Leading a Worthy Life

– Leon Kass, Leading a Worthy life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times, (New York: Encounter, 2017).
This work is a collection of old and new essays by one of America’s leading thinkers. A true tour-de-force, it offers an excellent introduction to the great themes of Leon Kass’s life work. From the publisher: Most American young people, like… More

Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver: Honoring the Work of Leon R. Kass

– Yuval Levin, Thomas W. Merrill, and Adam Schulman, eds. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, May 25, 2010.
Summary: Leon R. Kass has been helping Americans better understand the human condition for over four decades—as a teacher, writer, scholar, public champion of the humanities, and defender of human dignity. From bioethics to civic education, from… More

What So Proudly We Hail, The American Soul In Story, Speech, And Song

– Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2012.
Summary: This wonderfully rich anthology uses the soul-shaping power of story, speech, and song to help Americans realize more deeply—and appreciate more fully—who they are as citizens of the United States. At once inspiring and thought-provoking, What… More

Taking Care: Ethical Caregiving in Our Aging Society

– The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, DC, September 2005.
Excerpt: American society is aging—dramatically, rapidly, and largely well. More and more people are living healthily into their seventies and eighties, many well into their nineties. With birth rates down, with the baby boomers approaching retirement, we… More

Reproduction and Responsibility: The Regulation of New Biotechnologies

– The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, DC, March 2004.
Excerpt: This report differs from, yet complements, the Council’s work in its previous publications. In Human Cloning and Human Dignity, we addressed the limited topic of human cloning—what to think and what to do about it—and offered specific… More

Monitoring Stem Cell Research

– The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, DC, January 2004.
Excerpt: I am pleased to present to you Monitoring Stem Cell Research, a report of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Over the past two years, in keeping with your stated intention, the Council has been monitoring developments in stem cell research,… More

Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics

– Encounter Books, January 1, 2004.
At the onset of Life, Liberty and the Defense of Dignity, Leon Kass gives us a status report on where we stand today: “Human nature itself lies on the operating table, ready for alteration, for eugenic and psychic ‘enhancement,’ for wholesale redesign.… More

Being Human: Readings from the President’s Council on Bioethics

– The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, DC, December 2003.
Summary: Increasingly, advances in biomedical science and technology raise profound challenges to familiar human practices and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting. It is no wonder, then, that bioethics touches matters close to the core of our humanity:… More

Beyond Therapy: Biotechnology and the Pursuit of Happiness

– The President's Council on Bioethics, Washington, DC, October 2003.
Excerpt: Biotechnology offers exciting and promising prospects for healing the sick and relieving the suffering. But exactly because of their impressive powers to alter the workings of body and mind, the “dual uses” of the same technologies make… More

The Beginning of Wisdom: Reading Genesis

– Free Press, 2003.
Summary: As ardent debates over creationism fill the front pages of newspapers, Genesis has never been more timely. And as Leon R. Kass shows in The Beginning of Wisdom, it’s also timeless. Examining Genesis in a philosophical light, Kass presents it not… More


Exodus and American Nationhood

– Leon Kass, "Exodus and American Nationhood," Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2021.
What makes a people a people? What forms their communal identity, holds them together, guides their lives? To what do they look up? For what should they strive? These questions have risen to the surface in our turbulent times, as controversy swirls about the… More

The People-Forming Passover

– Leon Kass, "The People-Forming Passover," Mosaic, April 6, 2020.
Excerpt: The essay below is adapted from Founding God’s Nation: Reading Exodus by Leon R. Kass, forthcoming from Yale University Press in January 2021. The biblical book of Exodus, writes Kass in his Introduction, “not only recounts the founding of the… More

A Reply to My Respondents, and My Friends

Mosaic Magazine, June 27, 2013.
Excerpt: I thank Michael Fishbane, Peter Berkowitz, Gilbert Meilaender, and Meir Soloveichik for their generous treatment of my essay, for their serious engagement with its themes, and for their most interesting comments from which I have learned… More

The Ten Commandments: Why the Decalogue Matters

Mosaic (June 2013).
Excerpt: The biblical book of Genesis presents the story of how God’s new way for humankind finds its first adherent in a single individual-Abraham, a man out of Mesopotamia-and how that way survives through three generations in the troubled households… More

Amicus Curiae Brief In Support of Petitioners in Hollingsworth v. Perry

– With Harvey Mansfield, Institute for Marriage and Public Policy, January 29, 2013.
Summary: This case should be decided on the basis of the law, without reliance on the social science studies and authorities that Respondents and their amici will undoubtedly put before the Court. The social and behavioral sciences have a long history of… More

The Other War on Poverty

– “The Other War on Poverty: Finding Meaning in America,” 2012 Irving Kristol Lecture, American Enterprise Institute, May 2, 2012.
Excerpt: On this occasion twenty years ago, in his Boyer Lecture entitled “The Cultural Revolution and the Capitalist Future,” Irving Kristol explored the growing gap between our thriving capitalist economy and our unraveling bourgeois culture.… More

Cancer and Mortality: Making Time Count

– Rebecca Dresser, ed., Malignant: Medical Ethicists Confront Cancer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 179-194.
Excerpt: All human beings are mortal, and nearly all of us know it. But for most of us, through much of our lives, this knowledge remains largely below the level of consciousness. The arrival of cancer—in our own life or the life of our loved… More

The Significance of Veterans Day

Weekly Standard, 14 November 2011.
Excerpt: What exactly do we celebrate on Veterans Day? To be sure, we mean to honor the brave men and women, living and dead, who have fought America’s battles, past and present. But honor them how, and for what? About these matters, we lack a clear… More

What Silent Cal Said About the Fourth of July

Wall Street Journal, 1 July 2011.
Excerpt: Parades. Backyard barbecues. Fireworks. This is how many of us will celebrate the Fourth of July. In earlier times, the day was also marked with specially prepared orations celebrating our founding principles, a practice that has disappeared without… More

What’s the Point of Flag Day?

– National Review Online, June 14, 2011.
Excerpt: Flag Day is unusual. Commemorating the birthday of the American flag, adopted in the midst of the American Revolution by the Second Continental Congress, Flag Day is not an official federal holiday. Instead, by an act of Congress passed in 1949, the… More


Exodus and Liberal Education

– Leon Kass, "Exodus and Liberal Education," Politics and the Humanities, March 3, 2021.
Leon Kass joined the American University Politics and the Humanities podcast to discuss his recent work on the Book of Exodus.

The Ten Commandments

– Leon Kass, Tikvah Podcast, May 18, 2017.
In an interview with Jonathan Silver, Leon Kass discuss the Ten Commandments.

The Ten Commandments

– "The Ten Commandments," PCG at Harvard seminar series, April 8, 2016.
Leon Kass discusses the Ten Commandments at the Program on Constitutional Government lunchtime seminar series, convened by Harvey Mansfield.

Lincoln at Gettysburg

– Video conversation, AEI Program on American Citizenship, in partnership with, 2015.
Diana Schaub and Leon Kass discuss the Gettysburg Address.

Why Two Covenants?

– Video conversation with Leon R. Kass, Mosaic, July 2013.
When we last left Leon Kass, he was talking about the passions that “lurk in the hearts of men” and the guidance the Hebrew Bible can give us in learning how to channel them. Now we move from the formation of the individual and the family to the… More

The People Saw the Thunder

– Video conversation with Leon R. Kass, Mosaic, July 2013.
The revelation at Sinai was a “phantasmagoric experience” where sight became sound, sound became sight, and the people stood in awe and confusion. But what about us, today? Can we, just by reading, vicariously experience the awe of the children at the… More


Online Discussion of the Gettysburg Address

What is the significance of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address? Is it a funeral oration, a victory speech, a policy pitch, or something more? Was Lincoln’s purpose to break with a tainted national past, or to redefine it? “Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg… More

Online course on The American Calendar

Why do we have national public holidays? What does each—and what do all—contribute to our common life as Americans? The American Calendar explores the purpose and meaning of our civic holidays, showing how their repeated celebration helps unite and… More

Online Course on The Meaning of America

What kind of citizens are likely to emerge in a nation founded on individual rights, equality, enterprise and commerce, and freedom of religion? What virtues are required for a robust citizenry? The Meaning of America explores American character and American… More

Courses Taught

Courses Taught: St. John’s College Sophomore Laboratory (Biology) Freshman Seminar (Great Books, Greeks) Preceptorials on: Aristotle, De Anima Darwin, Origin of Species Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics Georgetown University Philosophy of Nature: The Organism… More

Teaching Career

1972-1976 — Tutor, St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland 1973-1974 — Independent research on “Concepts of Organism, Species, and Health – Ancient and Modern,” supported by grant from National Endowment for the Humanities… More