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In defence of subsidiarity

By G. Macdonald Ross


[FIRST PARAGRAPHS]\ud \ud In issue No. 5 (Spring 1993), there were two rather flippant remarks about the concept of subsidiarity. The Philosophy Glossary defined subsidiarity as ‘nobody agrees on what this word means’ (p.32), and John Crosthwaite described its meaning as a ‘grey area’, and ‘hand[ed] the question over to the real philosophers’ (p.25).\ud I don’t know if I count as a ‘real’ philosopher, since I have some unsound views on the theory of meaning. In particular, I believe that the meaning of a word depends as much on its etymology as on its use. We can often gain important philosophical insights through understanding how words have acquired their present meaning.\ud The abstract noun subsidiarity comes from the adjective subsidiary, which in turn comes from the concrete noun subsidy. The English word subsidy is a direct borrowing of the Latin subsidium, meaning ‘support’ or ‘assistance’ (though it has subsequently been confined to a financial sense); and the adjective subsidiary originally meant ‘providing assistance’ or ‘supportive’; but it gradually changed its meaning, via ‘auxiliary’ or ‘tributary’, to ‘subordinate’

Publisher: Philosophy Now
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.whiterose.ac.uk:3247

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