Title Background

The Labors of Reward: Meed Mercede, Mercede, and the Beginning of Salvation.

The Labors of Reward: Meed Mercede, Mercede, and the Beginning of Salvation.

Meed is defined in the B text to a great extent by what precedes it. Meed is illegitimate because of the conditions that prevail when it is used. Conscience’s clarification of the nature of Meed in the C text elaborates the principle contained in the genealogical analogy, and draws a distinction of Meed and Mercede based on the beginning that each has. The grammatical analogy and the concept of direct relation suggest that social relations and individual being likewise derive their meaning from their foundation, with truth as the proper alignment of social and spiritual relations. Relation, associated with absence and uncertainty by contemporary theoretical definitions, is nonetheless not meaningless; WL’s deployment of such categories is deliberate in its insistence that divine and kingly antecedents govern human culture. “Relacoun rect” serves as a reminder that social relations, like grammatical relations, have no intrinsic being; society depends on individual ethical choices, and the “leel laborer” of C.3.347 ff. must “induce in himself the proper ethical disposition, and must align himself in accord with the source of truth.” Indirect relation in C shows the arbitrary nature of relation itself, the withdrawal inward from “external, productive systems of meaning.” WL’s understanding of relation is largely that of the realists, who emphasize the reality and importance of a relation’s referent, its foundation, which alone make it intelligible and coherent. The C text suggests that although the recovery of beginnings is doomed to fail, the work of elaborating on that beginning is “the creature’s most crucial ethical activity.”


YLS 8 (1994): 127-54.


Smith, D. Vance.