Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Obama's Metaphysics Lesson, 2

A visual representation of the most used words in Barack Obama's inauguration speech Photo: Wordle.net

Today's inaugural speech builds upon and completes Obama's victory speech at Grant Park. Once more I am struck by the way Obama understands the need for metaphysical balance, and the way he is able to call for our participation in something larger, while still maintaining the integrity of each person. It's as if he's read The Person and the Common Good and applied Maritain's thought to our current situation:

"[the]human person is engaged in its entirety as part of political society, but not by reason of everything that is in it and everything that belongs to it. By reason of other things which are in the person, it is also in its entirety above political society. For in the person there are some things- and they are the most important and sacred ones- which transcend political society and draw man in his entirety above political society- the very same whole man who, by reason of another category of things, is part of political society." (p. 72-73)

The LA Times had these observations about Obama's inaugural address:

Other writers praised the absence of the first person singular. "The word that stood out the most for me," said author Marisa Silver, "was the word 'we.' Taking the 'I' out of the equation makes us keenly aware of the power and responsibility that we, each of us, have to make differences."

USC professor Leo Braudy was moved to think about the difference between general forces in history and the force of the individual, particularly someone who, like Obama, embodies past polarities. "This is how history moves," he said. "It's all well and good to talk about the rise of liberalism or the fall of communism, but really it's the individual who carries these forces within him and is able to move history forward."

Has nominalism been weighed, and has it been found wanting? We can only hope so, for the future of this nation, and for each of our own sakes.

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