May Interview

Humanists claim that there is something special about human beings and that to live well we must grow up, overcome our childish and brutish temptations, and become fully human.

Secular Enlightenment humanists think this is something human beings can and should try to pull off on their own – through personal and collective human efforts. Martha Nussbaum, for example, is hopeful that if we increase the role of reason, culture, and the liberal arts in our personal and collective lives, we can pull ourselves out of any tailspins we are in and re-form and re-orient ourselves in a more happy direction.

To many Christians, however, this secular optimism sounds like prideful hubris. And, given the history of the 20th Century, they argue that it is also culturally and politically dangerous.

In her new book, Forming Humanity, Jennifer Herdt revisits key figures in the German enlightenment tradition in order to educate and soften this Christian reaction to secular humanism, and to open up dialogue between enlightenment atheists and Christian skeptics about if and how we can individually and collectively reform ourselves and live good human lives. If you are interested, I recommend checking out this lively symposium with Herdt and her Christian critics. It has me excited to interview Herdt later this month and to engage with her from my (relatively pessimistic) secular perspective.

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April Interview

Listen on Anchor (with links to many other platforms including iTunes and Spotify)

David McPherson and I discuss his new book, Virtue and Meaning, which develops and defends a new theory of human nature – the human being as the meaning seeking creature – and explores its implications for ethical theory.

‘This book is strikingly excellent. It is beautifully argued, fair-minded, and a pleasure to read. It is also the most authentically neo-Aristotelian account of ethics and the moral life that I have read. In making a case for a higher, more noble, more meaningful form of life, it deserves to be widely considered, and I would not be surprised if people someday spoke of it alongside works by G.E.M. Anscombe, Alasdair MacIntyre, Charles Taylor, and a few others.’ – Stephen R. Grimm (Fordham University)