Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

In Praise of Folly?

I just read the description of my views in a book I think it’s best to ignore. I will say that book says, quite correctly, that I’ve been published and written about in FIRST THINGS. So now it’s time for me to express by gratitude to one Damon Linker as the one responsible for those ambiguous or even pernicious facts. Here’s how the generous (and really mean that) editor Linker summarized my position in my book ALIENS IN AMERICA in a long review in FIRST THINGS:

Lawler maintains that conservative critics [such as Allan Bloom and even Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama] of current trends do little good by reninforcing the view that the souls of Americans have undergone some kind of fundamental degradation. Instead, they should be working to revive a vocabulary that can do justice to the full range of human experiences in all times and places, incuding the present.

And here’s the review conclusion, which includes the only criticism (a stylistic, not substantive, one):

While his quirky style of writing--which combines long, occasionally tedious paraphrases of arguments from other authors with dense patches of original analysis and criticism--detracts at times from his argument, the power and importance of that argument is undeniable. As conservatives [a category that seems to include the review’s author] ponder why and how to resist the temptation to reach for all the good things in life, they would be well advised to do so with Lawler on their side.

I leave to you to determine how these comments square with what their author says about me in his new book, which suggests that I’m part a theocon conspiracy traumatizing Americans with scary scenarios about the very future of their humanity. (Don’t worry. The book says nothing slanderous, and I’m always glad to be mentioned. I’m only suggesting that someone’s mind change a lot.) I express my differences with Kass etc. on the whole "last man," Brave New World thing more thematically in STUCK WITH VIRTUE, and I’m now saying for the first time publicly that Leon told me I would be appointed to the Bioethics Council because of my fundamental disagreement with his views.

Discussions - 2 Comments

Well, Peter, at the end of the day you say we won’t become subhuman, because we can’t, but your work is suffused with evidence that the trends are in place for coming awfully close, or at least, repugnantly close.

In an earlier post you spoke of the fading away of the old Democrats, like myself, for instance, as I was a pro-life Dem up through Gore’s candidacy. While becoming more aware of political philosophy generally and Tocqueville specifically is what at bottom led me to abandon the Dems, certainly one of the biggest watersheds for me was considering your concerns about bio-tech, and realizing that Gore/the Dems never would have never have given a second thought about funding embryo-destroying research. (The Dems post-9/11 behavior was to me simply the nail in an already constructed coffin.) That is, Linker is right. You scared me into becoming a Republican! My flight from the Dems was not slowed at all when I heard your assurance that, "Well, we can’t become really subhuman."

Carl, Well, that’s a good correction. Both Kass and I don’t share the mainstream techno-optimism of our creeping libertarianism. And I’m now impressed with my powers, because you seem mighty hard to scare.

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