Two very thoughtful reviews today. The first is Michael Rosen at The American, who is very, very nice to the book. (And who isn’t fooled by Chapter 9–he notices how thin my ideas on How to Fix Everything are.)
The second is Part Deux from Scott Yenor at The Blue Review, in an essay titled “What to Do When No One Is Expecting.” It’s everything you could hope for in terms of applying philosophical seriousness to the bigger questions of policy. Sample awesome:
What is it about religious practice that makes the faithful more likely to resist the modern technological thrust? At least when it comes to life and death, the faithful are more likely to appreciate the limits on human power and to appreciate the gifts that they have been given in life and to see the modern project of controlling nature as much more limited. They may delay pregnancy, but not practice “birth control.” They may plan, but also recognize the limits of their ability to plan. The intractability of children and the burdens of parenthood do not stand as a reproach to the faithful because they do not expect a burden-free life. In fact, the “burdens” of parenthood foster loving, responsible human beings. This view is much more accessible to those who believe, but it is not inaccessible to those who seriously think about the limits of human power and the nature of human life.
Studies show, as Last points out, that parents are generally less happy than non-parents and that their happiness declines with each succeeding child. “Having children,” Last writes, “makes parents less happy” (p. 160). David Hume had said that happiness relates to fecundity, while Last says that fecundity diminishes happiness. I am suggesting that we must understand the poverty of what we often mean by happiness—we seem to mean something like “doing what I want” or “being free from unchosen burdens.” Last concedes (in a footnote) that happiness is not the “virtue to be prized above all others.” Here we need more than a splash of Aristotle. Happiness is indeed the prize, but it must be happiness properly understood. Our poets, aided by our philosophers, must show the poverty of contemporary happiness and the beauty of a more virtuous, responsible, loving happiness.
Any long-term reversal of population decline or, what is more likely, a reversal of the birth dearth depends on the cultivation of such a perspective—an appreciation for the limits of human freedom to redefine our world.