Eric has tactfully requested that I remind people of the notorious Kass “Ice Cream Quote”, which was featured here at Classical Values on July 25, 2003. While it had appeared in numerous other venues in its truncated form, we here at Classical Values took rightful pride in presenting the great man’s thoughts, unexpurgated, on July 29th. We think we may have been the first internet resource to do so.
We fondly hope that the Chairman’s words will follow him, “doglike”, to the end of his days. Hence, this memory lane excursion, not short but plenty sweet.

“Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone –a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive”

“I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many readers, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs. Modern America’s rising tide of informality has already washed out many long-standing traditions — their reasons long before forgotten — that served well to regulate the boundary between public and private; and in many quarters complete shamelessness is treated as proof of genuine liberation from the allegedly arbitrary constraints of manners. To cite one small example: yawning with uncovered mouth. Not just the uneducated rustic but children of the cultural elite are now regularly seen yawning openly in public (not so much brazenly or forgetfully as indifferently and “naturally”), unaware that it is an embarrassment to human self-command to be caught in the grip of involuntary bodily movements (like sneezing, belching, and hiccuping and even the involuntary bodily display of embarrassment itself, blushing). But eating on the street — even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat — displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It betokens enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait.”

“Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one’s food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior.”

But wait, there’s more! It’s Kassfest 2005, a veritable dog’s breakfast of Kassical Values, culled from a variety of sources. We have social criticism…

“…young people need to acquire the sensibilities, tastes, and skills in reading character that can help them find and judge prospective mates?something they once gained from the study of fine literature and which they can never hope to learn from watching Seinfeld or Ally McBeal.”

“The question, admittedly complex, is whether in opting for abortion a woman is doing injustice to herself as a woman, contradicting her generative nature.”

“Whether or not we know it, the severing of procreation from sex, love and intimacy is inherently dehumanizing, no matter how good the product….It is not at all clear to what extent a clone will truly be a moral agent….”

We have bioethical musings…

“…mortal danger is contained in the now popular notion that a person has a right over his body, a right that allows him to do what ever he wants to it or with it. Civil libertarians may applaud such a notion, as an arguably logical expansion of the right of privacy, of the right to be free from unwanted or offensive touchings. But for a physician, the idea must be unacceptable.”

“even the perfectly voluntary use of powers to prolong life … carries dangers of degradation, depersonalization and general enfeeblement of soul.”

“Paradoxically, even the young and vigorous may be suffering because of medicines success in removing death from their personal experience. Those born since the discovery of penicillin represent the first generation ever to grow up without experience or fear of probable death at an early age. They look around and see that virtually all their friends are alive.”

That last is a particular favorite of mine. We wouldn’t want the kids growing up without some dead friends, eh? It builds character.
We have sage maxims…

“If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them?But if they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.”

“Withering is nature’s preparation for death, for the one who dies and for the ones who look upon him.”

Sociological alarums…

“Our society is dangerously close to losing its grip on the meaning of some fundamental aspects of human existence.”

Medical predilections…

“….if one could do something about Alzheimer’s, if one could do something about chronic arthritis, if one could do something about general muscular weakness and not, somehow, increase the life expectancy to 150 years, I would be delighted.”

And political nostrums…

“What we should do is work to prevent human cloning by making it illegal. We should aim for a global legal ban, if possible, and for a unilateral national ban at a minimum…. renegade scientists may secretly undertake to violate such a law, but we can deter them by both criminal sanctions and monetary penalties…”

We’ve even got shining cities on a hill…

“Michigan, for example, has made it a felony, punishable by imprisonment for not more than ten years or a fine of not more than $10 million, or both, to ?intentionally engage in or attempt to engage in human cloning,? where human cloning means ?the use of human somatic cell nuclear transfer technology to produce a human embryo?.”

What joy, to stride the earth in the same cosmic eyeblink as such a Titan.
UPDATE: This “Wolcotting” nonsense is quite addictive. I must have an innate predisposition for it, perhaps going back to the old “epigenetic primordium”.
But seriously folks, one of these days I hope to best Eric’s triple violation of “Wolcott’s Rule?” and practice makes perfect. I was re-reading “Leon and Me” and these words looked like they could stand a re-airing…

Perhaps my first mistake was in thinking of him as a Medical Doctor. He is a Medical Doctor who doesn’t practice medicine. He didn?t care for it, much.

“Even in my medical days, well before I acquired philosophical interests in these matters, I found the disappearance of a human life from a human body to be a simply incomprehensible occurrence. For this reason, I always disliked the autopsy room, where confident pathologists gave anatomical or physiological explanations, adequate to their limited purpose, that only increased my bewilderment regarding the questions that most troubled me: what happened to my patient? What was responsible for his extinction?”

Umm, death? The limited purposes of the confident pathologists might help narrow the field a bit. And would one really prefer timorous pathologists? Arrogant doctors…. well, who would have thought?

He retreated from clinical medicine and tried his hand as a Research Biologist?but he didn?t care for that, either. What he ended up becoming, is a Classics Professor. And, of course, a Bioethicist.

“In more than fifteen years of discussing questions of medical ethics with physicians, I have been impressed by their reluctance to generalize the principals of their conduct. They counter philosophical argument of principals with anecdotal accounts of cases.” Every case is altogether unique” they frequently insist. For several years, I must confess, I was impatient with this approach. It seemed to me then that my physician interlocutors were either too lazy or thoughtless to articulate the tacit premises of their conduct. Premises that seemed to me at least, readily accessible through analysis of their cases….I have come in large measure to appreciate the practitioners point of view….”

So, after “several years” of pestering working doctors, doctors who actually had, um, patients, he finally worked his way round to thinking that they might (however inarticulately) know what they’re talking about…

I was starting to wonder what had happened to Leon. He’s been so quiet lately.
One could be forgiven for imagining that he had finally been graced with a piercing insight, an insight which elucidated for him the fact that, PR wise, he’s his own worst enemy.
Fortunately for my bile ducts, just the other day I found some of his wise commentary over at “The New Atlantis” (Their new motto, “Bringing Home The Bacon!”).
And do you know, at first I thought he might be running up the white flag. Seriously. Sheesh, where was my head?
As it happens, he pulls a quick 180 in paragraph 28. The gee forces made my head swim…

For myself, I don?t know whether the earliest embryo is or is not my equal. I simply don?t know. I see the power of the argument from continuity, and yet my moral intuitions cut in a somewhat different direction, even if the existential choice were between preserving my embryo or rescuing someone else?s child. And yet, I stand in awe and reverence before this very human beginning, because I know that if we ran the process backward, all of us came from that.

Okay, let me unpack that a little. Sentences one and two are self-explanatory.
The “argument from continuity” is basically outlined in the final sentence, and it causes him to stand in awe and reverence of blastocysts. And yet, in sentence three he admits that he doesn’t QUITE buy into that argument, for reasons of moral intuition.

“…my moral intuitions cut in a somewhat different direction, even if the existential choice were between preserving MY embryo or rescuing SOMEONE ELSE’S child.”

If I am reading the above sentence correctly, Leon is admitting that he would probably save a walking, talking child before he tried to rescue a petri dish waif, even if said petri dish held his own child, and the toddler was some no-account peasant urchin from the lower decks.
I thought we’d made a real breakthrough. But he promptly threw it away.

“And since I don?t know whether the early embryo is or is not one of us, and since the choice before us now is not this child versus this embryo but whether to engage in a speculative project of embryo research…”

Whoa, whoa, wait a minute, that’s EXACTLY the choice before us now! That’s why we’re having this argument! You can’t just huff it away with a hurried conclusion.

” I am inclined not to treat human embryos less well than they might deserve. In order to do so, I don?t have to insist that the human embryo is the moral equivalent of my child.”

Can you?

“I can call instead for a certain kind of expansiveness, a certain kind of generosity, a certain insistence that we should not wish to live in a society that uses the seeds of the next generation for the sake of its own.”

I guess you can.
The above sentence reminds me of parental scoldings about cleaning your plate. “Eat your beets, there’re people starving in China.” How do my beets affect the kids in Beijing? Likewise, how do my medical procedures affect how many kids the Carter family up the street are going to have? To speak of “the” seeds of “the” next generation is a tenuously poetical notion at best.

“This argument appeals to the dignity with which we conduct ourselves, not the indisputable equality of the early embryo.”

And here we descend once again into blithering blatherskitery.

“It is an argument grounded in prudence and restraint, not in equality or justice. It is an argument that remembers that we must not sacrifice the opportunities to live well simply in order to try to live longer.”

He really had me going for a minute. But I’ve been hurt before…