Terry Eagleton at Commonweal: “In an age in which the concept of certainty smacks of the tyrant and technocrat, a certain agnosticism becomes a virtue. Indeterminacy and undecidability are accounted goods in themselves. Conviction suggests a consistency of self that does not sit easily with the volatile, adaptive subject of advanced capitalism. Besides, too much doctrine is bad for consumption. Beliefs are potentially contentious affairs, which is good neither for business nor for political stability. They are also commercially superfluous. The fervent ideological rhetoric needed to found the system thus fades as it unfolds. As long as its citizens roll into work, pay their taxes, and refrain from assaulting police officers, they can believe pretty much what they like.”
Carissa Mulder at Public Discourse: Same-sex marriage may pose a grave threat to religious liberty, but the cultural conditions and assumptions that make that threat possible are rooted in heterosexual behavior and the idea that everyone has a right to consequence-free sexual intimacy.
National Review: I came to see that the real question is not “who can marry whom,” but rather “what is marriage?” It became clear to us that the former question was impossible to address without answering the latter. Indeed, any position on the former presupposes a particular answer to the latter.
What Makes a Marriage? Love, Sex, or Comprehensive Union | Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George
Sherif Girgis, Ryan T. Anderson and Robert P. George at Public Discourse: Prof. Charles Reid thinks love makes a marriage. He claims we think sex makes a marriage. In truth, comprehensive union makes a marriage. And getting marriage right matters for everyone . . . Redefining marriage collapses the distinction between marriage and companionship in principle and in practice. It therefore undermines all the marital norms . . .
Walter Williams at CNSNews: The idea that one person should be forcibly used to serve the purposes of another has served as the foundation of mankind’s ugliest and most brutal regimes. Do we want that for America?
Conscience is not simply self-will, it is subject to the moral law | Robert George at Public Discourse
Robert George at Public Discourse: Conscience and Its Reviewers: A Response to Kevin Doyle
Kevin Doyle’s review of Robert George’s new book is based on a fundamental error. Conscience, rightly understood, is not simply self-will. Rather, conscience identifies one’s duties under the moral law.
Christopher Kaczor at Public Discourse: One Body, by Alexander Pruss, melds rigorous philosophical analysis and insightful moral theology to advance a clearly-articulated system of sexual ethics based on the call to love.
Paul O. Carrese at Public Discourse: The French philosopher Montesquieu’s principle of moderation taught the founders to reconcile Lockean liberalism, classical republicanism, and Christianity—a balance we could use today.
The GW Hatchet: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia reminded the hundreds of people packed into Lisner Auditorium on Monday that the nation’s 227-year founding document does not hold all the answers to some of it’s biggest moral questions.
LifeNews: I am morally aligned with Republicans on almost every social issue – pornography, gay marriage, prostitution, etc. – but find I have begun to disagree with the party establishment on the proper role of government when it comes to these things. The s0-called “social issue” which is the glaring exception to this rule is abortion. It is not a “victimless crime,” as many argue prostitution, sodomy, and gambling are.
Alan Sears at Townhall: Speaking to those gathered at the breakfast, Reagan said: Those who created our country — the Founding Fathers and Mothers — understood that there is a divine order which transcends the human order. They saw the state, in fact, as a form of moral order and felt that the bedrock of moral order is religion.
Catholic Culture: The problem with treating “sexual orientation” as a description of a class of people is that it proposes a deeply flawed anthropology, or understanding of the human person. Christian anthropology teaches that each person is called to accept his or her sexual identity as a man or as a woman
DFWCatholic: Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, Wis., implored Catholics to speak up for religious freedom and for truth after explaining the link between the two at a lecture in Arlington, Va., on Aug. 23.
AP: The trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science is believed to be the first time the delicate, yellowed parchment has left England since it was issued in 1217, two years after the first version of the Magna Carta was distributed.
This article argues that secularism is not neutral. Secularization is a process, the secular state is a structure, whereas secularism is a political philosophy. Secularism takes two main forms: first, a “benevolent” secularism that endeavours to treat all religious and nonreligious belief systems even-handedly, and, second, a “hostile” kind that privileges unbelief and excludes religion from the public sphere.
Ryan T. Anderson at First Things: These remarks were delivered on Thursday June 11, 2013 in Laguna Nigel at the closing banquet of Alliance Defending Freedom’s Academy . . . Culture shapes law, but so too does law shape culture. The law both reflects our values and teaches values—especially to younger generations. The better metaphor, I think, is that of two coasts connected by a tide, that comes in and out, that picks up and drops off on the shorelines. Law and culture reinforce each other, either for or against human dignity and human flourishing.
Kathryn Jean Lopez at Patheos: A beautiful reflection from a young man who has been answering a call to try to help on the most neuralgic of issues; Ryan Anderson speaking at an Alliance Defending Freedom event . . .
David Azerrad at Public Discourse: The Declaration of Independence contains the clearest, most concise, and most eloquent articulation of the American creed: a political definition of man in two axioms, and three corollary propositions on government . . . Natural human equality is the first axiom of the American creed . . . The second axiom of the American creed is that human beings are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” . . .
Same-sex marriage decisions beg question, should America’s new motto be ‘in polls we trust’? | Cal Thomas at Fox News
Cal Thomas at Fox News: The problem for people who believe in an Authority higher even than the Constitution is that in our increasingly secular and indifferent society it has become more difficult to persuade those who do not subscribe to an immutable standard to accept that view.
“Ryan Anderson’s uphill fight to change young minds on gay marriage” | Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Washington Post
Sarah Pulliam Bailey at Washington Post: Vincent Munoz, a political science professor at Notre Dame, said Anderson is one of the brightest students he has ever met. “He possesses a remarkable ability to translate philosophical principles into public arguments,” Munoz said. “Faith is certainly an integral aspect to Ryan, but his arguments are grounded in philosophical reasoning.”
Samuel Gregg at Public Discourse: Natural law does not demand capitalism, but we can deduce from natural law that some institutions that are key to market economies are normally just, while practices key to socialist arrangements are usually unjust.
Robert P. George at Public Discourse: Is the fundamental and essential point of forming the polity the polity itself, or is the polity primarily a means of protecting and achieving many other valuable ends?
Man the Political Animal: On the Intrinsic Goodness of Political Community | Michael W. Hannon at Public Discourse
Michael W. Hannon at Public Discourse: Our arguments for limited government should recognize political community as an intrinsic good, not mistake it for a merely instrumental one.
Jordan Bloom at the American Conservative: In honor of F.A. Hayek’s birthday, let’s consider for a moment how he misread himself. In his essay “Why I Am Not A Conservative,” the economist and philosopher argued for a radical anti-state program, …
Samuel Gregg at Public Discourse: Conservatives need to stop shying away from principled, as opposed to merely utilitarian, defenses of economic freedom and its associated institutions.
Hidden implications and roots of the clash between natural law, “natural rights,” the rise of so-called “same sex marriage”
KairosFocus: At least, if we want to understand what is happening in our time as a radical and destructive secularist innovation, the homosexualisation of marriage under false colour of law, proceeds apace across the world like a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut in the name of “equality” and “rights.”
Robert R. Reilly at MercatorNet: Since how we perceive reality is at stake in this struggle, the question inevitably rises: what is the nature of this reality? Is it good for us as human beings? Is it according to our Nature? Each side in the debate claims that what they are defending or advancing is according to Nature. Opponents of same-sex marriage say that it is against Nature; proponents say that it is natural and that, therefore, they have a “right” to it. Yet the realities to which each side points are not just different but opposed: each negates the other. What does the word Nature really mean in this context? The words may be the same, but their meanings are directly contradictory, depending on the context. Therefore, it is vitally important to understand the broader contexts in which they are used and the larger views of reality of which they are a part since the status and meaning of Nature will be decisive in the outcome.
Diane Rufino at Beaufort Observer: What exactly do we mean by “Our Christian Heritage”? We certainly don’t refer to it as a way to suggest that Christianity be the official religion of the United States. We have the First Amendment to protect us from the establishment of any one religion, so that our religious conscience is free from the coercion or criticism of other religions (or non-religion) and no one is forced to support an offensive religion with their tax dollars . . . Michael and Jana Novak, “Washington’s Providence,” Alliance Defending Freedom. Referenced at: http://www.alliancedefendingfreedom.org/Faith-and-Justice/5-3/Opinion
The Pursuit of Happiness, the Pursuit of Virtue, and the Right of Conscience | Bradley Abramson at Townhall
Bradley Abramson at Townhall: In the American Declaration of Independence, our Founding Fathers proclaimed that we are endowed by our Creator with the unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness. Unfortunately, we have long forgotten what our Founders meant by that now iconic phrase—“the pursuit of happiness”—and, as a consequence, we are now in jeopardy of losing the very liberty our Founders purchased for us at the risk of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.
Carson Holloway at Public Discourse: We cannot embrace same-sex marriage and live in continuity with our past as a civilization. To embrace it is to deny that tradition, revelation, reason, and nature have any authority over us.
Christopher O. Tollefsen at Public Discourse: Rather, I am interested in Leiter’s judgment that religious believers are guilty of a “culpable failure of epistemic warrant.” That judgment is important to the question that serves as Professor Leiter’s title: Religion almost certainly can deserve no positive respect if it is based on wrongful belief for which believers are responsible, and so toleration is the best that is on offer.
Nathan Schlueter at Public Discourse: To reject the presence of natural law in documents of the Founding era is to embrace both cynicism and romanticism.
Pascal Emmanuel Gobry at The American Scene: But of course, as any freshman philosophy student can tell, the problem comes when you try to ground those universal human rights. Where do they come from? Who confers them? Why should they be respected? There’s basically only two ways to do so, one theistic and one non-theistic. Universal human rights are perfectly grounded if they come from God, as the Declaration of Independence asserts and as I believe in my heart of hearts. But not everybody likes that, and it sort of defeats the purpose of creating this secular moral system to begin with. The only other way that I’m aware of to ground the idea of universal human rights is in, wait for it, the natural law.
Scott Yenor at Public Discourse: Jonathan Last’s new book attributes population decline and the birth dearth to two trends that started in the Enlightenment era–first, an effort to limit death; second, an effort to control birth. Both trends are guided by a desire to control nature.
E. Christian Brugger at Public Discourse: True doctors and abortionists are different kinds of persons because they perform different acts as they carry out different proposals: the one, a proposal to remove a non-viable child to save the mother; the other, to kill that child for the mother’s benefit.
Mark Bauerlein at Public Discourse: Sneering at persons who are not social constructionists has become commonplace. Until defenders of inherent virtues, natural laws, divine beings, and other things that transcend social reality learn to overcome this initial set-up, they will be forever on the defensive.
Wall Street Journal: Without the Constitution’s original intent as their guide, wrote the great jurist who died Wednesday at 85, justices are left with merely their own ‘moral philosophy.’
Michael W. Hannon at Public Discourse: Preserving marriage as a union of man and woman is bound to fail unless we address the true point of contention in the marriage debate, one completely ignored by even the best legal advocates for redefining marriage: the question “what is marriage?”
Ryan Anderson at Double Think: Is there really “something highly contradictory,” as Kathryn Shelton argued here on Doublethink, about a position that “advocates the regulation of marriage, but rallies behind a platform for smaller government”? Or, on the contrary, is the promotion of marriage critical to limited government, as traditionalist conservatives—among others—regularly contend?
Mathew Lu at Public Discourse: From the beginning of its existence a human being is always already a person because personhood belongs to it essentially as an instance of that natural kind. The second of a two-part series.
Steven Douglas at MinnPost: The argument over same-sex marriage does not start in the political realm but in the philosophical. Many of the proponents of same-sex marriage with whom I speak assume that we agree on who we are on a basic level and therefore the way we should plot our political course forward. That’s where they’re wrong. Many Christians still hold to the truth of Scripture, often called inerrancy, and believe that God created humanity in his image (Genesis 1:27). These Christians reject the theory of macro evolution as an explanation of human origins. We see the role of image-bearing, generally called imago Dei, to be what defines us.
Austin Daily Herald: Neither a male-male nor a female-female relationship has the essential — i.e., of the essence — property of male-female. Same-sex marriage is neither validated nor created. It is metaphysically impossible. So to think is a logical fallacy; so to speak is semantic nonsense.
Hadley Arkes at National Review: For it’s not a matter of one word more or less, one or more mentions of God. The real heart of the issue is that most of the people in that hall, in the Democratic convention, really don’t accept the understanding of rights contained in the Declaration of Independence: The Declaration appealed first to “the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” as the very ground of our natural rights. The drafters declared that “self-evident” truth that “all men are created equal,” and then immediately: that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” George Bush was not embarrassed to insist that these are “God-given rights,” as opposed to rights that we had merely given to ourselves. For if we had given them to ourselves, we could as readily take them back or remove them.
Matthew D. Wright at Public Discourse: Michael Rosen’s effort to clarify the history and meaning of dignity ignores Christianity’s important philosophical contributions.
Jeff Mirus at Catholic Culture: Several of our readers have commented on the importance of governmental adherence to a law higher than itself. One of the grave problems in America and many other modern states is that the reigning philosophies of jurisprudence are rooted in positivism, or the idea that right and wrong, particularly in the realm of law, are simply what we say they are. Thus human law does not appear to be accountable to anything beyond itself.
Public Discourse: In a discipline whose point is dispassionate reasoning and discourse, some would shut down debate and silence dissenters on a deep and complex moral-political issue. And the view they would anathematize, far from irrational, is more coherent and more compelling than their slippery and ill-defined ‘default’.
MercatorNet: “One of the most puzzling features of contemporary Western society is that governments are prepared to act intolerantly in the name of tolerance. Australian sociologist Michael Casey explains how this has come about.”
The key is to see that while procreation is the biological good in virtue of which a man and woman’s intercourse unites them in mutual bodily coordination, this bodily union is an aspect of a comprehensive relationship valuable in itself and not just as a means to procreation. So the ancient philosophers saw what our legal tradition has long affirmed: marriage is a procreative relationship, but its intrinsic value remains whether or not children are born as the fruit of the spouses’ union.
At Public Discourse, Christopher Kaczor reviews The Fetal Position: A Rational Approach to the Abortion Issue by Chris Meyers: “Unfortunately, The Fetal Position fails in its stated goal because it caricatures the most common defenses of the pro-life view. Rather than address the philosophical arguments that all human beings prior to birth should be protected by law and welcomed in life, Meyers misconstrues the mainstream pro-life position as if it were based on a theological belief in the soul.”
Philosophy TV: “According to Tooley, abortion is morally permissible: a fetus is not a person, so it cannot have a right to continued existence. To support his view, he defends a neo-Lockean account of personhood grounded in psychological continuity. Against Tooley, Marquis defends an animalistic view of personhood, and argues that most instances of abortion are wrong for the same reason that killing you or me would be wrong: an abortion deprives a fetus of a future of value.”
“[I]n agreeing that marriage is a comprehensive union of persons but denying that it includes true bodily union, Yoshino must be reducing the person to a center of consciousness and emotion, which just uses a body as an extrinsic (and thus subpersonal) instrument for achieving satisfactions or other goals.”
Prof. Kenji Yoshino at Slate: “My response to Robert P. George’s second attempt to justify banning gay marriage”
Kenji Yoshino writing at Slate: “[T]hose who have propounded trans-historical, much less eternal, definitions of marriage have often been time’s fools. Fifty years from now, I expect new challenges will be made to the definition of marriage. Yes, such challenges could take the form of challenges to recognize polygamous marriages (in fact, such challenges would not be new, as they were made on grounds of the free exercise of religion in the 19th century) . . . I refuse to answer the question ‘What is marriage?’ by saying ‘Marriage is one thing, always and everywhere, for all people.’ I regard that refusal as a strength, rather than as a weakness, of my position, as I do not think we stand at the end of history today.”
Theodore Dalrymple writing in The Salisbury Review: “There are few human types less attractive, surely, than failed materialists, which is what the British, or at least so many of them, now are. They consume without discrimination what they have not earned . . . Benedict’s ‘crime,’ apart from being German, goes much further than his failure (or worse his refusal) to screen out the unpleasant consequences of consumerist materialism from his vision . . . In other words, Benedict XVI presents not a challenge to this or that piece of social policy, but to a whole Weltanschauung. And hell hath no fury like a questionable Weltanschauung questioned.”
“[T]he American regime has been dominated for nearly a century by a set of ideas shot through with epicurean influences. This creed celebrates individual liberty, which makes it a form of liberalism. But it defines that liberty in relation to an exceptionally radical ideal of individual self-fulfillment, which makes it epicurean.”
Samuel Gregg: “Socialism and solidarity: It is at our own peril that we ignore the nexus between moral convictions, the institutions in which they are realized, and our economic culture.”
Samuel Gregg writing at The Public Discourse: “[W]hile moral beliefs have an important impact upon economic life, the manner in which they are given institutional expression also matters. This is illustrated by the different ways in which people’s responsibilities to those in need—what might be called the good of solidarity—are given political and economic form . . . [I]t is widely assumed throughout Western Europe that this moral responsibility should be primarily articulated through state action . . . Though Americans tended, Tocqueville noted, to dress up their assistance to others in the language of enlightened self-interest, he observed that Americans usually expressed the value of helping those in need through the habits and institutions of free and voluntary association.”
William Carroll writing at The Public Discourse: “Many biologists who insist that living things are nothing more than the sum of their physical components conclude that a question such as ‘what is life?’ is at the very least not a biological question, and probably is best rejected as a question without content. So we hear that one ought to resist using the term ‘life’ to describe what is just a highly sophisticated movement of matter. In an important sense, according to such a view, ‘life,’ as something other than matter in motion, does not exist. For those scientists and philosophers who embrace some form of materialism there is a strict disjunction: either we explain the living in terms of material, mechanically operating constituents, or in terms of some mysterious spiritual substance, some vital force. There is no substitute to materialism but magic.”
Peter Wehner writing at The Christian Science Monitor: “Christian values are not fundamentally at odds with government. There’s room for debate and constructive criticism, but not an all-out attack on government’s legitimacy. Instead, Christians should consider the role of the state within the framework of their guiding principles.”
Peter Lawler writing at First Things / Postmodern Conservative: “Marriage has become, we can say, individualized or Lockeanized enough that homosexuals can reasonably wonder why they are being excluded . . . What’s new is the rights-based tendency to stigmatize those opposed to same-sex marriage as unjust, as deniers of the self-evident truths that bind us all together . . . Our Court now affirms what might be called Locke’s ‘nominalism.’ Words are weapons to be used to maximize individual liberty.”
Peter Augustine Lawler, Ph.D. writing at The Family in America: “That our principles are primarily Lockean is not all good or all bad, but it is a problem that should receive scrutiny from conservatives in a friendly and loyal but nonetheless real criticism of the Founders as theorists . . . The embedded family of Western civilization, however, was clearly under assault by Locke. Consequently, a defense of the family, the church, and the local community in our time has to be in opposition to the application of his principles in every area of life. More than anything else, Americans cannot turn to Locke or even Jefferson to learn why the family and religion are good for their own sakes as the core of who we are; we cannot learn from them the whole truth about who we are as social and relational persons created in the image of God.”
The Meaning of Secularism
“One of our basic difficulties in dealing with these problems is that we have the wrong model, which has a continuing hold on our minds. We think that secularism (or laïcité) has to do with the relation of the state and religion, whereas in fact it has to do with the (correct) response of the democratic state to diversity. If we look at the three goals above, they have in common that they are concerned with protecting people in their belonging and/or practice of whatever outlook they choose or find themselves in; treating people equally whatever their option; and giving them all a hearing. There is no reason to single out religious (as against nonreligious), ‘secular’ (in another widely used sense), or atheist viewpoints. Indeed, the point of state neutrality is precisely to avoid favoring or disfavoring not just religious positions, but any basic position, religious or nonreligious. We can’t favor Christianity over Islam, but also we can’t favor religion over against nonbelief in religion, or vice versa.”
Stanley Fish writing at The New York Times / Opinionator: “Liberalism is the name of an enlightenment theory of government characterized by an emphasis on procedural rather than substantive rights: the law protects individual free choice and is not skewed in the direction of some choices or biased against others; the laws framed by the liberal state are, or should be, neutral between competing visions of the good and the good life . . . The key distinction underlying classical liberalism is the distinction between the private and the public. This distinction allows the sphere of political deliberation to be insulated from the intractable oppositions that immediately surface when religious viewpoints are put on the table. Liberalism tells us that religious viewpoints should be confined to the home, the heart, the place of worship and the personal relationship between oneself and one’s God.”
Mark Galli writing at Christianity Today: “Generation Y is into social justice — so say generation gurus . . . That Generation Y cares about social justice is linked to another aspiration: the yearning for significance. This generation wants to make a difference in the world, to work on things that matter, engage activities that change the world. Again, this is hype, since people in every era want this. But it is nonetheless something to celebrate whenever we find it. But before we break out the champagne, we are wise to consider the seamier sides of this aspiration. First, the yearning for significance can be nothing more than ego masked as altruism . . . Second, the search for significance, especially if it requires changing the world, can blind us to the everyday tasks, the mundane duties, and the dirty work that is part and parcel of the life of discipleship.”
Roberto Frega, What Pragmatism Means by Public Reason (October 19, 2010). Ethics & Politics, Vol. XII, No. 1, pp. 28−51, 2010. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1694494
“In this article I examine the main conceptions of public reason in contemporary political philosophy (Rawls, Habermas, critical theory) in order to set the frame for appreciating the novelty of the pragmatist understanding of public reason as based upon the notion of consequences and upon a theory of rationality as inquiry. The approach is inspired by Dewey but is free from any concern with history of philosophy. The aim is to propose a different understanding of the nature of public reason aimed at overcoming the limitations of the existing approaches. Public reason is presented as the proper basis for discussing contested issues in the broad frame of deep democracy.”
John Finnis, Professor of Law and Legal Philosophy in the University of Oxford and the Biolchini Family Professor of Law at the University of Notre Dame, has this article at Public Discourse: “The Other F-Word.” The Public Discourse editors summarize: “In an article adapted from his debate last week with Peter Singer and Maggie Little on the moral status of the ‘fetus,’ Professor Finnis explains that outside of medical contexts use of the word ‘fetus’ is offensive, dehumanizing, prejudicial, and manipulative. It obscures our perception of moral reality. Moral status is not a matter of choice or grant or convention, but of recognition, of someone who matters, and matters as an equal, whether we like it or not.”
Eric Ormsby reviews What Ever Happened to Modernism? by Gabriel Josipovici in The Wall Street Journal: “Modernism is a kind of anguished repudiation—’a response to the simplifications of the self and of life that Protestantism and the Enlightenment brought with them.’ Its intimacy lies in the stubborn effort, especially on the part of Modernist novelists, to render those little hesitations, those sieges of doubt, those anxious questionings that beset us even as we attempt to construct some credible narrative of our lives. The true Modernist narrative always involves a disrupted momentum . . . The origins of Modernism lie in disillusion or, more precisely, in what the German poet Friedrich Schiller called ‘the disenchantment of the world’ . . . In the mid-16th century, the old certainties, the immemorial rituals, the hierarchies of the heavens and earth seemed to crumble. As Mr. Josipovici explains, Schiller’s phrase was taken up early in the 20th century by the sociologist Max Weber, who used it to explain the radical transformation of the world that occurred after the Protestant Reformation, from a divinely appointed cosmos, alive with numinous presences, to a bustling marketplace of enterprise, production and rampant individualism.”
E. Christian Brugger, D.Phil, writing at the Culture of Life Foundation: “To be consummative (i.e., to be an act by which the spouses become one flesh), intercourse must be ‘marital.’ To be marital, it must be performed ‘in a human way’ and must be ‘in itself suitable for the procreation of children’ . . . To be performed ‘in a human way,’ requires at a minimum that the performance is not contrary to human freedom . . . Those who contracept aim to render their act of intercourse non-procreative (i.e., unsuitable for the procreation of children). So they intend a non-marital and hence non-consummative act. It follows that should they conceive a child contrary to their intentions, they do so by means of a non-marital act. It is important to see that contraception as a moral act is not defined merely by some physical outcome. Rather, it is defined by what one intends as an end or a means.”
Edward Feser writing at What’s Wrong With the World: What we’re seeing here is just one more application of the fraudulent principle of ‘liberal neutrality,’ by which the conceit that liberal policy is neutral between the moral and metaphysical views competing within a pluralistic society provides a smokescreen for the imposition of a substantive liberal moral worldview, on all citizens, by force. (Of course, liberals typically qualify their position by saying that their conception of justice only claims to be neutral between ‘reasonable’ competing moral and metaphysical views, but ‘reasonable’ always ends up meaning something like ‘willing to submit to a liberal conception of justice.’) . . . Pope Benedict XVI has famously spoken of a ‘dictatorship of relativism.’ But I think that that is not quite right. Most liberals are not the least bit relativistic about their own convictions. A more accurate epithet would have been ‘dictatorship of liberalism,’ and in Judge Walker that dictatorship has taken on concrete form.”
Atul Gawande writing in The New Yorker: “In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition, and language about our mortality, and created a new difficulty for mankind: how to die . . . The trouble is that we’ve built our medical system and culture around the long tail. We’ve created a multitrillion-dollar edifice for dispensing the medical equivalent of lottery tickets—and have only the rudiments of a system to prepare patients for the near-certainty that those tickets will not win. Hope is not a plan, but hope is our plan.”
Jim Manzi writing at City Journal: “Over many decades, social science has groped toward the goal of applying the experimental method to evaluate its theories for social improvement. Recent developments have made this much more practical, and the experimental revolution is finally reaching social science. The most fundamental lesson that emerges from such experimentation to date is that our scientific ignorance of the human condition remains profound. Despite confidently asserted empirical analysis, persuasive rhetoric, and claims to expertise, very few social-program interventions can be shown in controlled experiments to create real improvement in outcomes of interest.”
Michael Liccione writing at First Things / First Thoughts: “At the magazine’s blog Mere Comments, Hutchens criticizes [the Manhattan Declaration] for making what he sees as [a mistaken conflation of the principles of Christianity and 'modern democracy'] . . . [The Declaration] just does give unqualified endorsement to something called modern democracy, as though the desirability of such a thing were obvious to Christians as such.”
Big Questions Online: “In the first installment of his monthly ‘diavlog’ for BQO, Robert Wright discusses how we reason about the human good with Robert P. George of Princeton University, a leading scholar of modern natural law theory. Their hour-long conversation covers: Chapter 1: Natural law vs. utilitarianism (12:01) Chapter 2: Why exactly is friendship good? (14:03) Chapter 3: Euthanasia and human dignity (7:22) Chapter 4: Natural law and conservativism (5:02) Chapter 5: What can be done in the name of the greater good? (12:28) Chapter 6: Just war theory (6:17).”
ADF Attorney Gregory S. Baylor writing at Speak Up Movement / University: “Last week, I had the great pleasure of attending a conference sponsored by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education‘s Campus Freedom Network. Along with Greg Lukianoff (FIRE’s President), Adam Kissel (the Director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program), and Professor Daphne Patai (a member of FIRE’s board of directors), I participated in a panel discussion entitled, “The Philosophical and Practical Underpinnings of Academic Liberty.” … In my prepared remarks, I observed that utilitarian rationales are not the only ethical arguments for free speech — one can make ‘deontological’ claims as well. People are entitled to speak and people are entitled to receive information, whether or not the effects of the expression are desirable. These entitlements can be called ‘rights,’ and thinkers differ on where these rights come from. I believe that people are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the right to liberty — which includes the right to free speech. To be sure, many today reject the claim that rights come from God, but this conception of rights animated the thinking of the Framers.”
Stopping for Death: Re-Framing Our Perspective on the End of Life
“This Article argues neither for nor against physician aid in dying. Rather, it reflects upon our growing sensitivity to suffering, and how this increased knowledge alters expectations of the doctor-patient relationship. Further, learning more about the nature and impact of serious illness highlights some of the limitations of our current end of life laws and policies. The legal parameters for voluntarily ending our lives are confused and in conflict. Moreover, they have been debated and enacted amidst a cacophony of rights’ talk, discourse about the permissible extent of governmental authority and the range of constitutionally-commanded privacy. Indeed, the current clamor threatens to drown out more subtle yet insistent voices asking that, before we bestow a right, we thoroughly investigate the nature of the wrong. But an insufficient amount of scholarly literature has addressed the conditions at ground zero in the assisted suicide debate: the quality of life of those near death, as well as their expectations for care and how a reasonable society might fulfill them.”