Recently, I raised the issue of the worldview of the Resistance to President Trump (“Resistance, in the Light of 1776”). I would like to delve further into the matter. It will take a few installments. Basically, what I hope to do is to put order in some readings, observations, impressions, and overhearings (I live in a university neighborhood, and one establishment I regularly eat at is the aptly named “One World Café”). This effort is neither scientific nor conclusive. Call it “political” in the sense Pierre Manent employs when he says les choses politiques arrivent en gros (“political things first come to sight in rough outline”).
What a year it has been. “Trump wins and the Resistance begins,” might sum it up. Into this maelstrom steps our annual “What would the Declaration say?” reflection. We could turn in three directions: toward Trump; toward “the Resistance”; toward the people who fall outside his devoted followers and fierce opponents, who wish to make some contribution to the commonweal in the midst of low-intensity civil war.
Perhaps the nascent Manent fan club can meet in Paris at the Café de Flore later this summer? There we could raise un verre or two to Manent, expound on our views, and hash out whatever differences we might have. Who knows, perhaps the man himself could join us? Pending that reunion, a brief response to my gracious respondents will have to do. We all agree that Manent is a first-rate thinker, but we do not agree as to how best to characterize his thought. Aurelian Craiutu quotes Manent saying that he moves intellectually within a triangle of politics, philosophy, and…
In response to: Pierre Manent’s Defense of the Nation-State
At the beginning of his career, Pierre Manent spoke of political philosophy’s “healing light.” Likewise, he pointed to Cicero as a classical model of a philosophically informed citizen who could speak to princes and peoples alike about matters of public concern. His modern-day model was his teacher, Raymond Aron. After a period of apprenticeship, then a steady stream of works of political philosophy, Manent himself entered the civic conversation. Beyond Radical Secularism is his most recent contribution, appearing in French as Situation de France in 2015.
It’s been a year since my last little piece on the Declaration of Independence, and what a year it’s been.
On the Right of our political spectrum, one could sum up its events and eventfulness in one word: Trump. A party has been captured by an outsider, the disaffection of millions of its rank-and-file revealed. At the national level, the Grand Old Party is not so grand or even particularly coherent, and some fear it might not last as a party. Something similar can be said of the party of the Left. Substitute “Clinton” and “Sanders” and comparable deep fissures emerge, although perhaps with less likelihood of disintegration.
What light, in terms of principles and manner of thinking about politics, might this context shed?
Goldilocks’ dictum about porridge is the gold standard for all sorts of things. It is also difficult to achieve, as Aristotle’s discussion of the noble mean, the mēson, in Book Two of the Nicomachean Ethics indicates. This is also the case, he explains in the Poetics, for artistic chef d’oeuvres, those works perfect in their genre, with nothing to be added or subtracted from their magnitude or proportions.
While not a work of dramatic fiction, but rather of searching philosophical analysis, French political philosopher Pierre Manent’s Metamorphoses of the City: On the Western Dynamic is one such work.
With Leo Strauss: Man of Peace, Robert Howse situates himself between the two opposing camps of the Strauss-wars. He is neither a Straussian nor an anti-Straussian; and his Leo Strauss is neither the unsurpassable resurrection of the Socratic spirit nor a malevolent teacher of immorality. His Strauss is a “man of peace”: a humane if tough-minded philosopher who confronted the tyrannies and political violence of the 20th century and attempted to make sense of them and the philosophical minds that endorsed or were complicit in them. He sought to do so at the deepest level, not being content with moralistic,…
Last year I penned an analysis and something of a paean to the Declaration of Independence. Perhaps a follow-up is in order. Who knows, perhaps it could become a fourth of July tradition? Certainly there is a good deal more in the famous text than one entry could survey. In fact, the general purpose of this one is to provide material for reflection. That would be a thoughtful way of being patriotic on this day of commemoration and celebration.
The Declaration applies various sorts of principles – theological; anthropological; and political – to a set of “Facts” – chiefly “injuries and usurpations” on the part of the British monarch (and, belatedly, Parliament). It judges the facts as evincing a design of tyranny, and concludes, as it began, with the necessity and duty of revolution and independence, understood as self-government by and for free men and women.
This is an impassioned book about the Declaration of Independence. It comes from specific personal and pedagogical experiences, as its author, a classicist and political theorist at Princeton, winsomely reports. Danielle Allen employs several techniques, some old, some new, in engaging and expositing her book’s central object: what she calls a close, “sentence by sentence” reading of the document, one that sometimes lingers over the meaning of a single term but that also draws upon modern theories of the uses to which language can be put. But while the methods are specific, the aim is quite grand and ambitious: to make…