Here are some recommendations from everyone attending the Witherspoon Institute Natural Law and Public Affairs Seminar this week:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your environmentalism. Where there is climate change, let me sow carbon offsets; where there is deforestation, trees; where there is skepticism, alarmism; where there is despair, more despair; where there is darkness, solar power; where there is sadness, activism.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to have children as to combat overpopulation; to understand facts as to disseminate propaganda; to love the cross as to love trees; For it is in recycling that we renewed; it is in bicycling that we erase our footprints; and it is in dying that we save the planet.
In an appendix to The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, F.A. Hayek says, “The practices that led to the formation of the spontaneous order have much in common with rules observed in playing a game. To attempt to trace the origin of competition in play would lead us too far astray, but we can learn much from the masterly and revealing analysis of the role of play in the evolution of culture by the historian Johan Huizinga, whose work has been insufficiently appreciated by students of human order.”
In Homo Ludens: A Study of The Play Element of Culture, Huizinga argues that “civilization is rooted in noble play and that, if it is to unfold in full dignity and style, it cannot afford to neglect the play-element.” He discusses the play-element in human activities including: art, language, poetry, sport, law, and war. And he helpfully provides a thorough criteria for what constitutes real play. Play is “voluntary activity,” “disinterested activity,” “creates order, is order,” “has rules,” and so on.
Etty Hillesum and Simone Weil can help our understanding of political science through their accounts of participatory experience of the full amplitude of reality. Their reflections on their everyday experiences attest to the truthfulness of Eric Voegelin’s political science. Specifically, they raise the question: Once we open ourselves to the “ultimate purpose toward which we are rationally oriented,” then what? How is human openness to transcendence made manifest in our daily living? Through the diaries and letters of Hillesum and Weil, we can understand the meaning of participation in living within those questions that one cannot ask without some change taking place in the soul of the questioner. Voegelin symbolized these experiences as the opening of the soul to transcendence. This involves the recognition that man is not the source of his existence, so he cannot be the ultimate measure of it. Such insights are not propositional or axiomatic, but are experienced through paradoxical and meditative participation in the turning of the soul toward truth. This is also the fundamental experience of a political theorist who can then begin to analyze society against the standard of divine truth rooted in the nature of the relationship man experiences in his response to God.
I presented this paper at the American Political Science Association annual conference in August 2014. To listen to it, click here:
Here is the audio from my presentation at the Association of Private Enterprise Education (APEE) conference in Las Vegas on April 14, 2014. It was a pleasure to be on a panel chaired by Howard Baetjer Jr. who was a professor at the first Institute for Humane Studies summer seminar I attended at George Mason University in 2011.
My senior thesis was just posted on VoegelinView.com.
The topic is the relationship between a person’s biography and his or her philosophy. I studied this by reading a particular thinker’s memoirs and relating these to his philosophical writings to show the coherence between his experiences and his insights.
Feel free to take a peek, here.
Chuck is from Toronto, lives in Toronto, and I met him in this Toronto Starbucks. He spoke to me reminiscing about his experiences of moving to Alberta in the 1970s to work in the oil sands. Here’s he discusses the wildlife, scenery, working conditions, and his fond memories.
Here’s his response to my question about negative perceptions of the oil sands.
Tonight I attended a “Catholic Media Ethics” talk at my church. This was my comment and question during Q&A:
Using abstract nouns like “society”, “community”, and “humanity” seems to disregard the important fact that, in reality, there isn’t some perfect consensus; individual persons are divided on every single political, economic, social, and moral question. Do you think there is a ‘media party’ with a consistent ideological bias because of the idea that there is (or can be) a homogenous, social consensus on things when no “shared story of collective humanity” actually exists?
The speaker (from The Catholic Register) shouted, “Satan!!!” and pointed at me while stepping back to distance himself from me. Then he said, “You are a dangerous person. You are giving us an individualistic, neo-liberal view that I don’t think is at all compatible with the Christian concept of community.”
An audience member said with outrage, “Just like Margaret Thatcher!”
The speaker then argued that the neo-liberal view is mainly an economic one and that its adherents have the wrong anthropology.
“What if the ‘neo-liberal’ anthropology is actually quite truthful and ‘Catholic’? I mused.
He said, “Try to make the case sometime.” Then he noted Father Raymond de Souza as an example of a ‘right wing’ Catholic who gets published in The Register.
Nice to have one token conservative.
Given how relevant economics and politics is to our lives, shouldn’t we be able to discuss these controversial topics in the light of faith and from a plurality of perspectives?
I think this is why Father Sirico founded the Acton Institute. And I’m thankful he did. Acton University is the first place I ever learned the term “philosophical anthropology.” Michael Matheson Miller told us that JPII had said, “The fundamental problem of socialism is anthropological in nature.” What he meant is that socialists give an incorrect account of the human person.
That experience at ActonU was one of the most illuminating and memorable moments of my life and has influenced me personally, academically, and professionally. Who we are and what it fundamentally means to be human persons is a debate that is, of course, not “settled.”
I don’t think that all my fellow Catholics and, more broadly, fellow citizens should think like me. I do hope though that we would be able to think about things together without excommunication from the conversation on the basis of different political and economic perspectives.
It’s the Creed that’s universal among a particular faith community.
Is it not some form of idolatry then to elevate policy opinions (and, dare I add, social doctrine) to the status of dogma?
Here is a presentation I gave at the Southern Political Science Association Conference in New Orleans on January 11, 2014.
In The Phenomenon of Life, Hans Jonas identifies the root of contemporary bioethical problems in the incorrect philosophical anthropology of mind-body dualism. What does this modern prejudice have to do with bioethical issues today from in vitro fertilization to euthanasia? Listen here! (20 min.)
I welcome your comments, critiques, responses, and recommended reading.
This post is dedicated with gratitude to Barry Cooper who first introduced me to Hans Jonas and helped me to study and love these questions.