very clearly (and in many other statementsnat the same time), Jefferson wasnnot pointing to the evils of slavery —nhe was pointing to the evils of antislavery,nof free-soilism.nThe letter is written to console annortherner in trouble with his constituentsnfor favoring the compromise —nthat is, for favoring the admission ofnMissouri as a slave state. It is notnslavery that Jefferson fears as “thendeath knell of the Union,” it is antislavery,nthe notion that has been raised fornthe first time that Congress could tampernwith the institutions of new statesnas a condition for admission. Looked atnover the whole career and not sugarcoatednand spiffed up to meet 20th-nTithonus in ManhattannGoing back to nature has been thentheme of moral philosophers at leastnsince the time of Montaigne; tonsome extent, “living according tonnature” must be a natural conception,nsince it was an essential principlenof philosophies as widely separatednas Stoicism and Taoism. Whatnis remarkable is how few such moralistsnever paid much attention tonnature — not the Stoics, not Laotse,nand certainly not Montaigne.nWhat they had in mind were certainna priori principles, which theynapplied to human circumstances.nThere have been exceptions, ofncourse. Aristotle was a keen biologicalnthinker, and the 18th-centurynScottish jurist Lord Karnes oncenproposed the beasts as a parallel fornhuman social life. But it has reallynonly been since Darwin that scientistsnand philosophers have systematicallynattempted to grapple withnthe human condition biologically.nThe most famous such attemptnstill remains Konrad Lorenz’s OnnAggression — a widely misunderstoodnlittle book. In it, Lorenz (andistinguished student of animal behavior)nlooked at the intersection ofnour natural instincts and social institutionsnand concluded that sincenman’s unaggressive nature did notnprovide the necessary mechanismsnfor regulating violent behavior,ncentury standards, that is to say, viewednhistorically, Jefferson’s views are easilynunderstood and did not differ, exceptnfor being more detached in tone (asnbefitted an elder statesman), fromnthose of most other Southerners of thatntime and later, including the leaders ofnthe Confederacy. Those views werenthe exact opposite of, and hostile to,nthe Free-Soilers of the mid-19th centurynwho claimed him as patron saint.nLike all Southerners, Jefferson wasnunwilling to entertain outside interference.nThat we have so nearly lost touchnwith Jefferson is nowhere better indicatednthan in his being claimed as thenfather of modern public education.nREVISIONSnthese had to be supplied by variousncultural mechanisms. In his latestnbook. The Waning of Humannessn(translated from German by R.W.nKickert, Boston: Little Brown),nLorenz is covering familiar territory:nman’s plight in a world of hisnown creation, a world that turns hisnhealthiest instincts into liabilities.nLorenz utterly rejects the ideanthat evolution has any plan or evenndirection; at the same time, he insistsnupon the value distinction betweennhigher and lower, i.e., betweennspecies that have a richer ornpoorer ability to process and utilizeninformation from their environment.nOur natural aversion to parasitesnis justified, he argues, becausenthe parasite gives up not only itsnindependent locomotion but muchnof its sensory and intellectual capacity.nParasitism is only one type ofndead end; domestication representsnanother. It is no accident that wenfind the wild turkey a magnificentnand noble creature, while the domesticatedncreature is foolish andndegraded. (The exceptions are thendomestic horse — which in appearancenhas greater nobility than hisnwild counterparts — and the dog,nwhose character now displays suchnhigher human traits as loyalty andnself-sacrifice.)nIf species can become decadent,nso can cultures, if they evolve inndirections that diminish the autono­nnnJefferson proposed for Virginia a systemnof public education, never fullynimplemented, designed not to supplantnprivate education but to supplement it.nHis main concern beyond making rudimentarynlearning widely availablenwas to rescue those gifted young mennwho appeared from time to time in thenlower orders of society. He wouldnprovide them with the means and thenopportunity, in a vigorously competitivenand elitist setting, to progress intonthe aristocracy so that their talentsnwould not be lost to themselves and tonsociety. (The rich would, of course,nsee to their own success.) Nothingncould be further from Jefferson’s plannthan the programmatic use of thenmy of their members. Under whatnLorenz calls “the technocratic system,”nthat is the fate of modernnman whose every problem is solvednfor him and whose faith is placed innthe idols of pseudodemocracy —nhuman equality and plasticity ofnhuman nature: “The belief in thenunlimited plasticity of humans isnnaturally most welcome to all thosenpeople for whom it would be advantageousnif the human possessed noninborn abilities and capacities andnwould, thus, be unlimitedly manipulatable.nThis explains why thenpseudodemocratic doctrine that allnmen are equal, by which is believednthat all humans are initially alikenand pliable, could be made into anstate religion by both the lobbyistsnfor large industry and by the ideologuesnof communism.”nThere are weaknesses in Lorenz’sncase: on the metaphysicalnproblem of value in an evolutionist’snworld, he can do no better thannthe commonsense observation thatnthe human universe depends onnvalues; on the future, Lorenz placesnhis optimistic hopes on the shouldersnof the young, while at the samentime acknowledging that the youthfulnrejection of tradition is itself anmain symptom in the “waning ofnhumanness.” It is, nonetheless, annimportant book, full of wonderfulninsights.nFEBRUARY 1988 / 3Sn