What's with David Brooks?

And his burgeoning determinism?:
"Supreme Court justices, like all of us, are emotional intuitionists. They begin their decision-making processes with certain models in their heads. These are models of how the world works and should work, which have been idiosyncratically ingrained by genes, culture, education, parents and events. These models shape the way judges perceive the world. "


a must read

Professor Leon Kass delivers the 2009 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, (he follows the great Harvey Mansfield).

Peter Lawler comments:
Kass discovered through his personal experience that he was, from one view, more of a humanist than a scientist. He "found that I loved my patients and their stories more than I loved solving the puzzles of their diseases." His fellow scientists "found disease fascinating," but he found particular people fascinating, especially "how they struggled with suffering." Solving puzzles is the particular pleasure of the impersonal scientist and the philosopher; loving or even personally identifying with the tough personal struggles of patients or interlocutors was not even a characteristic of Socrates. Kass, the scientist, "tasted the great pleasures of independent discovery" during "the golden age of molecular biology," but those, it seems, were never his greatest pleasures or deepest concerns. Kass's distinctive concerns must have continued to owe something to the personal decency of his "saintly" and "moralist" parents, as much to his exposure to the questioning characteristic of Great Books Theirs, because of their quasi-religious community, was not the kind of quasi-socialism that abstracted from the greatness and misery of ordinary persons.

Kass adds that he "hated the autopsy room, not out of fear of death, but because the post mortem exam could never answer my question: What happened to my patient?" The medical explanation of the cause of death "was utterly incommensurable with the awesome massive fact" he could see with his own eyes. Death is "the extinction of this never-to-be repeated human being, for whom I had cared and for whom his survivors now grieve." Science is incapable of wondering properly about both the reality of and the utter disappearance of the unique and irreplaceable person. Our desire to know is not properly animated without some assistance from personal care and grief.

It would seem that, from the beginning, Kass was a humanistic dissenter from a scientific consensus about the true relationship between eros and logos. (I know I promised Rousseau and all that. Next time...)


we live by belief

There are in the life of a human being many more truths which are simply believed rather than truths which are acquired by the way of personal verification. Who, for instance, could assess critically the countless scientific findings upon which modern life is based? Who could personally examine the flow of information which comes day after day from all parts of the world and which is generally accepted as true? Who in the end could forge anew the paths of experience and thought which have yielded the treasures of human wisdom and religion? This means that the human being - the one who seeks the truth - is also the one who lives by belief. In believing, we entrust ourselves to the knowledge acquired by other people... Belief is often humanly richer than mere evidence, because it involves an interpersonal relationship and brings into play not only a person's capacity to know but also the deeper capacity to entrust oneself to others, to enter into a relationship with them which is intimate and enduring...

- Pope John Paul II
For Christians, belief in God is not blind. Like the many truths of science, belief in God is based on knowledge.


the jobs the government has created

Mark Steyn surveys them briefly in his latest column:
I was in Vermont the other day and made the mistake of picking up the local paper. Impressively, it contained a quarter-page ad, a rare sight these days. The rest of the page was made up by in-house promotions for the advertising department’s special offer on yard-sale announcements, etc. But the one real advertisement was from something called SEVCA. SEVCA is a “non-profit agency,” just like the New York Times, General Motors, and the State of California. And it stands for “South-Eastern Vermont Community Action.”

Why, they’re “community organizers,” just like the president! The designated “anti-poverty agency” is taking out quarter-page ads in every local paper is because they’re “seeking applicants for several positions funded in full or part by the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act (ARRA)” — that’s the “stimulus” to you and me. Isn’t it great to see those bazillions of stimulus dollars already out there stimulating the economy? Creating lots of new jobs at SEVCA, in order to fulfill the president’s promise to “create or keep” 2.5 million jobs. At SEVCA, he’s not just keeping all the existing ones, but creating new ones, too. Of the eight new positions advertised, the first is:

“ARRA Projects Coordinator.”

Gotcha. So the first new job created by the stimulus is a job “coordinating” other programs funded by the stimulus. What’s next?


That’s how they spell it. Like in Star Wars — Luke Grantwriter waving his hope saber as instructed by his mentor Obi-Bam Baracki (“May the Funds be with you!”). The Grantwriter will be responsible for writing grant applications “to augment ARRA funds.” So the second new job created by stimulus funding funds someone to petition for additional funding for projects funded by the stimulus.

The third job is a “Marketing Specialist” to increase “public awareness of ARRA-funded services.” Rural Vermont’s economy is set for a serious big-time boom: The critical stimulus-promotion industry, stimulus-coordination industry, and stimulus-supplementary-funding industry are growing at an unprecedented rate. The way things are going we’ll soon need a Stimulus-Coordination Industry Task Force and Impact Study Group. By the way, these jobs aren’t for everyone. “Knowledge of ARRA” is required. So if, say, you’re the average United States senator who voted for ARRA without bothering to read it, you’re not qualified for a job as an ARRA Grantwriter.
This must be what Americans want the government to do?


Notre Dame canonizes Barack Obama

Father Jenkins presiding.


Peter Lawler says:

Larry Arnhart explains that a Darwinian conservative believes that religious belief can be socially useful and, for that reason, salutary. A metaphysical conservative, such as ME, believes that religious belief can actually be true. He adds that Hume and Tocqueville agree with him and not ME by understanding all religion as basically civil religion. But Tocqueville actually agrees with ME. Alexis does understand religion, in part, as the foundation of a politically beneficial common morality. But he goes further: He says that the individual’s soul has needs which can be denied or distorted but not destroyed. He adds that, in democratic times, Christianity is the carrier of what’s true about aristocracy: Human beings are hardwired to have thoughts and produce deeds that point in the direction of immortality, and that materialism–or the denial of personal, immaterial greatness–is pernicious as a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. If we believe everything we do is ephemeral, then in fact it will be. Tocqueville goes even further: He explains that people are restless in the midst of prosperity because they’re particularly haunted by and disgusted with the prospect of personal mortality, and the effort to satisfy spiritual needs through materialistic or just mundane pursuits produces a kind of constant effort at diversion that can approach madness. So Tocqueville agrees with ME that human greatness soars far beyond anything experienced by the other animals. And that’s, in part, because we’re the animal with metaphysical needs: We experience ourselves as particular beings caught for a moment between two abysses, and our pursuit of greatness is intertwined with a fundamental anxiety about who we are. Tocqueville opposes pantheism on behalf of personal religion–religion that addresses the needs of individuals and can account for the irreducible greatness of human individuality.

Tocqueville, I think, was not actually a Christian believer. But he follows the Christians in refusing to reduce religion to merely impersonal NATURAL or CIVIL theology And that’s, in part, because of Tocqueville’s irreducible debt to Pascal. Locke, as Paul Rahe has recently showed, had a somewhat similar debt, which is why he and Tocqueville understood the fundamental human condition to be UNEASINESS.




Great article on the mind of Barack Obama here.

I think I will read his book, "The Audacity of Hope". It's not all that often we have a President who has authored two autobiographies before the age of 50.


“The Happiness of the People”

Charles Murray gave the Irving Kristol lecture several weeks ago at the American Enterprise Institute’s annual dinner.
"To become a source of deep satisfaction, a human activity has to meet some stringent requirements. It has to have been important (we don't get deep satisfaction from trivial things). You have to have put a lot of effort into it (hence the cliché "nothing worth having comes easily"). And you have to have been responsible for the consequences...There aren't many activities in life that can satisfy those three requirements. Having been a good parent. That qualifies. A good marriage. That qualifies. Having been a good neighbor and good friend to those whose lives intersected with yours. That qualifies. And having been really good at something--good at something that drew the most from your abilities. That qualifies...Let me put it formally: If we ask what are the institutions through which human beings achieve deep satisfactions in life, the answer is that there are just four: family, community, vocation, and faith…It is not necessary for any individual to make use of all four institutions, nor do I array them in a hierarchy. I merely assert that these four are all there are...The stuff of life--the elemental events surrounding birth, death, raising children, fulfilling one's personal potential, dealing with adversity, intimate relationships--coping with life as it exists around us in all its richness--occurs within those four institutions...Seen in this light, the goal of social policy is to ensure that those institutions are robust and vital. And that's what's wrong with the European model. It doesn't do that. It enfeebles every single one of them."
Greg Forster has posted an excellence response/critique. Which resonates more?


The Awesomeness of Truth

EWTN hosts a phenomenal preacher named Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers. His shows are a powerful and persuasive exegesis of the Bible and Christian teaching, and I recommend them most highly. For those of us with iPODs or iPhones or iToasters or whatever, EWTN beneficently provides his lectures in mp3 form. You can find them here. If you are so inclined, let me know what you think!


David Souter is Retiring

Obama will appoint two new justices to the Supreme Court in his first term.