Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Therapy for Your Soul from Dr. Pat

Here’s Deneen’s excellent advice for what to read to get acquainted with political philosophy. And he includes the unjustly neglected thanccentric existentialist.

Discussions - 12 Comments

Thanocentric? As in Death-Centered?


Hannah Arendt is amazing.


Here's mine for the same, a lot of overlap with Dr. Pat.

1) Shakespeare: Coriolanus and Julius Caeser

2) Aristotle, both the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics

3) The Federalist Papers 4) The future Carey McWilliams volume! Get to work, Dr. Pat! Especially the "Democracy and the Citizen" essay. 5) Tocqueville, Democracy in America

5) The other Caeser, Jim Ceaser, Liberal Democracy and Political Science5) Michael Zuckert, The Natural Rights Republic

5) Pierre Manent, A History of Liberalism

5) Solzhenitsyn GULAG Archipelago, important to end on a grim note, and the edited version is quite manageable.

Why shouldn't I get five fives? In fact, I should get six fives--make it Lawler's Aliens in America.

"Remember man thy last end in all thy works ... ." Still good "advice," I believe.

That's a great list, Carl(as was "Dr. Pat's" original). Don't forget, though, that THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, ends, in the author's own words, on a note of hope and "catharsis." And Carl is right: the authorized abridgement manages to be both manageable and comprehensive.--DM

Ah, what the heck! (Or: why should my friends have all the fun?)

1) Strauss's Natural Right and History: the sweep of it, the prose of it (no one's ever done more with semi-colons than Strauss!), the illuminating discussion of one of the fundamental distinctions (ancient v. modern), without which one really cannot orient himself in intellectual time-and-space;

2) anything by Pierre Manent: Manent puts "the political" in "political philosophy"; he learned from Strauss and thoughtfully dissents from him; he is the best reader of Tocqueville (with a handful of friends-and-competitors); his book Tocqueville and the Nature of Democracy reveals sides of modern democracy that the Straussian optic cannot detect or deal with; he redeems the honor of the French esprit.

3) Leon Kass's Toward a More Natural Science and The Hungry Soul: Kass makes "naturalism" intellectually plausible and attractive; he is neither simply pro-classics or anti-modern; he's thoughtful and a model of thoughtfulness; his work on Genesis is mind-opening.

4) Jim Ceaser's Liberal Democracy and Political Science and Bob Faulkner's little article, "Equal Dignity: the Court and the Family": Jim nicely lays out the hybrid character of our polity and the need for "regime-supervision" by capacious minds and agents, and the necessity of dampening down the partisans -- especially the extreme partisans -- of this-or-that regime-principle, many of whom are found in academe; Bob's article is the single best analysis of the damage the Warren-and-Burger courts wrought to our constitutional order, at a most sensitive point of our polity: sex, morality, and the family.5) Dan Mahoney & Peter Lawler on "the dissidents": no one can really claim to have considered the reality and lessons of the totalitarian episode without having considered the insights and claims of the dissidents; Dan & Peter -- in very different ways -- include them in any thoughtful discussion of "modernity," "ideology," and "democracy."

Bonus 6) Richard Kennington's work on modern philosophy. Modern science must be considered by any thoughtful member of modern society; Kennington's one of the great guides. He should be complemented by Bob Sokolowski, though, whose phenomenological studies nicely restore trust in our cognitive capacities and the world's intelligibility, in the face of contemporary skepticism, relativism, and narrow academic or intellectual disciplinar[i]ness.

Red meat for Paul Seaton and others. . .regarding semicolons. A close analysis might find that Isaiah Berlin does more with semi-colons even than Strauss. You can hear the man breathing.

Ah, a potential gigantomachia, a looming bataille royale -- The Battle of the Semi-Colonists, as Jonathan Swift might put it! How to decide between these titans? What criteria to bring to an adequate judgment of the protagonists? Mere quantity or frequency of appearance of the noted-cipher? Stylistic criteria? Or -- perhaps -- the philosophical meaning of the item-and-occurrence, including (in Strauss's case) "esoteric" (shhh ... ) nods-and-nuances? The question of the hour: what is the significance of "half-a-colon"? Which way does it point: back to a "." or forward to a "colon"? Or is the ambiguity essential to its meaning and the key to its deciperament (sic)?

Do you mean decipherment?

While I love E.B. White, who hated semicolons, I think they serve a useful stylistic purpose. I teach that they act as a balance point, linking two equals; as if the ideas expressed might stand alone, but ought not to right now. Am I wrong? Tell me, Paul, I am new at the game.

Kate, while the matter may be (somewhat) serious, the spirit of my remarks was ... a jeu d'esprit (hence the misspelling of decipherment; I was affecting a Swiftian English -- a jeu du faux mot too subtle for anyone to detect, I know). My iniital serious point was to indicate that Leo Strauss used semi-colons a lot; that his usage of them wasn't simply or primarily because English wasn't his primary language, but that he employed it in order to communicate his very complex and nuanced and (sometimes)ambiguous philosophical thoughts. Reading Strauss oftentimes becomes "tracking Strauss" through dialectical twists-and-turns; and one of the junctures/barriers/signpoints he leaves his alert, industrious, and indefatigible tracker is the semi-colon.

E. B. White, of course, is one of our masters, so he must be consulted and obeyed at least 90% of the time. (Strauss however wouldn't meet his standards all the time and Strauss's is a viable prose.) I would add (to my closing line above, which indicated one way of taking the ambiguity which is the semi-colon) that one can take the semi-colon as between a "," and a ".": that is, it wants to suspend itself between closure (".") and connection-with-distinction (",").

I do like your formulation, though: "not right now."

What a lovely (though premature) Festschrift for a "unjustly neglected thanocentric existentialist" who began the thread: a dialogue, if not a gigantomachia, between Kate and Paul on the subject of semicolons!

I see further distinctions are in order, between the "semicolonists" and the "semi-colonists." Hair-splitting, or fundamental divide? Carl, what think ye? (A -- very self-justificatory -- suggestion: those who omit the "-" are subject to the democratic intellectual dynamic of eroding distinctions, while those who hyphenate respect the fundamental operations of the human intellect, which are to divide and compound (Or: divide-and-compound?).

I will be no party to a pre-thanatopic festschrift for my dear thanocentric friend; unlike the New York Times, I do not pre-write obits!

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