Rich, Peter, and Reagan’s Genius

by Steven F. Hayward

Let me wade into the middle of Peter and Rich’s discussion about Reagan’s “intuition” about the Soviet Union. May I suggest that what we are trying to pinpoint is Reagan’s insight, which, while often unique and unable to be replicated in someone else, is not irrational or supra-rational, as “intuition” might be made out to be.

Years ago I followed Michael Novak’s advice to read Bernard Lonergan’s weighty tome on the idea of insight. Insight, Lonergan argues, is reached “not by learning rules, not by following precepts, not by studying any methodology. . . [Insight] is a function not of outer circumstances but of inner condition, pivots between the concrete and the abstract, and passes into the habitual texture of one’s mind.” Insight is discovery, not deduction; it shares the same element of genius that creates great new art. “Were there rules for discovery,” Lonergan adds, “then discoveries would be mere conclusions. Were there precepts for genius, then men of genius would be hacks.”

Let us say, then, that Reagan had the genius of great insight, in much the same way Churchill did about both the Nazis and the Soviet Union. (Churchill predicted in 1953 that Eastern Europe would throw off Communism about 30 years later, which was almost exactly the schedule.)