Eros, however much it promises the lovers self-completion and self-fulfillment – that it will make one out of two, forever – cannot fully or permanently do so: the coupling two cannot really become one flesh or one soul, and, willy-nilly, death will part even the best of pairs. But eros itself, rightly understood, has the remedy for these difficulties. For eros points ultimately to procreation and the as-yet unborn children of erotic union, children who, as the genuine one-flesh fruit of their love, will in part redeem the perishable dyad by stepping forward to take their place.
Leon R. Kass – Leading a Worthy Life: Finding Meaning in Modern Times p.105
Against these considerations, the clever ones will propose that if we could do away with death, we would do away with the need for posterity. But that is a self-serving and shallow answer, one that thinks of life and aging solely in terms of the state of the body. It ignores the psychological effects simply of the passage of time – of experiencing and learning about the way things are. After a while, no matter how healthy we are, no matter how respected and well placed we are socially, most of us cease to look upon the world with fresh eyes. Little surprises us, nothing shocks us, righteous indignation at injustice dies out. We have seen it all already, seen it all. We have often been deceived, we have made many mistakes of our own. Many of us become small-souled, having been humbled not by bodily decline or the loss of loved ones but by life itself. So our ambition also begins to flag, or at least our noblest ambitions. As we grow older, Aristotle already noted, we “aspire to nothing great and exalted and crave the mere necessities and comfort of existence.” At some point, most of us turn and say to our intimates, Is this all there is? We settle, we accept our situation – if we are lucky enough to be able to accept it. In many ways, perhaps in the most profound ways, most of us go to sleep long before our deaths – and we might even do so earlier in life if death no longer spurred us to make something of ourselves.
In contrast, it is in the young where aspiration, hope, freshness, boldness and openness spring anew – even when they take the form of overrunning our monuments. Immortality for oneself through children may be a delusion, but participating in the natural and eternal renewal of human possibility through children is not – not even in today’s world.
Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.272
For human eros is the fruit of the peculiar conjunction of and competition between two contrary aspirations in a single living body: one, a self-regarding concern for one’s own permanence and fulfillment; the other, a self-denying aspiration for something that transcends our own finite existence, and for the sake of which we spend and even give our lives. Nothing humanly fine, let alone great, will come out of a society that has crushed the source of human aspiration, the germ of which is to be found in the meaning of the sexual complementary two that seek unity wholeness and holiness.
Human procreation, in sum, is not simply an activity of our rational wills. It is a more complete activity precisely because it engages us bodily, erotically and even spiritually, as well as rationally. There is wisdom in the mystery of nature that has joined the pleasure of sex, the inarticulate longing for union, the communication of the loving embrace, and the deep-seated and only partially articulate desire for children in the very activity by which we continue the chain of human existence and participate in the renewal of human possibility. Whether we know it or not – and we are already well on the way to forgetting it – the severing of procreation from sex, love and intimacy is inherently dehumanizing, no matter how good the product.
Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.157
The bioethicists, whether libertarian, egalitarian or humanitarian, are by and large unconcerned with the positive good of keeping human procreation human, if upholding the difference between procreation and manufacture, between begetting and making. Few of them ponder what it will mean for the relation between the generations when children do not arise from the coupling of two but from the replication of one. Few seem to care about what it means for a society increasingly to regard a child not as a mysterious stranger given to be cherished as someone to take our place, but rather as a product of our will, to be perfected by design and to satisfy our wants.
Leon R. Kass – Life, Liberty, and the Defense of Dignity: The Challenge for Bioethics p.11
What, then, does this suggest about eros and piety, about the love of women and the love of God? Love of the beautiful, this story seems to suggest, is at best a detour and a distraction, at worst a form of idolatry. Love of visible beauty is, at bottom, an attempt to make time stand still, to deny one’s own mortality and insufficiency, to attach one’s perishable self to some seemingly perfect and unchanging earthly form. Only if such love is transformed and domesticated by custom and marriage and turned toward its ever-present possibility, the generation of children, can it become, for the children of the book, a help to piety. For it is from the recognition of our own mortality and the resulting desire to give to our children not just life, but a good and righteous way of life, that men and women can open themselves to the ways and attitudes of the Bible. In the parental love of children lies the possibility of the sanctification of life – even in today’s world. Not eros as such, about which the text is at best neutral, but procreation is the biblical way by which the love of man and woman can lead to the love of God.
Leon R. Kass – The Beginning of Wisdom p.444