Virtue Loses its Loveliness

Irving Kristol wrote a piece I'm only just getting around to reading today, which he published in the 1970s at the flowering of the Baby Boomers' rejection of Western Civilization. It's a very interesting criticism, especially of the problems of equality and inequality. I couldn't agree more with the conclusion.
Our dissidents today may think they are exceedingly progressive; but no one who puts greater emphasis on "the quality of life" than on "mere" material enrichment can properly be placed in that category. For the idea of progress in the modern era has always signified that the quality of life would inevitably be improved by material enrichment. To doubt this is to doubt the political metaphysics of modernity and to start the long trek back to pre-modern political philosophy -- Plato, Aristotle, Thomas Aquinas, Hooker, Calvin, etc. It seems to me this trip is quite necessary.
Why? Read it and find out. It's not that long, and it's worth consideration.


Eric Blair said...

Unfortunately, it is some what muddled by (despite a lot of quotes) a distinct lack of historical awareness.

Kristol, and to some extent, the baby boomers have to be understood in the context of the upheavals of the 20th century. I don't think that either Kristol or most people, understood both the disillusionment of pretty much everybody with how things had gone, coupled with the ongoing cold war of ideas where the great tyranny of the 20th century, Communism, (or whatever you want to call it) had infiltrated the intelligentsia (Notice that Kristol himself was a Trotskyite at one point), and that is, frankly still there today, and nobody really even realizes it, because the old "political" Communism is pretty much gone. It's like some sort of undead spectre haunting civilization in general, not just "Western" civilization. People are unhappy, but they don't know why exactly.

In someways Kristol was part of the problem that he himself was describing.

But one can not go back to the past, you can only try to learn from it, and move on.

Grim said...

It struck me because I just saw something -- from a very thoughtful, left-leaning friend -- on a similar subject. He was talking about how the good life just wasn't compatible with commuting several hours a day, working many hours a week, for forty years: that's not what a human life is or ought to be about, given evolved nature.

Now that's not a modern stance, though it is very much a "progressive" stance! Wonder, then, where he thinks we're progressing? And what to make of all the progress -- in life spans, in health outcomes -- that has occurred among those living just that unnatural life?

And yet, of course, he's not wrong. There's something there that's really important, and really true.