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MODERN AND AMERICAN DIGNITY: Who We Are as Persons, and What That Means for Our Future (Religion and Contemporary Culture Series) Hardcover – December 27, 2010
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About the Author
Peter Augustine Lawler, who served on President Bush’s Council on Bioethics, is the author of Homeless and at Home in America, Stuck with Virtue, Aliens in America, and several other books. He is Dana Professor of Government at Berry College and the executive editor of the acclaimed scholarly quarterly Perspectives on Political Science. The 2007 recipient of the Richard Weaver Prize in Scholarly Letters, he lives in Georgia.
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Included in the book are interesting takes on the 1960s, the thought of Benedict XVI and Solzhenitsyn, a very solid appreciation of John Courtney Murray and a look a Tocqueville. Lawler weights in on the roles of universities in modern life, Socrates and the future of liberalism. He is a solid if unspectacular essayist and he usually makes logical and convincing arguments.
There are some major problems with the book. Lawler instructs but he does not entertain. This makes parts of the book very dry. While he weighs in and opines on dignity and its importance to human life, Lawler could have fleshed out the concept a bit more, especially at the start of the book. It's there--but the reader has to look for it.
The chief problem is Lawler seems to be torn in trying to determine his audience. Is he writing for an academic audience or a popular one? Lawler seems to hedge his bets--which can drive the reader crazy. Some of the essays are heavily footnoted. Others have none. There are times Lawler makes interesting and sometimes debatable assertions--but leaves the reader with nowhere to go.
Lawler is trying to make his case in the public square and he did a fine job in constructing these essays. But I suspect his style undermines his chances to reach a larger audience. Recommended for readers interested in bioethics, especially those trying to better grasp conservative and Catholic voices in that area--but obviously this book is not for everyone.
But when will someone call him out and/or begin editing his writing? But where should they start?
Does anyone out there in radio-land get it? Lawler's persistence attacks on individualism and liberalism are such an obvious defense of medieval authoritarian Roman Catholicism! Please don't call him a political, know-it-all scientist when he so cleverly elides all of his rhetoric in defense of medieval Catholicism even when speaking of postmodernism!
And please, please don't give Dr. Lawler credit as the first academic to discover that history, today, yesterday and tomorrow will always turn on individualism versus authoritarian institutions/personalities. Hopefully, once alerted, informed people will not allow the Lawler Project...to re-establish a world dominated by Thomism...to stand, even as he almost indiscriminately throws all of his arguments at the "wall of separation!"
And shame on Berry College for exposing young minds with no counterpoints to the evocative Lawler even if he is so entertaining! But then Lawler is so "anti-liberal" Berry College is substituting his medieval/classical rhetoric for a big portion of the Berry Mission: a liberal education!