Irritability is the key feature of the modern subject

From Pierre Manent’s The City of Man (1998):

“Modern man is the man who does not know how to be either magnanimous or humble.  He is defined by this twofold negation.  He overlooks and rejects these two virtues that correspond to the two principal directions of the human soul and that equally rebuff and make him indignant.  The equal refusal of these two virtues, and the effort to flee them both equally, gives the modern mind its extraordinary irritability and energy.”

“In his polemic against grace, modern man feels like and wants to be natural man and to make himself equal to his nature.  But at the same time, in his polemic against nature, he finds a secret ally in grace that has revealed to him possibilities unknown to nature, in particular possibilities of equality.  Thus, just as grace is a burden for the natural man he still is, so also nature appears as an obstacle to the new man he is becoming.”

“Man in the process of becoming modern discovers that nature and grace both entail his obedience and that, strangely, nature does so no less than grace.  If the life of the Christian is to obey the grace of God who created him, the magnanimous man also only obeys the nature that he did not make, when he becomes aware of his natural superiority and expresses it with disdain and irony.”


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