The Corner

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In “The Paradox of Conservative Bioethics,” Yuval Levin has put his finger on the trouble with what I do. Levin understands what embarrasses and frightens me about my work (though it’s also what makes me proud). It isn’t just me. Levin has figured out why the unraveling of so many of our cultural taboos has presented conservatives with an almost impossible challenge. By rationally defending our previously taken for granted understandings, we undermine the mysteries we seek to defend. And yet we have no choice. Levin’s piece is crystal clear and totally accessible theory. Yet there’s something beautiful about it as well. I think Levin’s piece touches on an intuition that was rumbling under our Corner dispute about theory the other day. Theory is necessary but dangerous. Good theory understands this about itself. Ultimately, theory needs poetry–inside of itself, and in addition to itself. Levin understands this, and will help you understand it too. One more thing. There will be those so far outside our system of cultural taboos that they will find it hard to understand–or feel–the difficulty that Levin is pressing on. But these folks have their own taboos. The new taboos protect a romanticization of “progress.” I am decidedly enjoying myself as I plow through the premier issue of The New Atlantis.

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