My blog post ideas, particularly recently, come primarily from the books, articles, and other blog posts I read. What I describe to my wife as “taking notes” involves an hour with a random book held open to a random chapter or passage while I type into my laptop the words I would otherwise underline or highlight. There are many books from which I might jot down a couple sentences or a paragraph, and some where I type verbatim nearly the entire chapter. Dr. J. Budziszewski’s book “The Line Through the Heart” falls into the latter category. Given my interest in troubleshooting cultural maladies, in my opinion he takes C. S. Lewis to the next level.
I had the fortunate experience a couple years ago of getting my book signed and shaking his hand during his office hours at UT. By a miracle he had my e-mail address on his distribution list for announcing his new website. Because he is one of my greatest heroes in understanding how human nature plays out in contemporary culture (I’ve quoted his book multiple times in my previous posts), I want to give a shout out to this new source for reading his brilliant insights.
From his website introduction:
I have been teaching since 1981 at the University of Texas at Austin, where I am a professor of government and philosophy. My academic focus is the ethical basis of politics. No, that doesn’t mean that politicians are virtuous. It means that choices concerning right and wrong, good and evil, are inseparable from political life — so, among other things, whether the politicians and citizens are virtuous makes a difference. I think and write mostly about classical natural law; conscience; moral character; moral self-deception; family and sexuality; religion and public life; authentic vs. counterfeit versions of toleration and liberty; and the unravelling of our common culture.
And one of my favorite passages from his book (chapter “Natural Law as Fact, as Theory, and as Sign of Contradiction”):
We are not just knowers, but seekers, who spontaneously incline toward certain realities other than ourselves. When I say that this inclination is spontaneous, I do not mean that it is arbitrary, because that is not the way that we experience it. One way of saying this is that we do not merely experience ourselves as drawn to things; we experience the things themselves as being such as to draw us. Our word for their being so – and there is such a word in every language – is “good”; goodness is the quality of being such as to draw us. So another way to express what I am saying is that we experience certain things as good, and experience ourselves as drawn to them because of their goodness; we are designed to be so drawn. With an air of demystification, subjectivists like Thomas Hobbes tell us that it is the other way around. They deny that we are inclined toward things because they are good. Instead, they say, we call them good because we happen to be inclined toward them (as we may happen to be inclined to different things tomorrow). Goodness is merely a name, and inclination does not point outside itself after all; it just is. But this is not just bad theory, it is a bad description of the experience. If you ask a man “Why do you love that woman?” he does not normally reply by telling you about himself – “I just do” – but by telling you about her – “Because she is wonderful.”
His website is “The Underground Thomist” and I’ll be shamelessly stealing his thoughts from this new venue.