Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Religion and Late Modernity

Here’s a provocative statement on human liberty and dignity from a book I just got in the mail--Chantal del Sol, THE UNLEARNED LESSONS OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY: AN ESSAY ON LATE MODERNITY (ISI Books, 2006):

I would not hesitate to describe the climate that gives rise to pantheism as a wrong turn in the Enlightenment. "Wrong" as understood with respect to the points of reference we so want to preserve: the value of each human being’s dignity, an idea that in our societies is now hanging by a thread. Human rights will not guarantee the dignity of each human being unless they are grounded in an understanding of man that ensures his uniqueness....If one believes that democracy logically legitimizes an egalitarian individualism governed by common opinion, then pantheism supports and maintains this belief by expressing an egalitarian spirit in immortality--by crowning in death an individual both similar to and undifferentiated from all the others. If, on the other hand, one wants and hopes for democracy to be a society of unique persons endowed with free wills and minds, then the more appropriate religious partner would be a monotheism that preaches personal eternity, one in which each irreducible being survives in his irreducibility.

Discussions - 4 Comments

Peter, Is the whole book like this?

The indivuality of each person is encoded in DNA. Of course, so is the individuality of any cat. Do mosquitos have individuality in that way, I wonder? "Each one I swat is unique." is a nasty thought, though I doubt I’d stop swatting.

There is something more to man. Yes, it is the eternal thing, not just what animates us, but the being that looks out of our eyes. That is more important than the animated meat that is our bodies. If we get to the place where we lose sight of the value of that, and see it merely as animating rather than eternal, then it becomes not more important than that thing that animates the mosquito or the cat. Who would bother not to swat a man if that were the case?

Now I have to think some more. It will be a long day of supplying my college-bound boy. While we drive and his music plays and we look at extra-long sheets, my mind will be free for that. Thank you, Peter, for something compelling to think about beyond wars and rumors of wars.

Kate, Thanks, as usual. That "compelling thing" I was thinking about as a way of extending our dignity dicussion. Let me give you a somewhat contrasting view (of Leo Strauss): "By becoming aware of the dignity of the mind, we realize the true ground of the dignity of man and therewith the goodness of the world, whether we understand it as created or as uncreated, which is the home of man because it is the home of the human mind." (A big issue: Are human persons essentially minds?)

And to answer your direct question: The whole book is not like that, but one key chapter is.

That is a great quote by Leo Strauss. I would agree with it. That is what I was trying to say about the the basis of dignity in america being found in the inalieanable right to the pursuit of happiness. The right to the persuit of happiness entails that thinking persons be able to decide what happiness is (or even if this is the summum bonum).

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