touchstone archives


Piquant excerpts lifted from Touchstone editors' own reading & listening.

After five centuries, things settled down, and today there is a new moral-political orthodoxy we can call individualism. Though it lacks theological trappings, it actually owes a great deal to Jesus, who was a libertarian avant la lettre prophesying the final triumph of the individual soul and its inner experience over the domination of traditional communal bonds and illegitimate religious authority. The new orthodoxy brought a perfectly coherent worldview that makes sense of the human condition (we are bodies that are born and die alone), of what lies beyond (nothing), and of what we need to be happy (carpe diem). And it also, not insignificantly, keeps the peace, since war is bad for business. The new catechism has not reached everyone, and resistance in certain regions is strong and sometimes armed. But if these retrogrades do not convert, their children or grandchildren eventually will. And the world will be as one. . . . It's a compelling story—and an old one, pieced together with fragments from Julian the Apostate, Eusebius, Otto of Freising, Bacon, Condorcet, Hegel, Feuerbach, and today's Silicon Valley futurists. Of course, it is nothing but a myth—not a lie, just an imaginative assemblage of past events and ideas and present hopes and fears.

Mark Lilla
The Shipwrecked Mind (2016)

Culture Commonplaces #38 Sept/Oct 2019

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