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.
All discussion of excellence rests on a rejection of universal unqualified egalitarianism. Excellence in any field requires a scale of better and worse, and this scale of better and worse rests on the inequality of whatever things are on that scale.
Individual relativism can often come from both conflict avoidance and antipathy toward authority. We should acknowledge that both of these emotional reactions do give us some insights into the truth, but they do not give us any reason to think that excellence is not objective.
Apart from the cheap points we can score by pointing out the internal contradictions of cultural relativism, a much deeper critique can be leveled against the assumption that there is widespread cultural disagreement about core values.
If you would like to browse past essays from the Notebook, you can see the big chronological list in the Archive or you can browse through the list of Tags. In this notebook you can read my attempts to work out my ideas in a public space before they make it into the longer and more polished Essays.