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AEIAmericanEnterpriseInstituteforPublicPolicyResearch

"LookingforanHonestMan"
ReflectionsofanUnlicensedHumanist ByLeonR.Kass
JeffersonLecture Thursday,May21,2009

ABSTRACT

LeonR.Kass,M.D.,wasnamedthe2009JeffersonLecturerbytheNationalEndowmentforthe Humanities.TheJeffersonLectureisthefederalgovernment'shighesthonorforachievementinand contributiontothehumanities.Dr.KassdeliveredhislecturebeforeafullhouseattheWarner TheatreinWashington,D.C.,onMay21.Hisremarks,aspreparedfordelivery,follow.

Thankyouverymuch,Prof.McClay,foryourmostkindandgenerousintroduction. ChairmanWatson,membersoftheNationalCouncilontheHumanitiesandstaffofthe NationalEndowmentfortheHumanities,ladiesandgentlemen.Iamprofoundlygratefulto theNationalEndowmentfortheHumanitiesforthegreathonoryouhavebestowedupon me.AndIthankyouallforyourhonoringpresenceherethisevening. Nowthatthishourhasarrived,Imustfinallyacceptthefactthattonight'slectureisreally minetodeliver.WhenChairmanBruceColecalledlastautumntoinvitemetogivethenext JeffersonLecture,mystunnedsilencecoveredabarelystifled"Who,me?"Iknewwellthe rosterofhumanistgiantswhohadgonebefore.WhilstamemberoftheNEHCouncil,Ihad helpedtoselectsixorsevenofthem,andIevenhadthehonorofintroducingGertrude HimmelfarbandLeszekKolakowskifortheirJeffersonLectures.Whatintheworldcould theEndowmentbethinking?ThefieldsforwhichIhavetrained,medicineand biochemistry,Ineitherpracticenorteach.ForthefieldsinwhichIteachandpractice,Ihave noformaltraining.Iambutanamateurhumanist,notonlywithoutgreatscholarly distinctionbutalsowithoutalicense. ItistruethatIhavelongbeendevotedtoliberaleducation,andalongwithmywife,Amy Kass,andafewothercolleaguesattheUniversityofChicago,Ihelpedfoundasuccessful commoncorehumanitiescourse,"HumanBeingandCitizen,"aswellasanunusualB.A. program,"Fundamentals:IssuesandTexts,"whichIchairedformanyyears,that emphasizesbasichumanquestionspursuedthroughtheintensivestudyofclassictexts.I havealsoraisedhightheoftabandonedbannerofhumanisticinquiry,andhavetriedinmy teachingandwritingtoshowitsindispensablevalueforlivingthoughtfullyandchoosing

wiselyinourhypertechnologicalage.Inaddition,Ihavebeenwillingtospeakupin defenseofourthreatenedhumandignity,seekingtoremindourcontemporariesof forgottentruthsthat,inamoresensibleage,wouldhaveneedednodefense.Finally, perhapsbecauseIamanunlicensedhumanist,Ihavepursuedthehumanitiesforanold fashionedpurposeinanoldfashionedway:Ihavesoughtwisdomaboutthemeaningof ourhumanity,largelythroughteachingandstudyingthegreatworksofwiserandnobler humanbeings,whohavebequeathedtoustheirprofoundaccountsofthehumancondition. Thislectureis,inpart,anattempttomakesenseofmyadoptedcareerasunlicensed humanist.Iofferitnotasanapologiaprovitamea,butratherinthebeliefthatmyown intellectualjourneyisofmorethanidiosyncraticinterest.AlthoughthepathIhavefollowed issurelypeculiar,thequestformyhumanityisasearchforwhatweallhaveincommon. ThepointisnotwhatIhavelearned,butratherwhatIhavelearnedand,therefore,what anyonecanlearnwithandthroughthehumanities.Thislectureis,mostofall,my expressionofgratitudetotheNationalEndowmentfortheHumanitiesand,especially,to theRepublicofLettersforwhichitstands. EveryonehasheardthestoryofDiogenestheCynicwhowentaroundthesunlitstreetsof Athens,lanterninhand,lookingforanhonestman.ThissameDiogenes,whenheheard Platobeingpraisedfordefiningmanas"ananimal,bipedandfeatherless,"threwaplucked chickenintotheAcademy,saying,"HereisPlatonicman!"ThesetalesdisplayDiogenes' cynicismasbothethicalandphilosophical:heisrememberedformockingthepossibilityof findinghumanvirtueandformockingthepossibilityofknowinghumannature.Inthese respects,thelegendaryDiogeneswouldfeelrightathometodayinmanyanAmerican university,whereaprofessedinterestinhumannatureandhumanexcellenceor,more generally,intruthandgoodnessinvitesreactionsrangingfrommildridiculeforone's naivettooutrightdenunciationforone'sattractiontosuchdiscreditedanddangerous notions. TracingthestoriesaboutDiogenestheCynictotheirsource,inDiogenesLaertius'Livesof EminentPhilosophers,onediscoversthattheapocryphalstoryissomewhatembroideredif notincorrect.Yes,Diogeneslitalanterninbroaddaylight,buthedidnotsayhewas lookingforanhonestman.Whathesaidwas,"Iamlookingfor[or'seeking']human being"anthrponzetoeitherahumanbeingorthehumanbeing,eitheranexemplarorthe ideaofhumanity,orboth.Tobesure,purportingtoseektheanswerbymeansof candlepoweraffirmsDiogenes'badgeascynic.Butthepicturealsosuggestsamanwho refusestobetakeninbycomplacentpopularbeliefsthatwealreadyknowhumangoodness fromourdailyexperienceorbyconfidentprofessorialclaimsthatwecancapturethe mysteryofourhumanityindefinitions.Butmockingornot,andperhapsspeakingbetter thanheknew,Diogenesgaveelegantlysimpleexpressiontothehumanistquestforself knowledge:Iseekthehumanbeingmyhumanbeing,yourhumanbeing,ourhumanity.In fact,theembellishedversionofDiogenes'questioncomestothesamething:toseekan honestmanis,atonce,toseekahumanbeingworthyofthename,anhonesttogoodness exemplaroftheideaofhumanity,atruthfulandtruthspeakingembodimentoftheanimal havingthepowerofarticulatespeech.

Boastingonlyofhavingundertakenhissearchwithoutagrainofcynicism,Iconfessmyself aninheritorofDiogenes'quest.Inplaceofalantern,Ihavelitmyjourneywiththelightof booksgreatandgood,and,equallyimportant,withthecompanyofteachersandstudents, friendsandlovedones,whowereonasimilarquest. Toseekanhonestmanis,atonce,toseekahumanbeingworthyofthename,anhonestto goodnessexemplaroftheideaofhumanity,atruthfulandtruthspeakingembodimentof theanimalhavingthepowerofarticulatespeech. Ibeganmytravelsnotwiththisquestion,butratherwithitsanswer.Iwasrearedina Yiddishspeaking,secularJewishhome,afirstgenerationAmericanwhoseparents,of blessedmemoryasaintlyfatherandamoralistmotherhadimmigratedviaCanadafrom theUkraineandfromPoland.Godhavingbeenleftbehind,alongwiththeCzarandthe RussianRevolution,"humanity"wasthefocusofallthatmyparentstriedtoteach.The Yiddishtranslationof"anthrpos"or"humanbeing"ismentsch,awonderfullycapacious notionatonceprosaicallydescriptiveandinspiringlynormative.Tobementschlichistobe humane,behavingdecentlyandconsideratelytowardothers;butitisalsotobehuman, displayinginone'scharacterandconductthespeciesspecificdignityadvertisedinour uniquelyuprightposture.Mentschlichkeit,"humanity,"thedispositionandpracticeofboth "humaneness"and"humanness,"wasthusthequasireligiousteachingofmyhome,andits contentwhollymoralandwhollyappealingwentunquestioned:personalintegrityand honesty,selfrespectandpersonalresponsibility,considerationandrespectforeveryhuman person(alsoequallyamentsch),compassionforthelessfortunate,andaconcernfor fairness,justice,andrighteousness.Tobecomeandtobeamentsch:thatwastheconscious andarticulatedgoaltowardwhichallofmyearlyrearingwasdirected. TwothingsIdidnotunderstanduntilmuchlater.First,IdidnotknowthattheYiddishkeit ofmyyouthwithitsuniversalismandquasisocialismrepresentedadeliberatecultural alternativetotraditionalJudaism,onwhoseteachingsitwasinfactparasitic:theprophets, onemightsay,withouttheLaw.Second,Ididnotappreciatethatthecontentof mentschlichkeitwasinfactadisputablequestion,andthattherewereandarelarge differencesofopinion,andevenirresolvabletensions,regardingitsmeaning.Thelatter errorwasthefirsttobecorrected.Indeed,myforayintothehumanitieswouldbeginin earnestonlywhenIdiscoveredthattheinjunctionto"beamentsch"requiredserious reflection,bothphilosophicalandethical,onthemeaningofourhumanity. Theseedsofsuchreflection,bearingfruitonlyyearslater,wereplantedattheUniversityof Chicago.There,inthestilllivingremainsofthecollegecreatedbyRobertHutchins,Ifirst encounteredphilosophicalquestionsbeyondthedomainofethics,aswellassomeofthe competinganswerstoquestionsabouthumannatureandhumangood.Iwasintroducedto theideaoflearningasanendinitself,fulfillingourhumancapacityforunderstanding.I acquiredaneducationalprejudiceinfavorofdiscussingthegreatquestionsandreadingthe GreatBooks,thoughitwouldtakeseveralyearsbeforeIlearnedwhytheseprejudiceswere justified.Iwitnessedupclosethedignityofthelifeofteaching,forweweretaughtbyan exemplaryfaculty,tenurednotfortheirrecordofpublicationsbutfortheirdevotionto teachingandfordevisinganintegratedcourseofstudythatcouldturnyoungignoramuses

intoliberallyeducatedmenandwomen.InSocraticspirit,theyinsistedthatweexamineall ourintellectualassumptionsandstartingpoints,andtheyencouragedustoput fundamentalphilosophicalquestionseventothenaturalsciences:Whatistherelation betweenmatterandform?Whatmakesanorganismaunifiedandlivingwhole?Whatisthe natureofthepsycheorsoul? ThesesortsofquestionslaydormantasIentereduponabriefcareerinmedicine,in retrospectanotherimportantstationonthepathtothehuman.Preclinicalstudiesleftmein aweofthemarvelthatisthehumanbodyandthestunningeventsbeneaththesurfacethat sustainourexistenceandenableourremarkableinteractionswiththeworld.Clinical experienceleftmeinaweoftheprivilegeandperilofofferingahelpinghandtofellow humanbeingsintimesofcrisis.AlthoughIcouldnotthenarticulateit,Iwasalsomindfulof therareprivilege,givensolelytophysicians,tobeadmittedtotheinnersanctumofthe patient'sworld,wherewewitnesshumanbeings,strippedofpretenceandsustainedonly byhope,trust,andtheloveofkithandkin,negotiatenotonlytheirsicknessesandsuffering, butalsotheanxietyofbeingfacetofacewiththeirownmortality.Notfornothingwere medievaltextbooksofmedicineentitled,DeHomine"OnMan,"or"OntheHumanBeing." Notfornothingwasmedicineonceanhonoredbranchonthehumanistictree. Yetpreciselyaroundthesubjectofourhumanity,Ifoundsomethingmissing.Thescience wasindeedpowerful,butitsselfunderstandingleftmuchtobedesired.Itknewthehuman partsineverfinerdetail,butitconcerneditselflittlewiththehumanwhole.Medicine,then andnow,hasnoconceptofthehumanbeing,ofthepeculiarandremarkableconcretionof psycheandsomathatmakesusthatmoststrangeandwonderfulamongthecreatures. Psychiatry,thenandevenmorenow,issolittlechagrinedbyitsfailuretosaywhatthe psycheorsoulisthatitdeniesitsexistencealtogether.Theartofhealingdoesnotinquire intowhathealthis,orhowtogetandkeepit:theword"health"doesnotoccurintheindex oftheleadingtextbooksofmedicine.Tojudgefromthewaywemeasuremedicalprogress, largelyintermsofmortalitystatisticsanddefeatsofdeadlydiseases,onegetstheunsettling impressionthatthetacitgoalofmedicineisnothealthbutratherbodilyimmortality,with everydeathtodayregardedasatragedythatfuturemedicalresearchwillprevent.And, comingdownfromtheorytopractice,IfoundthatIlovedmypatientsandtheirstories morethanIlovedsolvingthepuzzleoftheirdiseases;wheremycolleaguesfounddisease fascinating,Iwasfascinatedmorebythepatientshowtheylived,howtheystruggledwith theirsuffering.Aboveall,Ihatedtheautopsyroom,notoutoffearofdeath,butbecausethe postmortemexamcouldneveranswermyquestion:Whathappenedtomypatient?The clotinhiscoronaryartery,hisrupturedbowel,orwhateverdiseasedbodypartthatthe pathologistdisplayedastheputativeexplanationofhisdeathwasutterlyincommensurable withtheawesomemassivefact,theextinctionofthisnevertoberepeatedhumanbeing,for whomIhadcaredandforwhomhissurvivorsnowgrieve. Despitetheseinchoatereservations,however,Icontinuedtofollowthepathofscience, indeedtoanevenmoremolecularlevel.IenteredthePhDprograminbiochemistryand molecularbiologyatHarvard,andwasprivilegedtoshareinthegreatexcitementofthe goldenageofmolecularbiology.Workinghappilyonmyownproject,Itastedthegreat pleasuresofindependentdiscovery.Butmybiggestdiscoverycameoutsideofthe

laboratory. Insummer1965,interruptingmyresearch,AmyandIwenttoMississippitodocivilrights work.WelivedwithafarmercoupleinruralHolmesCounty,inahousewithnotelephone, hotwater,orindoortoilet.Wevisitedmanyfamiliesinthecommunity,participatedintheir activities,andhelpedwithvoterregistrationandothereffortstoencouragethepeopleto organizethemselvesindefenseoftheirrights.Thisdeeplymovingexperiencechangedmy life,butnotinthewayIexpected. ForonreturningtoCambridge,IwasnaggedbyadisparityIcouldnotexplainbetweenthe uneducated,poorblackfarmersinMississippiandmanyofmyprivileged,highlyeducated graduatestudentfriendsatHarvard.Amanoftheleft,Ihadunthinkinglyheldthe Enlightenmentviewofthecloseconnectionbetweenintellectualandmoralvirtue: educationandprogressinscienceandtechnologywouldovercomesuperstition,poverty, andmisery,allowinghumanbeingstobecomeatlastthemorallysuperiorcreaturesthat onlynature'sstinginessandreligiousorsocialoppressionhadkeptthemfrombeing.Yetin MississippiIsawpeoplelivinghonorablyinperilousandmeagercircumstances,manyof themilliterate,butsustainedbyreligion,extendedfamily,andcommunityattachment,and bytheprideofhonestfarmingandhomemaking.Indeed,theyseemedtodisplaymore integrity,decency,andstrengthofcharacter,andlessselfabsorptionandselfindulgence, thandidmanyofmyhighmindedHarvardfriendswhosharedmyprogressiveopinions. Howcouldthisbe? Insummer1966,myclosestfriendhadmereadRousseau'sexplosiveDiscourseontheArts andSciences,forwhichmyMississippiandHarvardexperienceshadpreparedme. Rousseauarguesthat,pacetheEnlightenment,progressintheartsandsciencesnecessarily producesluxury,augmentsinequality,debasestastes,softenscharacter,corruptsmorals, andweakenspatriotism,leadingultimatelynottohumanemancipationbuttohuman servitude. Rousseaucomplainsthatwritersand"idlemenofletters"theequivalentofourpublic intellectuals,nottosayprofessorssubvertdecentopinionandcorruptthecitizens:"These vainandfutiledeclaimersgoeverywherearmedwiththeirdeadlyparadoxes,undermining thefoundationsoffaithandannihilatingvirtue.Theysmiledisdainfullyattheold fashionedwordsoffatherlandandreligion,anddevotetheirtalentsandphilosophyto destroyinganddebasingallthatissacredamongmen." Andhecomplainsthatformaleducationcorruptstheyoung:"Iseeeverywhereimmense institutionswhereyoungpeoplearebroughtupatgreatexpense,learningeverything excepttheirduties....Withoutknowinghowtodistinguisherrorfromtruth,[your children]willpossesstheartofmakingthembothunrecognizabletoothersbyspecious arguments.Buttheywillnotknowwhatthewordsmagnanimity,equity,temperance, humanity,courageare;thatsweetnamefatherlandwillneverstriketheirear;andifthey hearofGod,itwillbelesstobeawedbyhimthantobeafraidofhim."Nowadays, RousseaumightsayinsteadthatiftheyhearofGod,itislesstobeawedbyhimthanto mockhim.

CouldRousseauberight?Isitreallytruethatthenaturalhomeofintellectualprogressisnot thenaturalhomeofmoralandcivicvirtue?Isitreallytruethat,astheartsandsciences climbupward,somorals,taste,andcitizenshipslidedownward,and,what'sworse,thatthe riseoftheformercausesthefallofthelatter?Ifso,allthatIhadbelievedaboutthesimple harmonybetweenintellectualandmoralprogresswascalledintoquestion.Andifthe Enlightenmentviewwasnotcorrect,whatshouldIthinkinstead?Forthefirsttimeinmy life,Iacquiredsomerealquestions,pressingquestions,morechallengingthanthoseonecan answerinthelaboratory.Acrevicehadopenedinmyunderstandingofmentschlichkeit, betweenthehumanecommitmentsofcompassionandequalityandthehumanaspirationto excellenceanduprightdignity. ThiscrevicewouldwidenwiththetwobooksIreadrightafterRousseau,AldousHuxley's BraveNewWorldandC.S.Lewis'TheAbolitionofMan.Thefirstdepictsafuturesociety thatthroughgeneticengineering,psychoactivedrugs,andappliedpsychologyhas succeededinriddingtheworldofalltheevilsagainstwhichcompassionate humanitarianismtodaydoesbattlewar,poverty,anddisease;anxiety,suffering,andguilt; hatred,envy,andgriefonlytohaveitpeopledbycreaturesofhumanshapebutofstunted humanity.Theyconsume,fornicate,take"soma,"enjoythe"feelies"and"centrifugal bumblepuppy,"andoperatethemachinerythatmakesitallpossible.Theydonotread, write,think,love,orgovernthemselves.Artandscience,virtueandreligion,familyand friendshipareallpass.Nooneaspirestoanythinghigherthanbodilyhealthand immediategratification.Worstofall,thedenizensoftheBraveNewWorldareso dehumanizedthattheyhavenoideaofwhattheyaremissing. ItookupdirectlyDiogenes'searchforanthrpos,hopingbystudyingnotthehiddenparts ofthehumanbeingbutthemanifestactivitiesofthewhole,visibleinbroaddaylight,the bettertounderstandhishonesttogoodnesshumanityandtohelppromotehistrue flourishing.Withoutrealizingit,Ibecameahumanist. AccordingtoC.S.Lewis,thedehumanizationthreatenedbythemasteryofnaturehas,atits deepestcause,lesstheemergingbiotechnologiesthatmightdirectlydenaturebodiesand flattensouls,moretheunderlyingvalueneutral,soullessandheartlessaccountsthatscience proffersoflivingnatureandofman.Byexpungingfromitsaccountoflifeanynotionof soul,aspiration,andpurpose,andbysettingitselfagainsttheevidenceofourlived experience,modernbiologyultimatelyunderminesourselfunderstandingascreaturesof freedomanddignity,aswellasourinheritedteachingsregardinghowtolive,teachings linkedtophilosophicalanthropologiesthatsciencehasnowseeminglydethroned. Forme,thesearchforanthrpossuddenlyacquiredgenuineurgencyandpoignancy,as thesethreatstoourhumanitycamenotfrombigotsandtyrantsbutfromtherightly celebratedwellwishersandbenefactorsofhumankind.Couldwecontinuetoreapthe benefitsofournewbiologyandouremergingbiotechnologieswithouterodingourfreedom anddignity?Whatfeaturesofourhumanitymostneededdefending,bothinpracticeandin thought?Whatsolidideasofhumannatureandhumangoodcouldbesummonedtothe cause?

Pursuitofthesequestionswouldrequireachangeofdirectionandadifferentapproachto humanaffairs.In1970,IputawayscalpelandmicroscopetotakeupdirectlyDiogenes' searchforanthrpos,hopingbystudyingnotthehiddenpartsofthehumanbeingbutthe manifestactivitiesofthewhole,visibleinbroaddaylight,thebettertounderstandhis honesttogoodnesshumanityandtohelppromotehistrueflourishing.Withoutrealizingit, Ibecameahumanist. Atthattime,somescientistsandhumanists,notafewofthementhusiastsofa"posthuman "future,wereaddressingthegapbetweenourscienceandourethicsbyproposinganew, "sciencebasedethics"andbycallinguponusto"keepup"with,andtoadaptourselvesto, themassivechangesinhumanlifecausedbygallopingscientificandtechnologicalprogress. Butmyintuitionsledmeintheoppositedirection:totrytocorrectthedeficienciesofour scientificunderstandingofhumannature,andtoreinforce,wherepossible,thebestofwhat wehavelearnedabouthumangoodnessandhumanflourishing.Inthesepursuits,Ihave soughtoutthebestthathasbeensaidandthoughtbythosewhohavegonebeforenot becausetheyareoldandnotbecausetheyareours,butbecausetheymighthelpusdiscover vitaltruthsthatwewouldotherwisenotseeonourown.Nofriendofhumanityshould tradetheaccumulatedwisdomabouthumannatureandhumanflourishingforsomehalf cockedpromisetoproduceasuperiorhumanbeingorhumansociety,nevermindapost humanfuture,beforehehastakenthetroubletolookdeeply,withallthehelphecanget, intothematterofourhumanitywhatitis,whyitmatters,andhowwecanbeallthatwe canbe. AsIlookbackoverthenearlyfortyyearssinceIlefttheworldofsciencetoreflectonits humanmeaning,threedistinctbutrelatedpursuitsstandout:First,addressingthe conceptualdanger,stressedbyLewis,ofasoullessscienceoflife,Ihaveworkedtowarda morenaturalscience,truertolifeaslived.Second,addressingthepracticaldanger,stressed byHuxley,ofdehumanizationresultingfromthereliefofman'sestate,Ihaveworked towardaricherpictureofhumandignityandhumanflourishing.Andthird,addressingthe socialandpoliticaldangers,stressedbyRousseau,ofculturaldecayandenfeeblement,I havelookedforculturalteachingsthatcouldkeepusstronginheartandsoul,nolessthan inbodyandbankaccount.Letme,inthetimeremaining,sharewithyouafewhighpoints fromthesethreeinquiries. Findinga"morenaturalscience"wouldservetwoimportantgoals.First,bydoingjusticeto lifeaslived,itwouldcorrecttheslanderperpetrateduponalloflivingnature,andupon humannatureinparticular,intreatingthegloriousactivitiesoflifeasmereepiphenomena ofchangesintheunderlyingmatterormeredevicesforthereplicationofDNA.Second,and morepositively,byofferingaricheraccountofhumannaturefaithfulbothtoouranimality andtothehumandifference,itmightprovidepointerstowardhowwemightbestliveand flourish.Towardbothgoals,a"morenaturalscience"examinesdirectlytheprimary activitiesoflifeaswecreaturesexperiencethemandrevisitscertaindiscreditedorneglected notions,oncethoughtindispensableforunderstandingthebeinganddoingofallhigher animals.

Againstthematerialistswhobelievethatallvitalactivitiescanbefullyunderstoodby describingtheelectrochemicalchangesintheunderlyingmatter,Isawthenecessityof appreciatingtheactivitiesoflifeintheirownterms,andasknownfromtheinside:whatit meanstohunger,feel,see,imagine,think,desire,seek,suffer,enjoy.Atthesametime, againstthosehumanists,who,concedingtomechanisticsciencealltruthsaboutourbodies, locateourhumanitysolelyinconsciousnessorwillorreason,Isawthenecessityof appreciatingtheprofoundmeaningofourdistinctiveembodiment.So,forexample,I learnedfromErwinStrausthehumanizingsignificanceoftheuprightposture:howour standingintheworld,gainedonlythroughconsciouseffortagainstthepullofgravity, prefiguresallourartfuleffortstoovercomenature'sindifferencetohumanaspiration;how ourarms,supremelymobileinourpersonalizedactionspace,fitusforthesocializing activitiesofembracing,cradling,pointing,caressing,andholdinghands,nolessthanforthe selfishactivitiesofgrasping,fighting,andgettingfoodtomouth;howoureyes,nolonger lookingdownasnouttofindwhatisedible,areliftedinsteadtothehorizon,enablingusto takeinanentirevistaandtoconceiveanenduringworldbeyondtheephemeralhereand now;howourrefashionedmammalianmouth(andrespiratorysystem)equipsusforthe possibilityofspeechandkissing;andhowourexpressivefaceisfittomeet,greet,and sometimeslovethefacesthatwemeet,facetoface,sidebyside,andarminarm.From AdolfPortmann,Idiscoveredthedeepermeaningofthelooksofanimals,whoseintricate surfacebeauty,notfullyexplainedbyitscontributionstoprotectivecolorationorsexual selection,servesalsotocommunicateinwardstatestofellowcreaturesandtoannounce,in thelanguageofvisibility,ananimal'suniquespeciesandindividualidentity.Ievenfound evidencefornaturalteleologyin,ofallplaces,TheOriginofSpecies,inwhichDarwin makesclearthatevolutionbynaturalselectionrequires,andtakesasbiologicallygiven,the purposivedriveofallorganismsforselfpreservationandforreproductionadrivethe existenceofwhichisamysteryunexplainablebynaturalselection. Butthegreatesthelpcame,mostunexpectedly,fromstudyingpremodernphilosophersof nature,inparticularAristotle.IturnedtohisDeAnima(OnSoul),expectingtogethelp withunderstandingthedifferencebetweenalivinghumanbeinganditscorpse,relevantfor thedifficulttaskofdeterminingwhethersomepersonsonarespiratorarealiveordead.I discoveredtomyamazementthatAristotlehasalmostnointerestinthedifferencebetween thelivingandthedead.Instead,onelearnsmostaboutlifeandsoulnot,aswemoderns mightsuspect,fromtheboundaryconditionswhenanorganismcomesintobeingorpasses away,butratherwhentheorganismisatitspeak,itscapaciousbodyactivelyatworkin energeticrelationtothatis,in"souling"theworld:intheactivitiesofsensing,imagining, desiring,moving,andthinking.Evenmoresurprising,inplaceofourdualisticideasofsoul aseithera"ghostinthemachine,"invokedbysomeinordertosavethenotionoffreewill, orasaseparateimmortalentitythatdepartsthebodyatthetimeofdeath,invokedby otherstoaddressthedisturbingfactofapparentpersonalextinction,Aristotleoffersa powerfulandstilldefensibleholisticideaofsoulas"theformofannaturallyorganicbody." "Soul"namestheunifiedpowersofaliveness,awareness,action,andappetitethatliving thingsallmanifest. Thisisnotmysticismorsuperstition,butbiologicalfact,albeitonethat,againstcurrent prejudice,recognizesthedifferencebetweenmerematerialanditsempoweringform.

Consider,forexample,theeye.Theeye'spowerofsight,thoughit"residesin"andis inseparablefrommaterial,isnotitselfmaterial.Itslightabsorbingchemicalsdonotseethe lighttheyabsorb.Likeanyorgan,theeyehasextension,takesupspace,canbetouchedand graspedbythehand.Butneitherthepoweroftheeyesightnorsight'sactivityseeingis extended,touchable,corporeal.Theyarepowersandactivitiesofsoul,relyingonthe underlyingmaterialsbutnotreducibletothem.Moreover,sightandseeingarenot knowablethroughourobjectifiedscience,butonlythroughlivedexperience.Ablind neuroscientistcouldgiveprecisequantitativedetailsregardingelectricaldischargesinthe eyeproducedbythestimulusoflight,andablindcraftsmancouldwithinstruction constructagoodmaterialmodeloftheeye;butsightandseeingcanbeknownonlybyone whosees. Eventhepassionsofthesoularenotreducibletothematerialsofthebody.True,anger,as ancientnaturalistsusedtosay,isaheatingofthebloodaroundtheheartoranincreasein thebilioushumor,or,aswenowmightsay,arisingconcentrationofacertainpolypeptide inthebrain.Butthesepartialaccounts,stressingonlythematerialconditions,cannotreveal thelargertruthaboutanger:anger,humanlyunderstood,isapainfulfeelingthatseeks revengeforperceivedslightorinsult.Tounderstandthehumantruthaboutangerandits seriousconsequences,wemustinsteadlistentothepoets,beginningwithHomer'sIliad: "Wrath,sing,ogoddess,ofPeleus'sonAchilles,andthewoesthousandfolditbrought upontheAchaians,sendingtoHadesstrongsoulsofheroesbutleavingthemselvestobe thedelicatefeastingsofdogsandbirds."Andtounderstandhowwecometoknowthisor anyothertruth,wecanneverstopwonderinghowmarvelofmarvelsHomer'swinged wordscarrytheirintelligibleandsoulshapingmeanings,hitchedtomerelyphysicalwaves ofsound,fromthesoulofgeniustotheheartsandmindsofendlessgenerationsofattentive andsympatheticreaders. Ifmyfirstmajorpursuitwasaricherviewofhumannature,lookingafreshatthe unadornedpowersofthehumananimal,mysecondmajorpursuitwasaricheraccountof thehumangoodandthegoodhuman,onethatwouldreflectthericheranthropologyjust discussedandonethatcouldcounterBraveNewWorldlyandothershrunkenviewsof humanhappinessandgoodness.Notsurprisingly,thedisagreementsofthegreatauthors regardingthehumangoodareevengreaterthanthoseregardinghumannature.Yetonce again,theancientphilosophersofferasoulexpandingteaching,andnonemoresothan Aristotle'sNicomacheanEthics,abookthatIhavetaughtadozentimesandthat transformedhowIlookatethicsandhumanflourishing. FormostAmericans,ethicalmattersareusuallydiscussedeitherinutilitariantermsof weighingcompetinggoodsorbalancingbenefitsandharms,lookingtothegreatestgoodfor thegreatestnumber,orinmoralisttermsofrules,rightsandduties,"thoushalts"and"thou shaltnots."Ourpublicethicaldiscourseislargelynegativeand"otherdirected":wefocuson condemningandavoidingmisconductby,oroncorrectingandpreventinginjusticeto,other people,notonelevatingorimprovingourselves.Howliberatingandencouraging,then,to encounteranethicsfocusedonthequestion,"Howtolive?"andthatsituateswhatwecall themorallifeinthelargercontextofhumanflourishing.Howeyeopeningarearguments thatsuggestthathappinessisnotastateofpassivefeelingbutalifeoffulfillingactivity,and

especiallyoftheunimpededandexcellentactivityofourspecificallyhumanpowersof actingandmaking,ofthinkingandlearning,oflovingandbefriending.Howilluminatingit istoseetheethicallifediscussednotintermsofbenefitsandharmsorrulesofrightand wrong,butintermsofcharacter,andtounderstandthatgoodcharacter,formedthrough habituation,ismorethanholdingrightopinionsorhaving"goodvalues,"butisabindingof heartandmindthatfreesusfromenslavingpassionsandfreesusforfineandbeautiful deeds.Howencouragingitistoreadanaccountofhumanlifetheonlysuchaccountinour philosophicaltraditionthatspeaksatlengthandprofoundlyaboutfriendship,culminating intheclaimthatthemostfulfillingformoffriendshipisthesharingofspeechesand thoughts.AndhowexhilaratingtoverifythatclaimwhenAristotleuttersitbecauseofthe delightwehavealreadyexperiencedbyparticipatingintheilluminatingspeechesand thoughtsofitsauthor,Aristotle,ourphilosophicalfriend. ButperhapsthemostremarkablefeatureofAristotle'steachingconcernsthegoalsofethical conduct.Unlikethemoralists,Aristotledoesnotsaythatmoralityisathingofabsolute worthorthatthevirtuousmanactsinordertoadheretoamoralruleoruniversalizable maxim.Andunliketheutilitarians,hedoesnotsaymoralityisgoodbecauseitcontributes tocivicpeaceorprivategainandreputation.Instead,Aristotlesaysoverandoveragainthat theethicallyexcellenthumanbeingactsforthesakeofthenoble,forthesakeofthe beautiful.Thehumanbeingoffinecharacterseekstodisplayhisownfinenessinwordand indeed,toshowtheharmonyofhissoulinactionandtherightnessofhischoiceinthe doingofgracefulandgraciousdeeds.Thebeautyofhisactionhaslesstodowiththecause thathisactionwillserveortheadditionalbenefitsthatwillaccruetohimselforanother thoughthereusuallywillbesuchbenefits.Ithas,rather,everythingtodowithshowing forthinactionthebeautifulsoulatwork,exactlyasafinedancerdancesforthesakeof dancingfinely.Astheballerinabothexploitsandresiststhedownwardpullofgravityto risefreelyandgracefullyaboveit,sothepersonofethicalvirtueexploitsandelevatesthe necessitiesofourembodiedexistencetoactfreelyandgracefullyabovethem.Fineconduct isthebeautifulandintrinsicallyfulfillingbeingatworkoftheharmoniousorexcellentsoul. Withhisattractivepictureofhumanflourishing,Aristotleofferslastingrefugeagainstthe seasofmoralrelativism.Takingusonatourofthemuseumofthevirtuesfromcourage andmoderation,throughliberality,magnificence,greatnessofsoul,ambition,and gentleness,tothesocialvirtuesoffriendliness,truthfulness,andwitanddisplayingeachof theirportraitsasameanbetweentwocorrespondingvices,Aristotlegivesusdirectand immediateexperienceinseeingthehumanlybeautiful.Anyonewhocannotseethatcourage ismorebeautifulthancowardiceorrashness,orthatliberalityismorebeautifulthan miserlinessorprodigality,suffers,onemightsay,fromthemoralequivalentofcolor blindness. Yetdespiteitspowerandbeauty,thepictureofhumanexcellenceandhumanflourishing presentedintheNicomacheanEthicsleavessomethingtobedesired,especiallygiventhe needsofmodernreadersinmoderntimes.Whathelpinthinkingabouttheirownpossible flourishingaremydemocraticstudentsreallygettingfromlearningtoappreciateAristotle's greatsouledman?Thevirtuesofciviclifeinthepolis,beautifulthoughtheystillare,seem ratherremotefromeverydaylifeinurbanAmerica,wheresympathy,decency,

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consideration,integrity,andpersonalresponsibilitymentschlichkeitaremorerelevant andneededthanbattlefieldcourage,magnificence,ormagnanimity.Yet,sadtoreport, manyoftoday'sstudentshavehadlittlerearinginfoundationalmentshlichkeit,sothat effortstolifttheirgazetotheceilingofhumangreatnesssometimesseemchimerical,given thattheethicalfloorboardsonwhichtheyculturallystandareratherwobbly.Moreover, preoccupationswithpersonalnobilityoftenignoremattersofsocialjusticeandthelarger publicgood.Andlookingonlytowardthebeautifulbestshortchangesthelovelinessand evenmoretheobligationsofordinaryhumanlives,livedinfamilies,friendships, neighborhoods,schools,andhousesofworshipallofwhich,andespeciallythehousesof worship,are,asAristotlehimselfpointsout,surelymoreefficaciousinformingour characterthanisstudyingthewritingsofgreatphilosophers. Accordingly,inmythirdpursuit,spurredalsobyaconcernforthestateofourmores,I shiftedmyanthropologicalquestfromthesideofnaturetothesideofculture,seekingto knowthehumanbeingnotdirectly,inhisnakedness,butindirectly,throughan examinationoftheclothesthatfithimbesttheclothesofcustom,law,song,andstory,the worksofcultureandthematerialsoftradition,thatworktobringoutthebestofwhichwe arecapable.Mygoalwasstillthesame,butmyfocuswasnowthecivilandcivilizing habits,mores,andopinionsthatregulateeverydaylifeandthatmakeforhumanself commandandhumanflourishinginthedomainsofwork,family,andtheplethoraof humanaffairscomprisingcivilsocietytoday.Oneresultwasabook,TheHungrySoul: EatingandthePerfectingofOurNature,thatbeganwithphilosophicalreflectionson humannaturebutmovedquicklytodiscussionsoftheperfectingcustomsgoverning humanappetiteandeating,fromthetabooagainstcannibalismandthedutiesofhospitality, totablemannersandthevirtueofmoderation,tofestivediningelevatedbyrefinementsof tasteandwit,tothesanctificationofthemeal,begunwithgraceandexperiencedin gratitude.TheseexplorationsofmineweregreatlyassistedbythewritingsofHomerand Herodotus,PlatoandErasmus,TolstoyandIsakDinesen,andbytheBible.Inaddition,as partofalargergroupprojectontheethicsofeverydaylife,AmyandIpublishedWingto Wing,OartoOar,ananthologyoncourtingandmarrying,intheserviceofhelpingpeople becomemorethoughtfulaboutandmoresuccessfulinfindingasoulmatewithwhomto makealife.HumanisticworksfromacrosstheagesfromtheBible'sJacobandRachel, throughPlato'sSymposiumandErasmus'OnCourtship,toShakespeare'sRosalindand Orlando,JaneAusten'sElizabethandDarcy,andTolstoy'sPierreandNatasha,toRobert Frost's"TheMasterSpeed"challengeourunexaminedprejudices,expandourhorizons, sharpenourvision,andelevateourtastebyilluminatingthenatureofhumanlongingsand themorepromisingpathwaystotheirfulfillment. Anyhumanistseriouslyinterestedinthenormsandcustomsgoverningeverydaylife cannothelpnoticing,laterifnotsooner,theprominentnottosaypreeminentrolethatour scripturaltraditionshaveplayedandstillplay,ofteninvisibly,intheopinionsandteachings thatguideus,aswellasinthehumanisticwritingsofourremoteandrecentpast.And anyonedevotedtoteachingthegreatbooksofourtraditionwouldsurelywanttoseefor himselfjustwhattheGoodBookhastosayforitself,notrelyingonhearsay.Soitwasthat mysearchforthewellclothedhumanbeingeventuallyledmetostudyatfirst,becauseI hadtoteachthemthebooksoftheHebrewBible.Suspendingdisbelief,approachingthe

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Biblewithopenmindandtryingtoallowthetexttoteachmehowitwishestoberead,I havebeenastonishedtodiscoveranaccountofhumanlifethatcanmorethanholditsown withtheanthropologicalandethicalteachingsofferedbythegreatpoetsandphilosophers. IhavediscoveredintheHebrewBibleteachingsofrighteousness,humaneness,andhuman dignityatthesourceofmyparents'teachingsofmentschlichkeitthatwereundreamtofin mypriorphilosophizing.Intheideathathumanbeingsareequallygodlike,equallycreated intheimageofthedivine,Ihaveseenthecoreprincipleofahumanisticanddemocratic politics,respectfulofeachandeveryhumanbeing.IntheSabbathinjunctiontodesist regularlyfromworkandthefluxofgettingandspending,Ihavediscoveredaninvitationto stepoutsideoftime,inimitatiodei,tocontemplatethebeautyoftheworldandtofeel gratitudeforitsandourexistence.IntheinjunctiontohonoryourFatherandyour Mother,Ihaveseenthefoundationofadignifiedfamilylife,foreachofusthenurseryof ourhumanizationandthefirstvehicleofculturaltransmission.Ihavesatisfiedmyselfthat thereisnoconflictbetweentheBible,rightlyread,andmodernscience,andthattheaccount ofcreationinGenesis1offers"notwordsofinformationbutwordsofappreciation,"as AbrahamJoshuaHeschelputit:"notadescriptionofhowtheworldcameintobeingbuta songaboutthegloryoftheworld'shavingcomeintobeing."Andthankstomybiblical studies,Ihavebeenmovedtonewattitudesofgratitude,awe,andattention.Forjustasthe worldascreatedisaworldsummonedintoexistenceundercommand,sotobeahuman beinginthatworldtobeamentschistoliveinsearchofoursummons.Itistorecognize thatweareherenotbychoiceoronaccountofmerit,butasanundeservedgiftfrompowers notatourdisposal.Itistofeeltheneedtojustifythatgift,tomakesomethingoutofour indebtednessfortheopportunityofexistence.Itistostandintheworldnotonlyinaweof itsandourexistencebutunderanobligationtoansweracalltoaworthylife,alifethatdoes honortothespecialpowersandpossibilitiesthedivinelikenesswithwhichourotherwise animalexistencehasbeen,nothankstous,endowed. Justastoday'snaturalsciencesprofitbutalsosufferfromtheirhavingbrokenawayfrom theironcehonoredplacewithinhumanisticlearninggainingprecise,objectifiedknowledge ofnature'sworkings,butatthepriceofneglectingtheworksofnature'sbeingssothe humanitiestodayprofitbutmainlysufferfromhavingforgottenthatthehumanitiestook theiroriginandpointofdepartureincontradistinctiontothe"divinities"theinquiryinto mattersmetaphysicalandultimatelytheological.Thisseparationatfirstliberatedhumanists fromdogmaandcensorship,allowingforseveralcenturiesofprofoundthoughtand beautifulwritingaboutthehumanconditionanditspossibleflourishing.Butthedirection ofhumanisticlearninginmylifetimeculminatinginacynicaltendencytodisparagethe greatideasandtodeconstructthegreatworksthatwehaveinheritedfromagespast invitesthisquestion:Canthehumanitiespreservetheirtruedignityandanswertheirtrue callingiftheycloseofforignorequestionsofultimateconcern:thecharacterandsourceof thecosmicwholeandtheplaceandworkofthehumanbeingwithinit?Canwehumanists completeoursearchforthehumanbeingwithoutliftingourgaze,withoutlookingbeyond whathumanbeingsalonehavewrought,toconsiderthepowersnotofourmakingthatare theconditionofthepossibilityofboththeworldandourspecialplacewithinit? What,then,summingup,canthisunlicensedhumanistsayabouthissearchforthehuman

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being?AswithDiogenes,thequestcontinues,thoughtheprogressIhavemademakes cynicismevenmoreunjustified.True,thehunthasnotcapturedthequarry,inthesensethat Ihavenotfoundananswer,neatlyformulated,sprawlingonapin,animprovedsubstitute for"animal,bipedandfeatherless."Instead,Ihaveacquiredadeeperunderstandingofthe questionitselfandofthehiddendepthsofitsobject.Iammuchmoremindfulofwhatafull accountofourhumanitywouldentail,includingattentiontothelargerwholecommunal, natural,andbeyondinwhichwehumanbeingsareimbeddedandonlyinrelationto whichcanwegainanyfullyflourishinghumanity.Ihavehadtheprivilegeoflivingwith thehumanizinggiftsofthegreatbooksandtheGoodBookopenfreeofchargetoevery oneofus,regardlessofrace,class,orgender.Inthecompanyofpoetsandplaywrights, philosophersandprophets,novelistsandnaturalistsdeeperhumanbeingsallIhave enlargedmyvision,furnishedmyimagination,anddeepenedmyawareness,wellbeyond whatIhadreasontoexpectfrombooks.Grapplingwithreallifeconcernsfromcloningto courtship,fromlivingauthenticallytodyingwithdignityhasmademeabetterreader. Reciprocally,readinginawisdomseekingspirithashelpedmegreatlyinmywordly grapplings.Notbeingheldtotheusualduesexpectedofalicensedhumanistprofessing specializedknowledgeorpublishinglearnedpapersIhavebeenabletowanderfreelyand mostprofitablyinallthehumanisticfields.Ihavecometobelievethatlookinghonestlyfor thehumanbeing,followingthepathwhereveritleads,mayitselfbeanintegralpartof findingit.Arealquestion,gracedbyalonglifetopursueitamongthegreatbooks,hasbeen anunadulteratedblessing. ButtherealkeytomyflourishinghasbeenthelivinghumancompanyIhaveenjoyedon myjourney.ForunlikeDiogenes,Ihaveneitherneedednorwantedtotravelalone.Ihave beenblessedwithwonderfulteachersandcolleagues,especiallyattheUniversityof Chicago,St.John'sCollege,andtheAmericanEnterpriseInstitute,fromwhosespeechesand thoughtsinfriendlyconversationIhavelearnedenormousamounts.Ihavebeenblessed withgeneroussupportfromnumerousbenefactors,includingtheNationalEndowmentfor theHumanities.Ihavebeenblessedwithpracticalopportunitiestoputmylearninginthe serviceofconfrontingtheprofoundethicaldilemmasofourbiotechnologicalage,andIam especiallygratefultoPresidentBushfortheprivilegeofleadingwonderfulcolleagueson thePresident'sCouncilonBioethicsinexploringanddefendingwhatishumanlyatstakein ouremergingbravenewworld.IhavebeensupremelyblessedinAmy,belovedsoulmate andlifelongpartner,coauthorandcoteacherarealhumanist,shefromwhoseliterary studies,teachingcollaborations,support,criticism,andencouragementIhavebenefited morethanwordscansay. Finally,Ihavebeenblessedinmystudentsthesepast37years,firstatSt.John'sCollege, mainlyatChicago,intheCollegeandtheCommitteeonSocialThought.Serious, thoughtful,smart,eager,engaged,andgenerousyoungpeoplehavebeenmymostreliable companionsinallphasesofmyjourneyofinquiry.Mostyoungpeopleinmyexperience stillwanttobetakenseriously.Despitetheirfacilesophisticationandeasygoingcynicism moreoftenthannot,largelyadefenseagainstdisappointmentmostofthemareinfact lookingforameaningfullifeorlisteningforasummons.Manyofthemareselfconsciously lookingfortheirownhumanityandforapersonalanswertoDiogenes'question.Ifwetreat themuncynicallyandrespectfully,aspeopleinterestedinthegood,thetrueandthe

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beautiful,andifwereadbookswiththeminsearchofthetrue,thegood,andthebeautiful, theyinvariablyrisetotheoccasion,vindicatingourtrustintheirpossibilities.Andthey morethanrepayoureffortsbycontributingtoourquesttheirownremarkableinsightsand discoveries. Thesearchforourhumanity,alwaysnecessaryyetnevermoreurgent,isbestilluminatedby thetreasuredworksofthehumanities,readinthecompanyofopenmindsandyouthful heartsseekingwisdomabouthowtoliveaworthyhumanlife.Tokeepthislanternlit,to keepalivethisquest:Isthereamoreimportantcallingforthoseofuswhowouldpractice thehumanities,withorwithoutalicense? LeonR.Kass,M.D.,istheHertogFellowatAEI. Youcanfindthisarticleonlineathttp://www.aei.org/speech/100051

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