That was a dumb title of an article I wrote several years ago talking up the manly authors Mansfield and Tom Wolfe.
My BUILDING BETTER THAN THEY KNEW TOUR continues next Thursday at the Rochester Institute of Technology. There Darwinian Larry Arnhart and I will speak on Darwin and the Evolution of America in the Xerox Auditorium. Rochester, as I’ve mentioned before, is also America’s leading Cougar Town. I mention that again for scientists wanting to observe reproductive behavior that Darwin might find somewhat hard to explain but means to alleviate a the form of cruel suffering specific to women that the graphically naturalist playwright Aristophanes chronicled in THE ASSEMBLY OF WOMEN. Rochester is also the home of our Ivan the K.
Darwin came up in Brad Watson’s fine Founders vs. Progressives jurisprudential talk in Dallas last Friday. The progressives were Darwinian, Brad explained, in their view that government should be an instrument of facilitating our adaption to our changing natural environment. They were also Darwinian in their evolutionary confidence that this change would be for the good. Our natural moral sense or instinct, Darwin sanguinely observed, moves us away from beastly aggressiveness and toward a kind of cosmopolitanism based on sympathy for all living creatures. Things will get better and better, Woodrow Wilson claimed, unless we unnaturally resist change we should be believe in by sticking with our separation of powers based on the false mechanical science of Newton. Government has to go with the flow–actually, direct the flow–by being much more open to dynamic leadership. And Brad could point to many Supreme Court opinions based on the Darwinian thought that the Constitution must be adapted to our evolved moral sense when it comes to, say, the death penalty or discarding our brutal animosity toward gays. The progressives agree with, say, E.O. Wilson that for members of our species evolution has become less impersonal and more and more conscious and volitional–or cultural or historical.
But the Progressive (and even Darwin himself with his soft utopian optimism) were confused on what’s NATURAL and what’s HISTORICAL. They were both Darwinian and Hegelian. Hegelian HISTORICAL evolution is the movement of man away from nature in the direction of freedom. From a human point of view, Hegel agreed with Kant and Locke, nature gives us virtually worthless materials. And so we have to create ourselves as free–or genuinely significant moral beings–out of nothing.
A genuine Darwinian (someone like Arnhart who prefers the impersonal natural truth to what the master actually says) wouldn’t make that mistake. The human SPECIES has remained basically the same and hasn’t been changed by HISTORY, and so the laws of nature–while not eternal–have been the same for our species all along.
So Darwin rightly understood might be the foundation for defending NATURAL RIGHT against HISTORY–against the illusory hopes and fears generated by our false consciousness of freedom.
Then two big issue come up: Does Darwin give an adequate account of who we are by nature? According to the original natural right vs. history guy, Leo Strauss, Darwin can’t explain what’s distinctive about man. For Strauss, the world is the home of the human mind, not the whole human being. And so most or all of our pro-species behavior is based on moral illusions. The philosopher–the most natural kind of human being–is free from being governed by the moral sense or instinct. And he knows enough to know that his most characteristic or philosphic behavior–unesoterically unhidden–is bad for the family, the country, and other forms of pair and group bonding that keep our species around. That means excessive ENLIGHTENMENT is bad for the species (look at the Europeans’ or even sophisticated Americans’ dearth of effective reproductive behavior).
Issue no. 2: If Darwin is right about who we are according to nature, is it any wonder than the only species smart enough to know the truth about nature would engage in a massive techno-rebellion against it? That, in my opinion, is the real message of, say, Locke–not to mention our libertarians these days. More and more, the truth is that the moral sense is waning; I care less and less about being a part of anything bigger or greater than ME.
I’m going to say more, but not right now. See you in Cougar Town.