Volume > Issue > Briefly: March 1998

March 1998

The Philosophical Papers of Alan Donagan

By J.E. Malpas

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Pages: Vol. 1: 275 pages. $39.95. Vol. 2: 298 pages.

Price: $39.95

Review Author: Linda Zagzebski

Alan Donagan was one of the most distinguished philosophers and historians of philosophy of the late 20th century. This two-volume collection brings together many of his papers in two major areas of his work. Volume 1 consists of essays on a number of philosophers, including Descartes, Spinoza, Mill, Bradley, Collingwood, Wittgenstein, and Hempel, as well as two previously unpublished papers on the history of philosophy as a discipline. Volume 2 consists of papers on the philosophy of action and moral theory, as well as papers on particular moral issues such as informed consent in medical experimentation, legal practice in an adversarial system, the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the conditions for a just war. Donagan became a Christian toward the end of his career, and many of his later papers are on the philosophy of religion. Some of those essays, as well as several of his papers on Aquinas and medieval philosophy, will appear in a separate volume.

Donagan was born and educated in Australia, and spent most of his career in the U.S. The influence of Kant on Donagan’s ethics is well known from his highly praised book, The Theory of Morality, and Kantian themes appear in several of the essays in this collection. In the last essay of Volume 2, Donagan gives his own interpretation of 20th-century academic ethics and defends the Enlightenment project in its Kantian form against Alasdair MacIntyre’s well-known attack in After Virtue. Donagan was deeply committed to Kant’s principle that each rational being is an end in himself, and argued that the sense of “end” used by Kant is more basic to ethics than the concept of the good life as end (telos) urged by contemporary neo-Aristotelians. Donagan died in 1991.

The Clash of the Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art

By Thomas F. Mathews

Publisher: Princeton University Press

Pages: 223

Price: $49.50

Review Author: Carroll C. Kearley

Historians apply the term “Late Antique” to the Mediterranean area between the third century and the seventh. This term emphasizes the strong cultural continuity they discern between this period and the age of Imperial Rome. Art historians have developed a compatible theory about the Christian art of the Late Antique that stresses the continuity of images of Christ with familiar images of the Roman emperors.

A few decades ago, Ernst Kantorowicz, André Grabar, and Andreas Alföldi were prominent advocates of the claim that images of Christ were derived from images of the emperors, and of the corollary claim that the Christians of the Late Antique period saw Christ as the new emperor. Christians, it was said, used imagery associated with the emperors to craft portraits that showed how they envisioned Christ: as one who rules with power.

Mathews calls this approach “The Emperor Mystique,” and contends that this theory sorely misperceives what actually occurred when the Christian image-makers set out to represent Christ. Page by page, picture by picture, Mathews shows us how un-imperial were the images of Christ.

Images of the emperor entering a city were popular, so Christians (the imperial theory says) wanted to portray Christ similarly entering Jerusalem. The emperor was always represented as indomitable, the ever-victorious commander of the armed forces. When he entered a city, he had to present that semblance. No image could be tolerated that did not correspond to that. The image, like the military parade, was designed to overawe the onlookers.

Yet, Mathews argues, the imagery of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem is utterly different. This entry was portrayed on many sarcophagi. On these stone coffins, Christ is typically shown riding an ass. In a sarcophagus from the Museo Nazionale delle Terme in Rome, Christ’s right arm is in the sling of the pallium, as philosophers traditionally wore the garment. In his left hand is the wand of the miracle worker. Christ is seen as a wise man with healing powers. And his riding side-saddle on a plodding ass is the ultimate non-military pose.

A second prominent and early image of Christ is as healer. As such, he again carries a wand. In antiquity the wand was a distinctive attribute of the magician. Christ was seen as one who could heal with his “magic.” With the touch of his hand or his wand he could heal the sick and even raise the dead. Christ’s power is for healing, not for military rule.

In the great mosaics in the apses of churches, Christ is never shown as emperor. He does not wear a jewel-studded diadem, nor does he wear the imperial cloak. When a halo and golden garments are given to him, they signal his divinity; they do not point to him as emperor. Mathews describes the curule seat that is always used in pictures of a seated emperor, and shows that Christ when portrayed sitting is never in a curule seat. Furthermore, after the first century no one was allowed to sit in the emperor’s presence, not even the senate. Pictures of Christ and his apostles seated together give a quite un-imperial effect.

Mathews shows convincingly that the images of Christ do not echo the images of the pagan gods and of divinized emperors. No one image is sufficient to manifest Christ, but for the Christians of the Late Antique period, he was not an emperor.

Black and Right: The Bold New Voice of Black Conservatives in America

By Stan Faryna, Brad Stetson, and Joseph G. Conti

Publisher: Praeger Publications

Pages: 167

Price: $19.95

Review Author: Patrick Rooney

A recent Washington Post poll found that 26 percent of black Americans identify themselves as conservatives. So, being black and conservative is not unusual. Nor is it new, as the story of Booker T. Washington demonstrates. Today many blacks “have returned to the family-centered traditions of earlier black Americans who knew that even under the economic deprivation of Jim Crow, the practice of diligence, thrift, self-reliance, and religious piety would enable one to succeed to as great a degree as one’s social context would allow…” (from the preface to Black and Right). What is new, as the subtitle says, is the bold voice of black conservatives. The voice must be bold because it has been systematically excluded by the liberal media.

Black and Right is a compilation of essays by and interviews with some of the most prominent black leaders in this country — men like Clarence Thomas, Shelby Steele, and Gary Franks, and women like Ezola Foster and Gwen Richardson.

As one ventures into the pages of Black and Right, it begins to become clear why there has been such a relatively small number of black conservatives willing to speak out. Those who have spoken out have been met with ridicule, intimidation, and even threats.

Booker T. Washington, a giant of his time, suffered a similar fate at the hands of black liberals. Washington, with a long list of accomplishments, personified diligence, integrity, and character. Yet he was vilified, primarily by other blacks. Fast-forward to the present, where ex-Congressman Gary Franks, a black conservative, was called a “Negro Kevorkian — killing the opportunities for his race,” by a black liberal Congressman. These kinds of hyperbolic charges are routinely slung by black liberals at black conservatives.

Whereas in the 1960s blacks demanded equal service at lunch counters in the segregated South, today black conservatives are demanding equal treatment at the table of public discourse. Liberal leaders have had a corner on public black thought in this country for decades. “Leaders” like Jesse Jackson, Louis Farrakhan, and Maxine Waters have successfully built huge power bases through blaming others, notably whites, for black failures, and installing themselves as saviors.

Booker T. Washington was familiar with this powermongering. He once wrote, “There is [a] class of [black] people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, the hardships of the Negro race before the people. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs.”

There is a fear among the liberal elite of whites and blacks that black conservatives will expose their game of power and control. Many of the black conservatives in Black and Right grasp that their race and its past plight have been used by liberals as a battering ram against traditional values, and that this must cease. Never is this issue more clear than when one interest group or another tries to justify its cause by linking it with the struggle of black Americans for civil rights. This argument reaches its illogical extreme when the linking is done by homosexuals to legitimize their “civil rights struggle,” as Joseph E. Broadus beautifully illustrates in his contribution to this book.

The essays in Black and Right contain a power and depth which, frankly, are sometimes missing in the writings of white conservatives. It seems a great irony is playing itself out as we draw near the end of this millennium — the impact of slavery, and the generational hardships created by the continuing racial discrimination in this country, have given blacks a choice: become embittered, or become better, deeper, nobler. Clearly, the writers in this collection have taken the second path. The descendants of slaves are now in a position to lead this once great nation back to its rightful moral standing. Brimming with uncommon common sense, piercing insight, and hard-won experience, Black and Right is a testament, a testimony, and a road map. Its content makes it a “man among boys” on the literary scene.

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