Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strauss, Modern Dualism, and the Need for a Comprehensive Science

Writing for the "Postmodern Conservative" blog, Ivan Kenneally suggests that my Darwinian conservatism is insufficiently conservative and insufficiently postmodern.

He writes: "Does evolutionary biology do justice to the real human person as we experience ourselves, or is there something about our characteristic resistance to nature and eros for transcendence that eludes Darwinian categories of explanation? . . . Darwinian conservatism might fail by identifying human nature too closely with our bodily selves, with nature as such."

But far from being "postmodern," what I see here in Kenneally's comments is a distinctly modern assumption of transcendentalist dualism. Against my naturalistic view of human beings as part of nature, Kenneally suggests a dualistic opposition between animal nature and human will or reason. He thus assumes a dualism that runs through modern thought from Hobbes to Rousseau to Kant.

I am reminded of the Straussian responses to my conception of Darwinian natural right. On the one hand, the Straussians agree with Strauss about the need for a comprehensive science of nature that would include human nature, which would overcome the typically modern separation between the natural world and the human mind. On the other hand, many of the Straussians (like Leon Kass and Allan Bloom) seem to embrace the radical dualism of nature and humanity that comes out of the modern tradition of Hobbes, Rousseau, and Kant.

This ambiguity in the Straussian response to my argument for a fully naturalistic account of human life is clear in Richard Hassing's Straussian critique of Darwinian natural right. In my reply to Hassing, I showed how my conception of Darwinian naturalism moved toward the "comprehensive science" sought by Strauss--a science of nature that would include the ethical striving of human nature as part of the natural universe. This would be a science of emergent naturalism that would escape the dilemma of choosing between a reductionist monism and a transcendentalist dualism. Instead of the artificial separation between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities, we need a new science of nature that would integrate all the intellectual disciplines as we try to understand human nature within the natural order of the whole. Nothing less is required if we want to solve what Strauss identified as the fundamental problem of natural right.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the links to the review and your response!