May 25, 2017


Why every smart liberal should read conservative philosopher Peter Lawler (Damon Linker, May 25, 2017, The Week)

Lawler was a great champion of biblical (and specifically Christian) anthropology, with its portrait of human beings as pilgrims wandering in the world, continually, restlessly longing for a sense of completion, home, and belonging that can never be entirely fulfilled in this life. To grasp human beings in all their complexity, politics needs to be given its due as a crucially important mode in which people seek this fulfillment. But politics also needs to be placed in perspective, its limits continually revealed and examined. The philosophical pursuit of wisdom limits politics in this way, and so does the contemplation and worship of God -- both of which grow out of the elemental human experience of wonderment at the world and its grounds. That's why Lawler was fond of saying that the fundamental truth about the human soul is that we are fated to "wonder as we wander, and wander as we wonder."

The alternative is to lose ourselves in ersatz forms of satisfaction -- to delude ourselves into thinking that perfect fulfillment and completion are possible in the world. One example is the idea of moral progress that permeates so much of modern liberal and left-wing thinking. The promise of continual moral improvement eventually culminating in the achievement of perfect justice and reconciliation animates progressivism in all of its forms -- just as some forms of conservatism bleed over into a counter-narrative of moral decline. Lawler never tired of reminding his readers and students of the deeper truth that history is always becoming at once better and worse (in different respects), and that the effort to make us fully at home in the world has the paradoxical effect of making us feel more homeless than ever.

Posted by at May 25, 2017 7:09 AM