1. The Conference at Berry (funded by the U of Chicago project on the science of virtue) is drawing near (Nov. 4-5). You can hear about Descartes, Locke, Darwin, Percy, Tom Wolfe, George Grant, Heidegger, and much more. And of course you can meet Ralph Hancock, America’s leading theologian, and many others in person. Go to this wonderful website for further information, including the SCHEDULE.

2. On Progress or Return: That’s the choice Beck and Pestritto and many others give us between the Progressives and the Founders. But our Founders thought of themselves as on the cutting edge of scientific progress and against the discredited tradition of “monkish ignorance and superstition.” And the Progressives thought their opponents were too individualistic or not organic enough to cultivate a properly civic religion.

3. But Strauss, of course, gives us that choice between the ANCIENTS and the MODERNS, and he makes it clear enough that our Founders were more modern than ancient—just less modern than us.

4. John Courtney Murray gives us that choice between the residual Thomism of the Founders and wholly modern POLITICAL ATHEISM. (Murray and Strauss agree, in a way, that the Founding needs to be ennobled by a tradition or way of thinking older than anything American.)

5. Dr. Pat Deneen believes, much more emphatically, that our Founders themselves were too obsessed with the modern, progressive project of mastery of nature. And so he has to find an alternative American tradition—including the Puritans (including neo-Puritans such as the isolationist, anti-imperial, prohibitionist, and anti-evolutionist William Jennings Bryan), some of the Anti-Federalists, and dissident agrarians (down on [Wendell] Berry’s front porch on the [literary] farm).

6. Dr. PD is careful to have nothing to do with the southern agrarians, who were more conscious that the genuinely alternative American tradition might have to be aristocratic or Stoic. That’s why he was particularly repulsed by the Zeussian John McCain.

7. It’s surely the Stoic side of us that causes us to respect the Founders because they were Founders, as if America were Greece or Rome. The Founding aristocracy, so the myth goes in the REPUBLIC, decayed into today’s permissive or relativistic democracy. And then there’s various versions of the myth of decline from republican virtue to imperial decadence, which some of the Porchers like more than many of the Straussians.

More on this soon, especially on the Christians.

Articles by Peter Lawler


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