Monday, December 08, 2008

Have we lost the ability to speak of the common good?

Anthony Esolen, one of our ten modern wise men, expounds on the etiolated condition of our modern political discourse:
It seems as if we have flattened our discussion of liberty to two dimensions, namely, what I feel like doing, because I am what is called an "individual," and what large government machines want me to do, in order to secure some ideal like equality or the End of Poverty or Peace in our Time. Gone is all notion of the community, and of those small groups -- families, fraternities, school boards, volunteer firemen, whatever -- that are essential to a fully human life, and that themselves are the means for the exercise of, and enhancement of, liberty. We don't have a notion of what I've called in these pages an Individualism of Responsibility, an individualism built upon my competence to perform the duties expected of me by my neighborhood and my community. That is, we don't have an individualism founded upon the shared expectation of virtue. If Richard Weaver was right about this, it's because we have inherited the spiritual and epistemological inversion of subjecting the intellect to the will. For it is impossible to talk about virtue without searching, with the intellect, for the Good that does not change from age to age, although our circumstances from age to age may require us, in prudence, to seek that Good under different forms and in different ways.
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