Leon Kass on Leading A Worthy Life

Leon Kass

AEI | 2018

Most Americans harbor desires for a worthy life. But we are increasingly confused about what such a life looks like. Young people are especially at sea — regarding work, family, religion, and civic identity. The true, the good, and the beautiful have few defenders; the higher cynicism mocks any innocent love of wisdom or country. Yet if liberated from the prevailing cynicism, young Americans will readily embrace weighty questions and undertake serious quests for a flourishing life. All they need is encouragement.

On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, colleagues of AEI’s Leon Kass came together to share insights and critiques of his new book, Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times (Encounter, 2017). Dr. Kass opened by describing the book’s intellectual origins—encouraging more young people to return to the weighty questions in life.

Mona Charen of the Ethics & Public Policy Center covered the first section of the book, which discussed the decline of traditional courtship. Although she agreed with Dr. Kass’ worries about dating apps and social media, she challenged him to embrace the opportunities they provide. Loyola University’s Diana Schaub responded to the second section, which examined the human pursuit of perfection, reflecting on sports, scientism, and biotechnologies.

The Hoover Institution’s Peter Berkowitz discussed the third section, arguing that the decline of free discourse and due process on college campuses does a disservice to students. He emphasized the need to cultivate an appreciation of the classical humanities and to “put science in its place.” The Hudson Institute’s Christopher Demuth covered the final section, which reflects on the Nicomachean Ethics, the Ten Commandments, and the Gettysburg Address. He argued that these works touched on the fundamental questions of individual freedom and stand in contrast to modern ideas.

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