Sphere sovereignty, solidarity and subsidiarity

31 March 2016

Reflecting on the nature of human society and the individual's place in it resulted into focusing on the principles of sphere sovereignty and subsidiarity. The dominating patterns of thinking in the legacy of the West are individualism versus universalism, sometimes also known as the opposition between atomism and holism. After reflecting on some elements of solidarity it is shown that the traditional Roman Catholic account of society adhered to a universalistic perspective. It was the Calvinistic legal scholar, Johannes Althusius who first articulated an alternative understanding designated as sphere sovereignty. The principle of subsidiarity operates with the idea of the relative autonomy of the various "subordinate parts" of society, understood as parts of the encompassing nature of the state (while the latter is still superseded by the church as supra-natural institute of grace). Dooyeweerd criticised the problematic employment of the whole-parts relation in traditional Roman Catholic views of human society. A more nuanced understanding of the nature of individualism and universalism is developed. It is argued that the only hope to transcend the problems entailed in atomistic and holistic views is to expand the scope of application of the principle of sphere sovereignty also to the dimension of modal aspects. After all, the struggle for obtaining a basic denominator for the cosmic diversity is played out within this domain of theorizing. Theoretical ismic orientations are articulated within this context. Once the proper meaning of discreteness and continuity (entailing the whole-parts relation) is understood,their analogical appearance within the social aspect enables a more nuanced characterization of the extremes of individualism and universalism, supported by a systematic classification of ways of human societal interaction. Attention is also paid to the distinction between typical and atypical societal responsibilities as well as the problem of solidarity and more recent developments towards a recognition of the importance of human rights