Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Berkowitz on Lilla

Peter has the first smart and penetrating review of Mark’s book so far. A book that doesn’t really come to terms with Strauss or do justice to America can’t be all good. As I said before, there’s a third, non-stillborn alternative to political theology and Hobbesian political philosophy that gives both religion and politics their due, and our Founders’ (certainly imperfect but real) illumination by that alternative elevates them and their Constitution above what Lilla admits is simplistic and humanly unsatisfying Hobbesian psychology. (Thanks to Ivan the K.)

Discussions - 4 Comments

Smart and penetrating? It seems like a dull summary that gestures at something resembling a critique towards the end.

It could have gone deeper but it is probably the only review that cogently points put some of the central problems with Lilla's perspective in very limited space...at any rate,Lilla does seem to have a habit of invoking the theological-political problem without really taking it seriously--it's fairly clear that, like Bloom, he considers the victory of reason over revelation to be a forgone conclusion.

Matt S.--ok, I'm an easy grader. And we learn from the pope's rat choice theory that in the hellenic early church the options weren't so much between reason and revelation as two version of the logos that governs the world.

One way of looking at Lilla's view (I've read the NYT's piece but not yet the book) is that it is too Straussian--he wants to take a third way between reason and revelation which is something like a Socratic zeteticism. The problem here is that besides not taking revelation all that seriously in the first place, even the Straussian view presumes that the revelatory approach is something other than a logos, that it defies every conception of reason, that it requires a kind of Kirkegardian abandonement of reason. I would say that Pangle's bible book, as terrific as it is, suffers comparably. The pope's view is a fourth way that entirely reinterprets the theo-pol problem so that religion can philosophically defend itself on rational grounds and can also claim to involve the zetetic wandering that Strauss ascribes to Socrates. It's exciting to see a leading religious figure so astutely involved in today's most pressing philosophical debates.

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