A Necessary Book

We have been enduring the cultural revolution of liberal modernity.  It is hard to say exactly when that revolution began, but it took a great step forward in the 60’s, when social and religious tradition lost its last shreds of public authority, and another after the collapse of communism freed it to go wherever it wanted without a serious external check.

Since then its victory has become all but absolute.  Its principles are held without question by universities and other cultural institutions considered authoritative, while artistic, literary, and intellectual life has become more and more centered in such institutions.  The result is that cultural life is almost wholly in the hands of liberal modernists.  That is a problem, because their principles are radically at odds with the possibility of high culture.  A basic principle of liberal modernity is the reduction of goods to preferences, while artistic, literary, and intellectual culture exists by reference to goods that transcend preference.  The triumph of the revolution, therefore, creates an impossible situation in cultural life.

Edward Short, a New York writer known for his biographies of Cardinal Newman, has written a book that explores the implications of that situation, with specific reference to abortion.  The example is well chosen, since the universal right to abortion, a right that prominent politicians have referred...

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