There are two ways in which living creatures have powers for preservation: preservation of self, and preservation of their kind or species. Just as suicide is a moral evil (destruction of self is contrary to nature), in the same way failure to preserve our kind is a moral evil. The latter is more complicated, by virtue of the communities of which we are part: we are parts of neighborhoods, towns, nations, religious communities, companies, and so forth. Most generally we are part of the human race. Now obviously the preservation of one’s employer is of far less significance in the grand scheme of things than, say, the preservation of the human race or his home country. In all of these cases, though, the common good is more important than the individual’s good. This is why men give their lives for their country in wars; it is why they sacrifice their time and talents for the good of their communities by offering themselves for service in various ways.
In passing, this twofold power or inclination towards preservation is part of who we are as human beings. To the extent that I understand them, the libertarians (and perhaps some political conservatives) tend towards error with respect to the common good, favoring the individual’s interests instead. On the other hand the socialists and other statists err with respect to the individual’s good, absorbed as they are with the good of the community absolutely.
In further passing, the Catholic Church’s social teaching affirms both ends of the spectrum: the individual does not and cannot live apart from the community, and has positive duties towards it; the community must never arrogate to itself any sort of absorption of the individual which nullifies his value apart from the community as a unique being created by God. The social teaching of the Church refers to these two values as subsidiarity and solidarity. Both are essential.
You probably thought this post was going to discuss rocks and mountains or trees and flowers, didn’t you?
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