A Review of Apples of Gold in Pictures of Silver

Ryan T. Anderson, First Things, February 2011.


Leon Kass is a national treasure. I first came across his work nearly a decade ago as he led the President’s Council on Bioethics to produce some of the finest reflections on bioethical questions ever produced. These led me to his earlier works, which consistently vindicated Kass’s self-description in his justly acclaimed Towards a More Natural Science: “The author of this book is by reading a moralist, by education a generalist, by training a physician and biochemist, by vocation a teacher—and student—of philosophical texts, and by choice a lover of serious conversations, who thinks best when sharing thoughts and speeches with another.”

The fifteen essays in this Festschrift acknowledge all these facets of Kass’s life and celebrate his many contributions in the most fitting way: by continuing the conversation. Among the luminaries sharing their thoughts are Eric Cohen, Ralph Lerner, Yuval Levin, Harvey Mansfield, Paul McHugh, Gilbert Meilaender, and Diana Schaub.

Some of the essays take penetrating looks, in the spirit of Kass’s own approach, at great Western texts by ancient Greeks such as Homer, Sophocles, and Plato; by modern philosophers such as Spinoza, Rousseau, Heidegger, and Strauss; and by literary greats such as Austen, Hawthorne, and James.

First Things