The Personalist Project

The other day a friend linked a Crisis Magazine article by Anne Maloney, an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul: What the Hook-Up Culture Has Done to Women. It's painful to read.

In thirty years of teaching, I have come to know thousands of women between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six. These women are hurting. Badly.  Consider these examples from “the front lines”: a young woman says to me with all earnestness, “This weekend I went to my first college party, and I hit it off with a guy so we went into the back bedroom where the coats were and started kissing, but then he reached down, moved my panties aside and penetrated me, so I guess I’m not a virgin anymore.” Another young woman came to me in tears because her doctor told her that since she has genital warts, she may have trouble conceiving children in the future. She had always assumed she would get married and have a family someday. “And the worst part is,” she wailed, “I’m not even promiscuous. I’ve only had sex with six guys.” This young woman was nineteen when she said this to me.

Then Professor Maloney says this:

In a seminar I teach every other year, we discuss the ways that addiction reveals certain truths about embodiment. One of the books we discuss is Caroline Knapp’s Drinking: A Love Story. The students adore this book, and we have fascinating conversations in class. 

It struck me as a surprising text for a college philosophy seminar. So I bought the book right away and am nearly half way through it now. No wonder her students love it! It's honest and wrenching and profoundly insightful, plus poignant and engaging.

It's also deeply personalistic in its emphasis on the problem of identity, alienation and communion—the central problem of our day.

Many of us drink in order to take that flight, in order to pour ourselves, literally, into new personalities: uncap the bottle, pop the cork, slide into someone else’s skin. A liquid makeover, from the inside out...

It melts down the pieces of us that hurt or feel distress; it makes room for some other self to emerge, a version that’s new and improved and decidedly less conflicted. And after a while it becomes central to the development of that version, as integral to forward motion as the accelerator on a car. Without the drink you are version A. With the drink, version B. And you can’t get from A to B without the right equipment.

The practical wisdom embodied in AA and its offshoots blows me away.

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