Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hell Has Frozen Over: America Is Philosophical (At Least This Week)

In The Chronicle of Higher Education Carlin Romano asks "Is America Philosophical?"  The obvious answer is "hell no!"  Even Romano acknowledges:
Tocqueville, that touchstone for all synoptic thinking about America, thought the peculiar attitude of its residents toward philosophy so obvious that he began the second volume of Democracy in America by noting it: ''I think that in no country in the civilized world is less attention paid to philosophy than in the United States. The Americans have no philosophical school of their own, and they care but little for all the schools into which Europe is divided."
In the four days since the article was published, however, I've had to change my mind.  Andrew Sullivan takes Leo Strauss to task. Ross Douthat discusses Christianity's influence on secular liberalism in The New York Times.  Big time blogger Noah Millman responds to Douthat, and another big time blogger Daniel Larison responds to Millman.

All of this give and take could be written off.  The proof comes from Professor Mark White, a guy who has a professional life I envy.  White has authored a book on Kantian ethics that can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and that bastion of the common philosophical shopper Walmart.

I'm happy for Professor White, but a bit put off as well.  The next time I walk the local megastore's aisles looking for deodorant, socks, or a 10 pound bag of cheese puffs, I will have to ask myself if my using the self checkout is an act that treats the clerk as a means rather than an end unto herself. I will also have to decide if I actually want to create a universal maxim about the purchasing of obscenely large bags of snack foods.

2 comments:

D.E. Bishop said...

My favorite part is your last paragraph. Good on ya!

LK said...

Thanks D.E. I may also have to think about driving a whole bunch of miles if I want to avoid Walmart. My local options are Walmart and Hy-Vee, That seems to be a distinction without a difference,