Daniel Bernardus in his work "Freedom in Quarantine" presents the English translation of Leonardo Polo´s book "Lo radical y la libertad": Root and Freedom.
Leonardo Polo was a renowned Spanish philosopher who continues and expands the achivements of classical and medieval philosophy (especially Thomas Aquinas´s real distinction between esse and essentia). What he proposes is a transcendental anthropology (regarding freedom as transcendental) and the methodology that makes this possible is the abandoment of the mental limit.
In his book Lo Radical y la Libertad Polo identifies and situates the roots of classical, Christian and modern thought in relation to each other. He does not deny the reality of modern man´s achivements or their value, but he examines the roots of this intelectual and cultural context and compares it to those of classical era and of Christianity. He identifies those areas that could cause conflict when meeting together and others that complement each other and the hierarquies of values that they represent.
Doctor Bernardus gives an exposition of Polo´s work in a very practical and clear way traying to make it more accesible for people who could find the original text harder to graps. At the end of the book he presents the original text translated as close as possible to the structure of the original one.
At the begining of the book he presents through different characters, Miriam, Claudio and Patience the three different roots: modern, classical and Christian and develops Polo´s thought analysing different aspects of the human person from each one of these roots point of view and comparing it with each other.
The modern root is represented by Miriam. According to Polo this root is the "result principle" this expression taken from Hegel who said that "the absolute is the result". What it´s important for human beings is what they produce, the things they do, the results they deliver. What is uniquely human about us, is not given a priori. Our products and results are what make us human therefore our humanity becomes defined though the things we freely do and produce.
The main taken-home is that the modern root, the result principle, developed as a flight towards the outside, away from a corrupted inside, that was later conceived of as indeterminate.
The consequences of the modern root are analysed in different areas like Freedom, Knowledge, Ethics, Motivation, Society, Health and Mentality.
The book continues looking into the crisis of the modern root, crisis known as a postmodernity. One of the reason for this crisis is that modernity overlooks the production process, or it makes this process subordinate to the product. If the production process is not taken into account the results could be wrongly interpreter and not be fair for individual people. Fairness is a reason to take the process into account.
A second and more profund reason is that if we only take the produc into account, there is no criterion to coordinate what is being produced. Why bother producing in the first place? The postmodernity thought tries to bing some coordination to production processes. Coordination in economy, in academia, between radical ecologists and engineers etc.
In modern thought, natural science is the go-to method for resolving problems. If questions cannot be answered by science, modernity usually calls these questions "subjectives". However, can natural science resolve conflicting values? What will be the measure of success to use? What experiment could we do to determine which measure of success to use? It becomes clear that natural science cannot help solve these complex problems, for the simple reason that values cannot be measured. Nor can coordination and goal be measured.
The classical root represented by Claudio takes in some notions of the ancient Greek Philosophers like Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Human beings are able to graps the very fact that some things are timeless; we are able to know unchangeable things in the world around us. Even more, there is something in us that is not subject to time. Even though we grow up and change there seems to be something timeless in us. How can we then understand this unchangeability, this timelessness?
Aristotle discovered that there is a way in which something can change from potency to act and from act to act like in the case of vision. In this later case when we see something and we look at something else there is a succession of different views that are all equally acts. They contain no other goal than themselves. What make us human is the fact that there is something inside us that makes us able to graps timeless truths. And that points to something timeless in us, in our human nature that make us capable of this knowledge. Human beings are capable of truth and reality is also true.
Like in the case of modern root, the classical root has consequences for many fields of thought:
Knowledge: the discovery of timeless truth.
Ethics: timelessly true ideals -theoretical and practical ones-, philosophical talents: prudence, fortitude, temperance. The classical philosophers understood that there is a "feedback" of our actions: what we do influences who we are. Adding the notion of feedback on ourselves to the ideals means that there are not only ideals, they should be called virtues.
Freedom: freedom means the ability to "become who you naturally are", the ability to live up to human ideals. Virtues can make you free, they are habits that help you to live up to the ideals.
Other areas studied are Motivation, Society, Health and Mentality.
The book continues analysing the areas of conflict when Modern thought meets Classical but also it is very helpful to combine modern insights into the importance of productivity, with classical insights about the being and truth of human nature. Polo afirms that combining these two roots leads to fresh insights.
The Christian root being represented by Patience.
Patience ilustrares how the Christian root can be important to people´s lives. The importance of this root consists of the notion of "person". It does not require someone to be a Christian; it is called the Christian root because it has arisen out of Christian thought. This notion means that there is something even more profund than the act of living. It goes deeper than the classical root. We are not just examples of human nature; we are "someone" who can answer the question: Who are you? That question goes belong What are you?. Every person has a name and it is unique. We are able to shape our destiny, we are able to go belong ourselves and care about others. we can always make a new start at transcending ourselves.
Doctor Bernardus continues with the exposition of Polo´s book looking into the meaning and root of the notion of person as we use it now that comes from Christian theology. This new way not only takes into account the rational approach to reality. Unlike philosophy, it does not take only observations and experience as starting points, but also knowledge that is considered as divinely revealed.
The book continues analysing The Essence of God One and Three, and the concept of nature and person. The notion of person has consequences for many fields of thought as in the case of the other two roots:
Freedom: the novelty here is that freedom takes on a deeper meaning. Persons are free to choose and shape their destiny. Persons are free to give themselves to others. In giving ourselves to others we encounter a newness, we always remain open to novelty. A personal relationship is not "something we do". If we really give ourselves and the other receive us, the other person always remains part of our future. Polo says that in this way we don´t de-futurize the future. We remain open to the newness of the other person.
Knowledge: the Christian root emphasizes the knowledge that is proper to interpersonal relationships. i.e. the notion of belief (as knowledge not well founded, but also a second meaning of trustsworthiness). The symbolic knowledge: our intimacy has a tendency to express itself through symbolism.
Ethics: The ethics of the person builds on classical ethics but introduced three "new" virtues: faith, hope and love.
Other areas studied under this root are: Motivation, Society, Health and Mentality.
The Chapter six of the book continues with the meeting of Classical and Christan root and explores areas of conflict like the vew of the body and the notion of person.
As regrads the combination of both roots: freedom there is a consistency as both talk about "freedom to" rather than "freedom from". The Christian root adds on top of the classical one the notion that the "freedom to" is a freedom to give ourselves to other persons. Also, with motivation the Christian thought enriches it adding a transcendental motivation to the intrinsic motivation from the classical root.
Polo in his book mention Professor Pérez López ( a specialist in business theory, and IESE professor who colaborates with philosophers who are interested in business problems). The Professor distinguishes three types of motivation: extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation and transcendent motivation. Extrinsic motivation is acting on the basis of rewards and punishment i.e the results of the action; for example, working only for money. Intrinsic motivation is the satisfaction of the action itself, be a human being in your actions. Transcendental motivation is based on the learning achievement of the other person to whom I am interacting, trying to satisfy their needs. Is the motivation that looks into the consequences of the action for other persons.
Chapter seven analyses the meeting of the modern and Christian root. It goes into the areas of conflict: freedom. As regards the combination of both some of the core values related to productivity, such a creativity and originality can be well based on the newness of the person. Also, intrinsic motivation goes well with relational motivation.
Chapter eight brings together the insights from the previous chapters making the synthesis of the book. Polo says that the different roots can be made compatible when their contributions are ordered. It continues explaining briefly the consequences of these roots from different fields: Knowledge, Freedom, Ethics, Motivation, Society, Health and Mentality.
Doctor Bernardus concluded the book with a reflexion about what this time of quarantine has meant regarding our freedom and the possibility of building up healty habits and strong personal relationships. As regrads our daily lives, what can we take from the synthesis of the book? He points out that maybe the element that has most disapear from our society is attention to good habits; also, the need of reflexion of the classical root. We can find some answers in Aristotle´s book: Nicomachean Ethics.
More than doing things, the situation we have lived through calls for appreciation of the freedom we already had and still do have.
María Celia López-Jurado
(reviewed 42 days after purchase)