So Larry thinks I don’t know ANTS as well as I should but I’m getting there when it comes to members of OUR SPECIES. He “highly recommends” my sympathetic account of moderately socially conservative Darwinian or evolutionary psychologists, particularly Jonathan Haidt (who, like Larry, actually knows a lot about philosophy). It’s true that I think that the better Darwinians teach us some important stuff about who we are as social or relational beings. I would even add that what they teach us isn’t, at times, so different from PORCHERISM. But, of course, I don’t really think the simple-minded distinction of the DARWINIANS between INDIVIDUAL and GROUP comes anywhere near capturing who we are as PERSONAL and RELATIONAL beings. And so the Darwinians, for one thing, don’t really get that LOGOS itself is PERSONAL. The Porchers–or some of them–are stronger on that front. (Update: Brendan in the thread is correct that this post on Larry’s website was actually written by maybe Larry’s best student ever-Professor Ken Blanchard. My apologies: But it’s still pure Larryism.)
There’s also a good article on the Porcher site explaining that Berry’s idea of place isn’t really placism–or fundamentally “geographical.” Jeffrey Bilbro has to work hard to make his case, explaining that you can’t understand Berry’s essays without reading his novels etc. But the bottom line: What Wendell really means is that it’s good when you know your place, and it’s bad when you don’t. And finding one’s place is multidimensional, culminating in your place in nature or creation. So there’s no room for the Christian idea found in Pascal, Percy, and O’Connor of being “at home with your homelessness.” I’ve gone down this road before, and so I’ve actually thought of at least emphasizing something new this morning.
What Berry’s idea of place also lacks is any sense of what Pascal and Tocqueville call THE TRUE GREATNESS OF MAN. So what PORCHERS need is to be ELEVATED by a heapin’ helping of Southern Stoicism–of Sartoris, Atticus Finch, William Alexander Percy, and Tom Wolfe. A Southern Stoic knows who he is and what he’s supposed to do in every situation. That’s because he’s a rational man in possession of himself and practices the virtues of magnanimity and generosity. He’s also a member of a noble class, a natural aristocracy composed of great men who have appeared throughout history. He assumes the place of a gentleman who knows how and takes pleasure in ruling himself and others.
To end up at the beginning: Darwinian conservatives such as Ken and Larry connect Darwinian natural right with the natural right Aristotle described in the NICOMACHEAN ETHICS and the POLITICS. But the SOUTHERN STOIC could find his full PLACE in that Aristotelian version of NATURAL RIGHT, but in nothing written by Darwin or Darwinian Larry or Jonathan Haidt. What MAN IN FULL wants to hear about his EMPATHY? We can also see, for that matter, that the Berryites and Porchers are also too tone deaf to the pleasures and responsibilities of political life. To return to our theme of Southern generals, maybe they need a dose (not too strong a one, admittedly) of Robert E. Lee or George Washington.
Well, why not a second ending? If I were to go on, I would have to connect Aristotelian magnanimity with Pascalian displacement (or anxiety) in a full account of PLACE and DISPLACEMENT in describing THE TRUE GREATNESS OF MAN. That’s the challenge of 21st century Thomism, and both Walker Percy and Tocqueville give us lots of clues on how to take it up.