Leon Kass, the Miss Manners of academia | Bleader

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Leon Kass, the Miss Manners of academia

Posted By on 05.13.08 at 04:00 PM

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Why can't the world give me a Leon Kass advice column? I don't ask for much.

"Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone--a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. ... Eating on the street--even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat--displays [a] lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. ... Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. ... This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if we feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."

In case you're unaware, Kass is on the President's Council on Bioethics and the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago, and everything he writes is 100% gold:

"Thanks to technology, a woman could declare herself free from the teleological meaning of her sexuality--as free as a man appears to be from his. Her menstrual cycle, since puberty a regular reminder of her natural maternal destiny, is now anovulatory and directed instead by her will and her medications...."

"The sonnets and plays of Shakespeare, the poetry of Keats and Shelley, and the novels of Jane Austen can incline a heart to woo, and even show one whom and how. What kind of wooers can one hope to cultivate from reading the sex manuals — or from watching the unsublimated and unsublime sexual athleticism of the popular culture?"

"On the one side, there is a rise in female assertiveness and efforts at empowerment, with a consequent need to deny all womanly dependence and the kind of vulnerability that calls for the protection of strong and loving men, protection such men were once — and would still be — willing to provide. On the other side, we see the enfeeblement of men, who, contrary to the dominant ideology, are not likely to become better lovers, husbands, or fathers if they too become feminists or fellow-travelers."

"Ogden Nash had it right: 'Hogamus higamus, men are polygamous; higamus hogamus, women monogamous.'"

Steven Pinker explains how Kass's comic gems, via the Council on Bioethics, get turned into actual social policy.

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