Well regarded as a public speaker and writer, Tracy Lee Simmons has a focus on classical history, philosophy, and politics. In a book review published in The National Review (April, 2018), Tracy Lee Simmons took up Leon R. Kass’ Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times.
Uniquely positioned as a biochemist and practicing physician, Kass is a former philosophy professor and Bioethics chair of the President’s Council at the University of Chicago. At a time when issues of medicine and bioethics are at the forefront, Simmons describes Kass as confronting a world in which technology advancements have outpaced the “human capacity to handle the technology wisely.”
The book delves into what is possible in the laboratory and with life-altering treatments and drugs, and whether these present an optimal pathway forward. For example, issues such as depression or mental performance may be addressed through drugs, but leave the self so altered that the question arises whether it is “still the very self that was acted upon.”
At the same time, the increasingly homogenous ideals of human society, whether in terms of beauty standards or what is acceptable in public discourse, can reduce aspects of the self, such as individuality, freedom, and potential for greatness. As Kass puts it, “an untroubled soul in a troubling world is a shrunken human being.”