Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Deneen Asks Mansfield about the Love

Dr. Pat takes the philosopher of manliness to task for his pernicious exaggerations. It’s not enough for Harvey to say that he’s skipping love for now and just concentrating on pride or anger or self-importance. We, in truth, live in a time that’s short on both pride and love, and we don’t know how to talk about either of the two sources of our transcendence. Certainly Pat is right that the Christian view is that each particular person is both significant and lovable--but most of all lovable, and maybe even that Harvey’s abstraction from love distorts the human soul by making it seem too much about self-assertion. Most of all particular persons are significant because they’re capable of knowing and loving other particular persons, and their admirable confidence in getting things done should be guided by who and what they can really know and love. (Thanks to Ivan the K, who must be on a 24-hr. Deneen watch.)

NEWS UPDATE! Paul Seaton manfully defends Mansfield against Deneen.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Well, a "24 hour watch" might be a slight exaggeration itself. However, I have made Deneen's blog a regular stop on my daily troll for news and philosophical fodder, especially since he seems to read NLT. Also, I think there's something to his critique: even if HM does acknowledge that his account is an abstraction from eros and therefore truncated doesn't in itself absolve him from the responsiblity to provide a fuller account, unless he argues that the advantages of rhetorical hyperbole ourweigh the disadvantages of philosophical transparency. Also, he might argue that there is some assertiveness in the act of loving, the desire to be loved, and certainly in the judgement that one is worthy of love, including from ourselves. Of course, this doesn't necessarily reduce love to such assertiveness.

I suppose it's only fair to point out that Professor Mansfield is a political scientist, albeit in the older sense of the term "science". In politics, "love" is really tangential. Unless you're Saintly Sam Brownback, who I think may really be in some other business.

"We, in truth, live in a time that’s short on both pride and love"

A time that's short on pride? You've got to be kidding.

Carol, a nicer tone and a respectful query and you might elicit a distinction (or qualification or retraction) from Peter and thus add to the discussion. Just a thought.

Wow...three of my favorite old time lecturers combined in the same post. That is impressive. I am hoping to take a Mansfield class or two while I am in Boston next year.

I tend to agree with Deneen; though I would note, Dr. Lawler, that of course love is the greatest act of self-assertion. If God is love (the perfection and proper ranking of all virtue) and we are, indeed, the animal in the image of God, then doesn't it have to be the purest assertion of our deeper selves to love and be loved?

excellent pts. all is ambiguously assertive, because it is animated by attraction...carol, your manly indignation is fully justified, but it's directed against vanity--not pride.

Peter -
I think "pernicious exaggerations" is a bit strong, don't you? My response was intended to be, I hope, a respectful disagreement. My apologies, above all to Harvey, if it could be read otherwise.

I'm doing my manful best to continue a fruitful decades-long dialogue between Professors Mansfield and McWilliams, of course - to achieve an uneasy relationship between fraternity and manliness. From fraternity's perspective, to be manly requires our capacity to master our manly instincts. From manliness's viewpoint, to love involves an assertion of our individual preferences. That is, the claims of each are altered within the governing context of the other. I don't seek here dismissal of one by the other, but it would perhaps not be mistaken to say that the debate boils down to which is viewed as most needful. Pride seems to come naturally to the human creature - if the example of Adam and Eve are considered; self-governance and even humility do not.

Pardon the technical glitch yet again.

Perhaps what Carol refers to is undeserving self-esteem masquerading as true pride. Paul, when I think of Christian manliness or Christian magnanimity I first think of the young Churchill's wondrous exclamation to Violet Asquith after brooding for a long time at a banquet: "Madam, we are all worms......but I am a glow-worm." Though Churchill was an old fashioned aner in many ways I agree with John Lukacs that he had a "natural Christian soul." Churchill did not boast like Achilles, nor whine like Abraham. He pursued victory, and then magananimity. Christian manliness in general is more sacrificial, and is more oriented to women. And so we come to love. Peter is right on both scores. Love is another source of transcendence, but is ambiguous because our is elicited, even if by a nameless object of longing. Elicited at least by our want, our need, and becoming a "nuclear weapon" (pace Tom Wolfe) when drawn by the beautiful itself. Concerning Christian charity, Christian love, Pierre Manent is right that it is always mediated by God and the Church, which makes it too a transcendence, unlike humanitarianism, which is really at bottom based on fear. I too was struck that HM ended his talk with the statement about love. Very suggestive in many ways.

If Aquinas is correct in viewing complacentia - the act of receiving the impress of another's soul onto yours - as part of love, then calling attraction and love "assertive" would require some clarification.

Dr. Pat's observation about the debate between assertion and fraternity is to the point. HCM's big example (other than the great Lyle Lovett) was Achilles. It's significant it wasn't Aeneas. Achilles' manly assertion, or heroism, transcends his polity, while that of Aeneas serves it. In transcending his polity, Achilles forgets how much he depends on it; in serving his, Aeneas must wonder whether his greatness can be fully recognized. Manly assertion is at best ambiguous.

I'm indignant that I fell into your provocative trap.

Reading Deneen's comments, I don't know any sociobiologists who think they are "gods." But I have heard of people who claim to have spoken with God...but that was on the other "side" of the aisle.

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