Letter to the Editor

James C. Talaga
October 31, 1958, Scholastic #5

Dear Editor,

In reference to your commentary on Dean O'Meara's removal of the Law School from "Who's Who" awards, I would like to offer my rationale of why the Law School is attempting to "remove itself farther and farther away from the rest of the campus." I repeat that this is my rationale, and is not to be construed as representative of any actual administrative policy of our Dean.

As a rule of thumb, for the sake of clarity and brevity (which nonetheless is in my opinion completely valid) I would define the end of a university to be the perfection of the intellectual virtues. This is the raison d'etre, the pivotal point around which all action should turn. If you will allow me, I would say this is the common good of Notre Dame, the reference point for all concerned.

However, while it is true that the common good, the perfection of the intellectual virtues, must be willed in every case, it is merely essential that it be willed formally and not materially. St. Thomas explores this area in the Summa Theologica, in the First Part of the Second Part, Q.19, Art. 10.

A man's will is not right in willing a particular, unless he refer it to the common good as an end, since even the natural appetite of each part is ordained to the common good of the whole.

He states further, however:

If a man's will wills a thing to be according as it appears to be good, his will is good; and the will of another man who wills that thing not to be, according as it appears evil, is also good. Thus a judge has a good will in willing a thief to be put to death, because this is just; while the will of another (e.g., the thief's wife) who wishes him not to be put to death. . . is also good.

The formal common good remains intact in both cases, but the thing willed has differed materially. Thus, on the University campus, the Commerce Department would be justified in wanting to employ a given amount of appropriations for procuring lecture services of distinguished businessmen, while the Chemistry Department would be equally justified in wanting to use that same money for constructing a new laboratory. Or substitute the case of Who's Who nominations.

In the instant case, the Law School is also willing the common good, the perfection of the intellectual virtues, but in the implementation of same, the Law School has observed phenomena which certainly might be justified for the University, but are considered at best extraneous, and at worst detrimental, to the pursuit of the Law. A very arduous undertaking awaits those who respond to the calling, and at Notre Dame, in the words of Dean O'Meara, "Excellence is our platform, and we can be content with nothing else. This requires, on the part of the Law School, the highest of standards 'and, on the part of the students, sustained hard work." So many of the functions of the University are therefore barred to us by the simple expediency of time economy. Moreover, by its very nature, the Law School has an end which differs in degree, and probably in kind, from the University. While the statement that the sole end of the University is the perfection of the intellectual virtues is open to debate, that same statement as applied to the Law School is irrefutable.

I hope I haven't been extremely pompous in stating a simple maxim: one man's meat is another man's poison. In its essential terms, this means that the Law School has perceived a basic difference between its end and the sundry activities that are proper to undergraduate life. The rituals of rallies designed to induce Pep, the round potato tradition as enumerated by Mr. Bowen, the intercollegiate golf tournament, or nominations for "Who's Who" are probably important issues at the University; at the Law School they are just so much banality.

This is my opinion, gentlemen, why you have observed what you term a "withdrawal."

James C. Talaga,
South Bend, Indiana


Bowen comments on this letter in his November 7 column.