Religion & Politics
Examine the ways in which religion and politics intersect in a liberal democracy.
This seminar looks at politics from the perspective of what is, at first glance, not politics, both from beneath politics (the household or family) and from beyond it (the divine). We contend that these perspectives have much to contribute to politics: they not only illuminate politics by shining light from across its borders; they may also inform politics rightly considered.
We can distinguish three different senses of “limits” of politics: (a) Limits in the sense of “boundaries” and “limitations”: What are the boundaries of the political domain? What are the limitations of its authority? Does it hold sway, e.g., over birth and death, private life (the household, thought), or the divine? (b) Limits in the sense of “sources” and “standards”: What are the sources of political authority and legitimacy? What are the standards for its teachings and pronouncements? Do these come, for example, from nature, from human reason, or from God or gods? (c) Limits in the sense of “goals”: What is the purpose or aim of politics? As war is for the sake of peace, what is politics for: (i) Something beneath politics? (ii) Something beyond politics? (iii) For its own sake—e.g., for the sake of self-governance? More concretely: Is the purpose of politics the securing of individual rights and the safeguarding of private liberty? The promotion of virtue or the perfection of our humanity? Service to the divine, in part through the sanctification of human life and community? We submit that a proper understanding of politics will require attention to all three senses of limits: limitations of political authority, standards for judging political ways and teachings, goals toward which politics point.
To make things complicated and interesting, we will offer two perspectives on these matters, one from Greek tragedy, one from the (Hebrew) Bible. Both look at the city in relation to what is not the city. Yet they offer different views of man’s relation to nature and the divine, and profoundly different views of the divine’s relation to the human. They therefore point to different answers to our questions about limits. For the most part, we will come at these matters indirectly, concentrating instead on the texts themselves, read carefully for their own meaning. But we hope to show that a deeper understanding of politics—including American politics—requires thinking hard about the matters we will be examining this week.
Amy & Leon Kass on liberal education & citizenship
Amy Apfel Kass (1940 – 2015) was a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Senior Lecturer Emerita in the humanities at the University of Chicago, and coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song. She was an award-winning teacher of classic texts.
Amy Apfel Kass (1940 – 2015) was a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Senior Lecturer Emerita in the humanities at the University of Chicago, and coeditor of What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song (Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2011). She was an award-winning teacher of classic texts.
Ms. Kass was the founding director of the nationwide Tocqueville Seminars on Civic Leadership, and, more recently, the nationwide Dialogues on Civic Philanthropy. She served on the National Council on the Humanities for the National Endowment for the Humanities, and as a consultant to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Corporation for National and Community Service. Ms. Kass was an adviser to Civic Enterprises and the National Conference on Citizenship and a member of the board of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
She was the author of numerous articles and editor of the anthologies American Lives: Cultural Differences, Individual Distinction (Golden Owl, 1995), The Perfect Gift: The Philanthropic Imagination in Poetry and Prose (Indiana University Press, 2002), and Giving Well, Doing Good: Readings for Thoughtful Philanthropists (Indiana University Press, 2007). With her husband, she produced two or more anthologies, one on courting and marrying (Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar), and one on American national identity and civic attachment (What So Proudly We Hail), as well as a series of e-books on The American Calendar, one for each of ten national holidays.
Leon R. Kass, M.D., is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and the Madden-Jewett Chair at AEI. He was the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005. He has been engaged for more than 40 years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advances and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues.
Leon R. Kass, M.D., is the Addie Clark Harding Professor Emeritus in the Committee on Social Thought and the College at the University of Chicago and Emeritus Scholar at AEI. He was the chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics from 2001 to 2005.
Originally trained in medicine and biochemistry, he shifted directions from doing science to thinking about its human meaning, and he has been engaged for forty years with ethical and philosophical issues raised by biomedical advancements, and, more recently, with broader moral and cultural issues. Dr. Kass taught at St. John’s College (Annapolis) and Georgetown University before returning in 1976 to the University of Chicago, where he was until 2010 an award-winning teacher deeply involved in undergraduate education and committed to the study of classic texts. With his late wife, Amy A. Kass, he helped found a still-popular core humanities course on Human Being and Citizen and a degree-granting major, Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, emphasizing big questions and great books.
His books include Toward A More Natural Science: Biology and Human Affairs; The Hungry Soul: Eating and the Perfecting of our Nature; Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics; The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis; What So Proudly We Hail: The American Soul in Story, Speech, and Song; and Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times. Along with coeditors Amy Kass and Diana Schaub, Dr. Kass developed the What So Proudly We Hail e-curriculum, including video discussions and curricula materials that demonstrate how short stories can be used to enhance our understanding of the Meaning of America and the American Calendar.
Dr. Kass served on the National Council on the Humanities of the National Endowment for the Humanities and delivered its Jefferson Lecture in 2009.
To learn more about Dr. Kass, visit Contemporary Thinkers: Leon Kass.
Consider the relationship of politics and philosophy through a close reading Leo Strauss’s Persecution and the Art of Writing.
Reflect on the enduring value of liberal education and its importance for a free society.
Daniel Burns is Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Dallas. He has held fellowships at the Catholic University of America and the University of Texas at Austin, and he is currently on academic leave for government service.
Adam J. White
Adam J. White is a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, and an Assistant Professor at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School, where he also directs the Gray Center for the Study of the Administrative State at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School.
Antón Barba-Kay is Associate Professor of Philosophy in the School of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. He is finishing a book on the political philosophy of the internet, which he began while a Visiting Fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University.
Diana J. Schaub is Professor of Political Science at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the Hoover Institution’s task force on The Virtues of a Free Society. From 2004 to 2009 she was a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics.
Bryan Garsten is Professor of Political Science at Yale University. He writes on questions about political rhetoric and deliberation, the meaning of representative government, the relationship of politics and religion, and the place of emotions in political life.
Benjamin Storey is Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Furman University. His interests focus on the history of political philosophy. He is currently completing a book entitled The Restless Age: Four French Thinkers on the Quest for Self-Understanding in an Unsettled Modernity.
William Kristol is editor at large of The Weekly Standard, which, together with Fred Barnes and John Podhoretz, he founded in 1995. Mr. Kristol has served as chief of staff to the Vice President of the United States and to the Secretary of Education. Before coming to Washington in 1985, Kristol taught politics at the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Peter Berkowitz is the Tad and Dianne Taube Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He studies and writes about, among other things, constitutional government, conservatism and progressivism in America, liberal education, national security and law, and Middle East politics.
Jenna Silber Storey
Jenna Silber Storey is Assistant Professor in Politics and International Affairs at Furman University. Her research and writing is focused on the relation of politics and theology in the work of Carl Schmitt and Pierre Manent.
Paul Cantor is the Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Virginia. He has written on a wide range of subjects, including Shakespeare, Romanticism, Austrian economics, and contemporary popular culture.