An Answer to Mr. Eric Gill SIR,—Might I interrogate Mr. Eric Gill?
E.G.: "The right of ownership does not derive from man's need to use things, but from his need to make things."
Self: On this principle how can I own
a radio-set or a pair of pants? I am neither a tailor nor an electrician.
E.G.: " As a moral being purely as such, man has no right to private ownership."
Self: Can a moral being purely as such be robbed? It would seem not. Can an angel own anything?
E.G.: "In our abominable selfishness we endeavour to maintain private ownership in the use of things."
Self: "What about my pants?"
To be a little more serious, verbally at least, Mr. Eric Gill tries to simplify over much the problem of the origin of property. Does the acquisition of a "res muffins" require more than an act of appropriation, i.e., an act of will? Must I, in intent at least, propose the making of something out of the object so appropriated to become entitled to use it? The intention to "use" is surely prior to that of " making " something?
Mr. Eric Gill might study St. Thomas more fully and more closely than he .has done with some advantage.
The category of " Habitus " is a more difficult subject to treat than he suspects. The concept of ownership is a peculiarly troublesome one. If Mr. Eric Gill had applied St. Thomas' principle, Conversio ad phantasmata, he would have easily seen that his sweeping general principles inyolved certain grave difficulties.
I have endeavoured to illustrate these, perhaps a shade frivolously, but we must not hold a candle to Stalin because we hate usury and all it stands for.
JOHN HOWLEY (DR.).
The Library, University College, Galway.
Snt,—At the risk of being superfluous I should like to add a word in defence of Mr. Gill. Obviously Mr. .Purgold has a completely wrong notion of what Mr. Gill means by intellectual responsibility. The fact that a machine minder must use skill and knowledge does not make him an intellectually responsible person—he is responsible neither for the machine nor what it produces; he has only a kind of moral responsibility, if one can call it that!
I suggest that Mr. Purgold makes a mental inventory of the contents of his house—what he eats, wears, uses, etc. He will note that machinery has played a very large and important part in the production of these things. Now, before the invention of machinery—in its modern sense— these same things (excepting, of course, " gadgets " and gee-gaws) were also made, but under totally different circumstances. There were no designers in offices designing machines to make things, but every workman (in a general sense) had himself to think of the thing to be made and he was responsible for its making—that is, he was an intellectually responsible person. And we know that the things he made are now on museum shelves or in the houses of the rich. It is said that the necessities of one age become the ornaments of the next—sadly true; but by no stretch of the imagination can one imagine this happen ing to the necessities of this age. And herein lies a real and vital difference: the responsible workman, in making things for man's needs, is serving God; but the designer of machines, the sole purpose of which is to displace labour and to get the greatest possible profits, is serving neither God nor man, but the Devil. And Catholics who ignore the fundamental rottenness of the present industrial system are simply playing Jekyll and Hyde, the inevitable outcome of which can only be dissolution of soul ad body. No one sees this more clearly than Mr. Gill. We should heed his warnings.
J. E. N.
Sia,—If I may venture to intervene on a special point of this discussion, I should like to record a protest against the lightminded way in which opinions are expressed on mechanisation without either a first-hand knowledge of the facts, or a clear mental picture derived from a study of the
principles and effects involved. To be quite fair, I must add that this failing is not confined to one side, but it is particularly common in the pro-machine party, and the letter of Mr. Noel T. Purgold is a good example of it.
For instance, the primary point about motors is not the conditions of driving, but the conditions of making them. And motor workers afford a classic example of the sub-human irresponsibility to which Mr. Gill has drawn attention. The skill of the driver in refraining from murdering the citizens is not to the point if the car is only made by the use of human automata.
Moreover, an essential feature of industrialism is what biologists in another sphere have called " segregation of unit characters."
There are plenty of industrial jobs where responsibility is segregated to the breaking point. There are more where it does not exist at all. It will not do for Mr. Purgold to select a few cases where such excessive responsibility is still present, and to dismiss the multitude of sub-human atoms by suggesting that they are not capable of skill or responsibility anyway. How does he know?
Industrialism deprives the many of any chance to prove or acquire such skill and responsibility, and over-concentrates them on the few. That in • itself is anti-social, and Mr. Purgold's task, if he is rash enough to question Mr. Gill's conclusive analysis, should be to show that this segregation of unit characters is not an essential feature