile "in pro' del mondo che mal vive") del mio pensiero politico, elaborato nel tempo e consegnato volta a volta nel Convivio, nella Monarchia, e, poeticamente, nella Divina Commedia, è innanzi tutto la nozione che solo il mutuo cooperare di tutto il genere umano (nella speculazione filosofica e nell'azione pratica) consente, con l'attuazione piena dell'intelletto possibile, il conseguimento del fine proprio all'umanità tutta: quella pace universale che è il mezzo migliore per conseguire, su questa terra, la felicità. Pace universale dell'intiero mondo sotto un solo Monarca, giudice supremo che dirime le liti tra i governi particolari con perfetta giustizia e disinteressato amore del bene; e che, nell'ordine civile, rispecchia l'ordine stesso della divina creazione, con l'universo regolato da un unico Motore immobile, cioè da Dio.
Non tocca a me sottolineare come l'autorità universale (sopranazionale) dell'Imperatore, legge animata da Sapienza, Amore e Virtute, introduce in fatto e in diritto, in nome del bene supremo della Pace, la nozione del superamento degli interessi particolari dei singoli Stati e Regni nazionali; ideologema che, nel bene e nel male, ha guidato i tentativi di voi moderni di attuare, con la Società delle Nazioni e poi con le Nazioni Unite, un organismo sopranazionale deputato a dirimere i contrasti fra gli Stati particolari. Un altro concetto - fulcro del mio pensiero è quello della sostanziale unità e dignità dell'Italia come nazione; regno d'Italia la cui corona (la corona ferrea) spetta all'Imperatore, rex Italiae e Rex Romanorum, al quale sono soggetti città, principati e minori regni della penisola. Ma l'Italia, unita e concorde sotto il governo del suo Re, sovrano del mondo, e destinata quale sede della monarchia universale, è anche la sede del Vicario di Cristo: così che Roma è la città santa prescelta dalla Provvidenza per le due Guide necessarie al conseguimento dei fini, terreni e ultraterreni, assegnati da Dio a tutta l'umanità. Se poi ne vuol sapere di più, rilegga, nella mia Comedia, i sesti canti di ogni cantica: che dopo la Firenze rissosa e priva di giustizia del 1300 (sofferto esempio delle lotte intestine tra Bianchi e Neri), pongono al lettore, nel VI del Purgatorio, il problema dell'Italia, deserto giardin de lo 'mperio, non più donna di provincie ma bordello (perché rimasta vedova e sola di Cesare), e finalmente, nel VI di Paradiso, l'epopea dell'Aquila Romana, sacrosanto segno che Guelfi e Ghibellini dovrebbero rispettare, perché simbolo della divina Giustizia e analogo di Dio e della divina volontà, come ho chiarito nel libro II della Monarchia.
GIUSEPPE DE RITA
was born in Rome in 1932, on the 27th of July.
Graduated in Law. Journalist.
SVIMEZ functionary from 1955 to 1963.
In charge of sociological department of SVIMEZ from 1958 to 1963.
CENSIS adviser from 1964 to 1974.
General Secretary of CENSIS Foundation from 1974.
CNEL President from 1989.