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.
Sometimes we cherish things that we would not wish upon our own children. Isn’t this a puzzle? If such things are so good, why would we strive to eliminate the conditions that make them possible? I propose a basic distinction between constrained goods and liberal goods that will help to solve the puzzle.
Science fiction has made popular a certain trope concerning us logicians. The thought is that logic is somehow cold and calculating, the activity of a merely robotic kind of intelligence. Students sometimes assume that this is the point of logic class. Emotions get you into trouble, so your parents want you to be more like Spock. The unfortunate side-effect of the treatment is that you will be less fun at parties. In defense of logicians everywhere, especially those passionate, very-fun-at-parties, Platonic logicians, I submit that this stereotype misses a deep truth about the nature of the human soul.
A curious thing happens when a young man meets Socrates for the first time. To a young man, the humiliation of successful men in the previous generation holds a perennial fascination. They gathered around. They enjoyed the spectacle. They imitated the method. A few of them listened and understood.