Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Manliness and timocracy at Hampden-Sydney

Anthony Esolen says all manner of interesting--and, in some quarters, provocative--things after enjoying a visit to Hampden-Sydney College, one of two remaining all-male four-year colleges. (He’s forgotten about Deep Springs.) Here’s his conclusion:

{Hampden-Sydney is] a far cry from "college" as commodity. It also gives the lie to what some Biblical complementarians say, I think incautiously and without any real historical awareness. They say that women civilize men. If that’s the case, I don’t understand why the college where I teach -- a very fine college, I’ll affirm -- is a walk down Skid Row by comparison with the civility and order at Hampden-Sydney. I don’t understand why the all-male high schools up here produce gentlemen, and the other schools, public and private -- well, it’s a real crapshoot. Now I know perfectly well that boys will sometimes form timocracies of wickedness: gangs, for instance. But even in that case you have a polity; gangs wouldn’t be near the problem they are if they did not operate by pretty clear rules and lines of authority. Women do not in fact civilize men; they domesticate men, as I’ve said before. Men civilize men. There’s a difference.


What is that difference? A soldier in a cavalry unit who spends most of his time in barracks or under the skies,may well be more civilized, more trained to think of and to act for the common good, to command other men or to obey, than many a high-priced lawyer or even college professor. He’s not domesticated, though, and his new bride at first might find him pretty hard to live with. On the other hand, men who live comfortable lives apart from other men, taking no initiative for the common good, considering only their wives and children and not the welfare of anybody else’s children, never to be relied upon in time of public need, may be domesticated but not civilized. You might find plenty of men of the former sort at the inception of a great nation. You will find plenty of men of the latter sort at its decline.

Read the whole thing.

Update: I forgot Morehouse, which also does a good job on the matters about which Esolen writes.

Discussions - 7 Comments

The only all-male bastions at the college level should be military institutions. West Point, VMI, Citadel, Annapolis. But I don’t see the wisdom of all male ordinary colleges. That’s bizarre.

Military colleges should prepare LINE officers. Sine they’re going to be LINE officers, no women need apply. It was the radical left in the aftermath of Watergate who introduced women to the service academies. It was INTENDED to shatter the warrior ethos. They admitted as much at the time.

We’re deluding ourselves thinking that all the wars we might fight are going to be just like the wars we’ve known since their introduction in the ’70s. I’ve never met a woman who could hold her own in a bar room brawl. How about you guys? And what’s that, busted knuckles, broken hands, busted lips, black eyes, smashed noses. What’s that compared to what occurs in a trench line when men are going at it for keeps, with fists and rifle butts, knives and shovels.

This gender blending isn’t going to turn out very well either.

How many women are going to be gang raped before American politicians find the courage to take on the regime of political correctness.

Thank you, Prof. Knippenburg, for highlighting Prof. Esolen’s insightful observations.

I recently read Nancy Pearcey’s book, Total Truth, in which she traces the history of the notion of women’s civilizing influence on men (at least in America) to the 2nd Great Awakeningin the 19th century. She argues that it was the Awakening’s feminization of American Christianity and ultimately American culture that led to this mistaken premise. Interestingly, if she is right, the idea is not even all that old.

Deep Springs isn’t four-year.

Ed,

I know. That’s why I added the four-year qualifier to his statement, which referred only to all-male colleges.

Hello Joe,

Thanks for the thumbs-up!

The first commenter puzzles me. Within my own living memory, and I’m not THAT old, there were over 80 all-male colleges, and nobody thought there was anything odd about it, let alone "bizarre". Men founded the universities, after all -- the very word denoted a student guild, a brotherhood united to make sure that the professors actually taught what they were paid to teach (!). I agree wholeheartedly with his other comments ...

One thing I’d like to write about, when I get a moment or two, is the thin view of "civilization" we now have. We think it means a certain politeness, a willingness to abide by the law ... Those are good things, but if you don’t have a vibrant civic life, and I don’t mean seventy programs on television and radio, then you don’t have a civilization. You may have geographical areas wherein a lot of people live, but you don’t have cities such as people of Renaissance Florence or ancient Athens or 19th century Philadelphia would have recognized.

I think Nancy Pearcy is on to something there -- an old truth, ripe for rediscovery. Even Margaret Mead noted it: that although domestication and civilization are compatible, they aren’t the same thing, and sometimes they can be in conflict, as for instance whenever a man’s care for wife and children prevents him from doing his duty to the polis, thus shifting the burden on to OTHER men and their families, or, even worse, ensuring that nobody takes up the burden at all. The old literature is rich with instances in which a man must choose between the comfort of his family and his duty -- and chooses the comfort of his family, to the harm of his people and ultimately to the harm of the family, too.

Huzzah for that there Dan. He’s done got it right! Our future depends ’pon stand-up guys brawlin’ in bars. And he knows what I’m talkin’ ’bout here. That’s civil’zation! That’s what them philosfers call manliness!! This Dan: there’s a guy I want to meet!!!

I wouldn’t want to go to war with somebody who likes bar room brawls, or whose model of manliness comes from such places (not unknown to me, by the way). How could you trust him not to get you killed in the wrong place at the wrong time? This I have heard from men who have been there.

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