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Thinking alongside

March 16, 2014

Postings centered on my list of Fundamental books will begin soon, but not quite yet; insert excuse here. For now, I’ll refer the faithful reader to two academic articles I’ve recently come across (though they’re from a few months back). They’re on the longer side and demand a bit of concentration, but they do reward the effort, if you care about the topics. Neither deals directly with books on my fundamentals list, but both tangentially approach my core interests; perhaps a way of putting it is that I would encourage thinking about both of them alongside Moby-Dick. (A good way to define “fundamental,” in the sense of “fundamentals list,” might be “worth not just thinking about, but also thinking alongside.”)

1) “The Iconographic Fiction and Christian Humanism of Flannery O’Connor,” an article in Anamnesis, a traditionalist interdisciplinary academic journal. Offers, among other things, a good close reading of her short story “Parker’s Back.” Compare Parker’s tattoo-lust with Queequeg and Ishmael’s tattoos; both embody, literally, the modern desire for the lost coherence of ancient religion.

2) “The Hollowness of Radical Bioethics,” an article in The New Atlantis (“a journal of science and technology”) by my classmate John Sexton. Offers, in the form of a book review, a charitable critique of inadequate criticisms of radical bioethics, including what I’ve often discussed here, the “transhumanism” movement. I’m reminded again of how whenever one hears “transhumanism,” one should immediately think “Ahab’s peg leg.” Also makes intriguing mention of a so-called “Darwinian conservatism”; what might that turn out to be? Calling Darwin a conservative is almost as strange as calling Melville one–but perhaps neither is entirely wrong.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Wolfe permalink
    March 16, 2014 10:50 pm

    Here’s a couple links by First Things writer Peter Lawler about “Darwinian Conservativism” The Darwinian Conservative Peter focuses on here is Larry Arnhart, who got a degree at UD and writes some really interesting stuff. I remember that MacIntyre quoted something of Arnhart’s in “Dependent Rational Animals”:
    http://bigthink.com/rightly-understood/darwinian-conservatism
    http://bigthink.com/rightly-understood/darwin-vs-christianity-and-transhumanism
    http://bigthink.com/rightly-understood/am-i-all-about-me
    http://bigthink.com/rightly-understood/darwinian-larry-responds

    Basically, I think the thing these contemporary Darwinian conservatives pay attention to beyond anything else is biology- which yields some political conclusions that might be called conservative because they reinforce some traditional notions about sex, motivation to work, and communal interactions.

    There were definitely “Darwinian Conservatives” in an earlier chapter of American history. In the late 1900s one group the Progressives railed against were the “social Darwinists.” In popular culture the social darwinists were intellectuals, especially economists, who advocated a completely hands-off approach to the economic by the government. The strong businesses will survive and the weak should be allowed to fail was their reasoning, similar to natural selection. Progressives argued for much more government regulation of business, and pointed to industrial accidents and monopolies as evidence that there was a problem (one odd thing is, the Progressives incorporated Darwinism into their theories too). Progressives since then have often tried to paint all Conservatives as social darwinists, though the historical social darwinists of the late 19th century were both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. You can even see some social Darwinism in the darling of progressive jurisprudence Oliver Wendell Holmes, who advocated free speech on the basis of the “Free Marketplace” of ideas after all.

    Another interesting point: when I took the “Darwin” class at UD, Dr. Brown encouraged us to put the “Voyage on the Beagle” on our shelves alongside “Moby Dick.” In some strange ways I do think there are some connections to be drawn out between those two books

  2. March 24, 2014 6:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Reason & Existenz and commented:
    Cool

  3. Chris Wolfe permalink
    May 7, 2014 11:22 pm

    Thomist Ed Feser had some interesting things to say about the Darwinian Conservative approach of Arnhart on his blog recently:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2014/05/a-second-exchange-with-keith-parsons.html#more

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