Harvey Mansfield
Political Theorist; Author; Professor, Harvard

The Utility of Religion

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Religion, Harvey Mansfield says, conforms to each person's sense of importance.

Harvey Mansfield

Harvey C. Mansfield, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Government, studies and teaches political philosophy. He has written on Edmund Burke and the nature of political parties, on Machiavelli and the invention of indirect government, in defense of a defensible liberalism and in favor of a Constitutional American political science. He has also written on the discovery and development of the theory of executive power, and has translated three books of Machiavelli’s and (with the aid of his wife) Tocqueville's Democracy in America. His book on manliness has just been published. He was Chairman of the Government Department from 1973-1977, has held Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, and has been a Fellow at the National Humanities Center. He won the Joseph R. Levenson award for his teaching at Harvard, received the Sidney Hook Memorial award from the National Association of Scholars, and in 2004 accepted a National Humanities Medal from the President.  He has hardly left Harvard since his first arrival in 1949, and has been on the faculty since 1962.


Question: Does religion inform your worldview?

Harvey Mansfield: Religion I am very respectful towards and try to have a … make a serious study of. In this talk I mentioned in Washington, I gave a brief … very brief argument in favor of natural religion. Religion, I think, represents and conforms to each person’s sense of importance … a place of his own … his very own place in the universe of things. Religion, I think, is aware of this, and modern philosophy, modern political science or modern science is not so aware of this. Or perhaps sometimes even altogether oblivious of this.

Recorded on: 6/13/07