Tuesday, March 21, 2017

An Addendum To The Previous Post

One of the reasons you would teach manners, Deneen reminds us, is to habituate those good behaviors that you want. He describes how young children start out in no way habituated to eating with good manners. It can be a frustrating period of time, as parents correct and model the better way. They must refuse to give up, because if they do, the proper ways of eating and interacting will become second nature to them. You no doubt have noticed a few breaks in between posts regarding Conserving America?... Yet I find that those posts somewhat unwittingly are grounded in Dr. Deneen's observations. One of the great benefits of Dr. Cross' comments with respect to my infelicitous phrase "what comes naturally to a person" is that it gives us a chance to clarify what we mean when we talk about "human nature," as the professor noted. [You want to link to the Michael Jackson song so bad, don't you?--ed.] Yes.

And here is a provocative thought: Aristotelian virtue ethics makes little sense in a Protestant context. If the Reformers had been right about the impact of the Fall on human nature, the habituation of virtue is a waste of time, at best. The notion of "natural virtue" is a mockery, a contradiction. If man's nature is totally corrupt, he is steeped in vice, and cannot be otherwise. Recognizing this difference, I cannot be surprised at even the liberal Protestant default position on moral claims in public policy: "Why do you expect non-believers to act like Christians?" That question hides an assertion that there is little or nothing to be gained in promoting virtue as such. It's perceived as a theocratic imposition, because theologically and practically, there is no "human nature" to preserve. Thus, no human community worth preserving, except the Church, in this view.

If democratic man is impatient with forms, is this because he is Protestant? Or is he Protestant because he is impatient with forms?

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