Tuesday Jul 19, 2022

Niebuhr’s The Nature and Destiny of Man vol. 1

After three and a half years of dropping not-so-subtle hints, Dad finally persuaded me to read Reinhold Niebuhr's The Nature and Destiny of Man... though in this episode we cover only vol. 1, the "Nature" part. (Stick around with us in Season 5 and you might just get vol. 2!) In this episode we examine Niebuhr's sweeping summation of Western intellectual history and whether it holds up to scrutiny, how the divorce of Renaissance and Reformation gave us all the intractable problems of modernity, the difference between universal sin and unequal guilt, and zero in on the one place where Niebuhr talks more about God than man.


1. Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man; see also his Moral Man and Immoral Society

2. James, Varieties of Religious Experience

3. Related episodes: Hannah Arendt, On Putin's Invasion of Ukraine

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