A Conversation with Leon Kass.
In the fall I came back to Harvard with a nagging question. It was something like, Why did there seem to be more honor and decency in those uneducated black farmers in rural Mississippi than there was, and I mean no offense, among my fellow graduate students at Harvard? Many of my fellow students shared my altruistic left-liberal political opinions, but what struck me was that, in their own lives, they were all out for number one. They all wanted to see their names in lights, and were happy to elbow each other aside in pursuit of professional rewards. They were prototypical limousine liberals. Their compassionate concern for others cost them nothing, while they lived high and fast. The only explanations I could offer were that the black farmers were religious and churchgoing or that their virtues were the product of a simple life of poor but honest farming. Now, if either were true, then it called into question my intuitive belief that education and scientific and technological progress would put an end to superstition, suffering, and poverty, enabling human beings to realize their underlying morally good nature, and that finally all good things would walk hand in hand into the sunset.