Patrick Deneen’s piece concerning the classical, medieval, and liberal theories of man coincides nicely with an extended discussion of the liberal tradition recently initiated by Thomas Fleming of Chronicles. Fleming suggests that hubris is inherent to liberal anthropology:
Whether individualistic or statist, many liberals (until the rise of environmentalism) have liked to speak of the dignity of man, who is elevated to something like a god. This tendency is exemplified by Pico della Mirandola in his famous oration. What is often overlooked or deliberately omitted is Pico’s contempt for Christianity and his pursuit of the dangerous magic of demons that live beyond the planetary spheres.
If Pico and the alchemists are read carefully, one begins to understand the modern obsession with space exploration, cloning, and the creation of life. If man is truly to become a god, he must display the power and attributes of the Christian God, while refuting, at the same time, the claim that God was unique in creating life on earth.
To some extent Fleming is drawing upon and amplifying observations made in his 2004 book The Morality of Everyday Life — which is, by the way, a work invaluable for anyone seeking to understand what liberalism is, how it permeates our world, and how we might move beyond it.