Grün des Lebens goldner Baum

Only the devil says theory is grey and dull. Theory gives form — shape, elasticity, cohesion, balance, in short, sexiness — to our Lebenswelt, and the wrong theory leads directly to a quivering, bleeding heap of jelly, as sure as water flows downhill. The erosion of habeas corpus, for instance, finds immediate expression in the miserable indignity of incarceration without remedy as the visible side of one single debased pewter coin of the realm. It’s difficult to get theory right, in other words, it is an imperfect and perennially provisional product of all-too-human ingenuity; but we feel the results in the most intimate part of our being, even if we are not actually tortured or otherwise officially abused ourselves. My recent posts on political questions, and also a while ago about the importance of education as a vehicle for humane values that cannot be reduced to vocational training, approach from various angles the theoretical question of what it is to be a man — of the vocation of man. The unity of literature and ethics is their intersection in the human condition.

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