It is easy to think that the incremental move away from bare survival in the woods is a move away from nature. But culture is natural to man because human nature is to cultivate, in all the senses of that word’s root, the Latin word colo: to till the soil, to reap the fruits, to inhabit the same estate generation after generation, to devote oneself to the perfecting of something beautiful, to worship. Man is the cultural animal. We are Homo Colens.
An exploration of the concepts of personhood, personal identity, and personality in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s Liturgy and Personality, presented at the Hildebrand Colloquium on the Sacred, Catholic University of America, October 2021.
If any people in history knew it, the Romans knew how to be serious over serious things. Next to the cultured poets and philosophers of Athens, the Romans saw themselves as a race of soldiers and farmers. The religious rites that Numa instituted early in Rome’s history cultivated a deep reverence for ancestry and custom, for bonds between neighbors, and for those boundaries that designate and hallow sacred ground.
In the last two posts, we explored two ways of thinking about freedom that I have argued are ultimately inadequate. In this post, I will articulate a third option that I believe preserves the best intuitions in these two models while avoiding their inadequacies. This third option conceives of freedom on analogy with an artist’s act of creation.
Echoing the sentiments of some sophists contemporary with Socrates, Nietzsche articulates a thoroughly constructivist (and therefore dismissive) account of conventional values. We have the capacity, by our own acts of esteeming not simply to select from objectively given options, but to create the very options and the terms in which we value them.
In Plato’s famous Myth of Er, we find a memorable image that becomes a major source of inspiration for Western thinking about freedom. In this post I argue that it encourages us to think about freedom as a kind of selection from objectively given alternatives, and that this is ultimately misleading.