Friday, September 17, 2004

Steven F. Hayward on "How Reagan Became Reagan"

Friends and critics alike have drained tankers of ink trying to decipher Reagan's unusual habits of mind. His asides and penchant for analysis-by-anecdote are frequently taken as signs of his limited intelligence, a false conclusion that conveniently overlooks Lincoln's similar fondness for jokes and stories. Modern social science tries to reduce thinking either to an orderly, replicable process of formal logic and quantitative models, or to the contexts of a person's life. Insight doesn't work this way. Insight, the philosopher Bernard Lonergan notes in his magisterial study of the subject, is reached "not by learning rules, not by following precepts, not by studying any methodology…. [I]nsight is a function not of outer circumstances but of inner condition…. [It] pivots between the concrete and the abstract, and passes into the habitual texture of one's mind." Insight is discovery, not deduction; it shares the same element of genius that creates great new art. "Were there rules for discovery," Lonergan adds, "then discoveries would be mere conclusions. Were there precepts for genius, then men of genius would be hacks."

Quoted in "How Reagan Became Reagan", by Stephen F. Hayward. (Claremont Review of Books Fall 2004), a good profile of our late President and his unique brand of conservatism.

Mr. Hayward also notes with amusement Reagan's imaginative mention of "the threat of interplanetary invasion" to throw Gorbachev for a loop during their first face-to-face meeting:

In preparation for their first face-to-face meeting, Gorbachev had watched some old Reagan movies, and no doubt had read through the Soviet intelligence profiles of Reagan that included prominently the fact that Reagan read his daily horoscope and the comics before he read the news pages. But he was unprepared for this. Lou Cannon wryly notes that Gorbachev "did not have at his fingertips the Marxist-Leninist position on the propriety of cooperating with the imperialists against an interplanetary invasion," and he promptly changed the subject. Reagan said to Secretary of State George Shultz after the session, "Looks like I really threw him with that one."

Mr. Hayward is the author of The Age of Reagan, 1964-1980: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order; what appears to be an interesting bit of history before my time. I've added it to my reading list.

No comments:

Post a Comment