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The New Atheists tried, but failed, to establish a Godless morality. Mature thinkers move on (or back)

18 Apr

From Theo Hobson:

Like any movement or religion, atheism has ambitions. Over the years it has grown and developed until it has become about far more than just not believing in God: today atheism aspires to a moral system too. It comes with an idea of how to behave that’s really very close to traditional secular humanism, and offers a sense of community and values. Atheism has crept so close to religion these days that it’s de rigueur for political atheists like Ed Miliband to boast about a dual identity: a secular allegiance to a religions tradition, in his case Judaism. They don’t of course believe any of the mumbo jumbo about God, prophets and angels.

But as pleasant and rational as this all sounds, the new atheists are now hitting the intellectual buffers. The problem that confronts them is as stark as it is simple: our morality has religious roots. Put another way: when God is rejected, the stakes are gulpingly high; the entire moral tradition of the West is put in question.

This was the insight of Friedrich Nietzsche — and for all the different atheist thinkers and philosophers since, it remains just as true today. It’s all very well to say that blind faith is a bad idea, and that we should move beyond it to a more enlightened ethical system, but this raises the question of what we mean by good and bad, and those ideas are irrevocably rooted in Christianity. Nietzsche saw this, and had the courage to seek a new ethos amid the collapse of all modern systems of meaning. Did he find one? Yes, in pagan power-worship — the sort that eventually led to fascism. We think of him as mad and bad — but he was brave. Imagine Ed Miliband trying to follow in this tradition, gazing into the abyss of all meaning, the dark crucible of nihilism.

The trouble is that too many atheists simply assume the truth of secular humanism, that it is the axiomatic ideology: just there, our natural condition, once religious error is removed. They think morality just comes naturally. It bubbles up, it’s instinctive, not taught as part of a cultural tradition. In The God Delusion Richard Dawkins tries to strengthen this claim using his biological expertise, arguing that humans have evolved to be altruistic because it ultimately helps their genes to survive. But in the end, he admits that no firm case can be made concerning the evolutionary basis of morality. He’s just gesturing with his expertise, rather than really applying it to the issue at hand.

Here’s his muddle. On one hand he believes that morality, being natural, is a constant thing, stable throughout history. On the other hand, he believes in moral progress. To square the circle he plunges out of his depth, explaining that different ages have different ideas of morality, and that in recent times there has happily been a major advance in our moral conventions: above all, the principle of equality has triumphed. Such changes ‘certainly have not come from religion’, he snaps. He instead points to better education about our ‘common humanity with members of other races and with the other sex — both deeply unbiblical ideas that come from biological science, especially evolution’. But biological science, especially evolution, can be used to authorise eugenics and racism. The real issue is the triumph of an ideology of equality, of humanism. Instead of asking what this tradition is, and where it comes from, he treats it as axiomatic. This is just the natural human morality, he wants us to think, and in our times we are fortunate to see a particularly full expression of it.

The Rest Here

Quakerism and religious freedom in America

17 Apr

From Thomas Kidd:

As I noted in a recent post for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Founding Fathers were quite familiar with the concept of religious exemptions from laws. In the eighteenth century, among the groups most often calling for such exemptions were the Quakers. The Quakers were pacifists who would not serve in the colonial militias, and they also would not take oaths in court, or ones to serve in political office. The Quaker exemption on oaths even made it into the language of the Constitution’s presidential oath of office, in which he says “I swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States.” Quakers would only “affirm” their intentions, refusing to swear because of the seeming prohibition against swearing by Christ in Matthew 5.

William Penn

Quaker convictions about religious liberty, like Baptists’, emerged from the experience of persecution. I have recently been working on a chapter on the Middle Colonies for a book on early American history that I am writing for Yale University Press. One of the books I am consulting is John Smolenski’s Friends and Strangers: The Making of a Creole Culture in Colonial Pennsylvania (2010). While Smolenski’s excellent book is primarily written for scholarly experts, it includes fascinating details about the Quakers’ early theological and social struggles, both in England and in Pennsylvania.

William Penn converted to Quakerism in 1667, when he was twenty-three years old, and soon began publishing on behalf of his new faith, and criticizing the English government for its suppression of those who stood outside the established Anglican Church. Penn then became the target of that oppressive church-state power, and he landed in Newgate Prison for almost a year in the late 1660s. His participation in an outdoor worship meeting in London in 1670 earned him a second detention, and a trial for disturbing the peace.

Penn and his Quaker co-defendant argued that public worship did not entail disturbing the peace, and surprisingly, the jury agreed. The judge in the case, expecting a verdict against the Quakers, angrily ordered that the jury members be detained overnight, with no food, drink, or even a “Chamber-Pot, though desired.” Eventually the Quakers and the jury were vindicated and released, which in itself was an important milestone in the independence of juries under Anglo-American law.

Quakers published a popular account of the trial, in which Penn argued that the charges against him violated the rights of Englishmen as established in the fundamental law of Magna Carta. [This piqued my interest, as my family and I have seen copies of Magna Carta at both the British Library and, over Spring Break, at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, an exhibit well worth your time.] Punishing people for worshiping God according to their consciences was “destructive of the Great Charter,” Penn insisted.

When Penn founded Pennsylvania, it joined Roger Williams’ Rhode Island as the second American colony that offered liberty of conscience to all with no established, tax-supported church. As much as I (as a Baptist myself) admire the contributions of Baptists in fighting for America’s tradition of religious liberty, the work of many kinds of dissenters helped to build that tradition. It is fascinating to see how the Quakers’ convictions, and Penn’s claim on the 13th century precedent of Magna Carta, helped to establish the principle that the government should not punish people for living out their religious convictions. By the time of the Revolution, the Founders had also come to believe that in the case when a legislature passes a law (or, befitting modern circumstances, a bureaucratic agency issues a mandate) that violates the consciences of such dissenters, the government has a special obligation to offer accommodations or exemptions, so as not to coerce anyone into acting against deeply-held beliefs.


Does the intellectual left think academic freedom should give way to “academic justice?”

14 Apr

Good one from Douthat:

EARLIER this year, a column by a Harvard undergraduate named Sandra Y. L. Korn briefly achieved escape velocity from the Ivy League bubble, thanks to its daring view of how universities should approach academic freedom.

Korn proposed that such freedom was dated and destructive, and that a doctrine of “academic justice” should prevail instead. No more, she wrote, should Harvard permit its faculty to engage in “research promoting or justifying oppression” or produce work tainted by “racism, sexism, and heterosexism.” Instead, academic culture should conform to left-wing ideas of the good, beautiful and true, and decline as a matter of principle “to put up with research that counters our goals.”

No higher-up at Harvard endorsed her argument, of course. But its honesty of purpose made an instructive contrast to the institutional statements put out in the immediate aftermath of two recent controversies — the resignation of the Mozilla Foundation’s C.E.O., Brendan Eich, and the withdrawal, by Brandeis University, of the honorary degree it had promised to the human rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

In both cases, Mozilla and Brandeis, there was a striking difference between the clarity of what had actually happened and the evasiveness of the official responses to the events. Eich stepped down rather than recant his past support for the view that one man and one woman makes a marriage; Hirsi Ali’s invitation was withdrawn because of her sweeping criticisms of Islamic culture. But neither the phrase “marriage” nor the word “Islam” appeared in the initial statements Mozilla and Brandeis released.

Instead, the Mozilla statement rambled in the language of inclusion: “Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. … Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions. …”

The statement on Hirsi Ali was slightly more direct, saying that “her past statements … are inconsistent with Brandeis University’s core values.” But it never specified what those statements or those values might be — and then it fell back, too, on pieties about diversity: “In the spirit of free expression that has defined Brandeis University throughout its history, Ms. Hirsi Ali is welcome to join us on campus in the future to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.”

What both cases illustrate, with their fuzzy rhetoric masking ideological pressure, is a serious moral defect at the heart of elite culture in America.

The defect, crucially, is not this culture’s bias against social conservatives, or its discomfort with stinging attacks on non-Western religions. Rather, it’s the refusal to admit — to others, and to itself — that these biases fundamentally trump the commitment to “free expression” or “diversity” affirmed in mission statements and news releases.

This refusal, this self-deception, means that we have far too many powerful communities (corporate, academic, journalistic) that are simultaneously dogmatic and dishonest about it — that promise diversity but only as the left defines it, that fill their ranks with ideologues and then claim to stand athwart bias and misinformation, that speak the language of pluralism while presiding over communities that resemble the beau ideal of Sandra Y. L. Korn.

Harvard itself is a perfect example of this pattern: As Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame pointed out when the column was making waves, Korn could only come up with one contemporary example of a Harvardian voice that ought to be silenced — “a single conservative octogenarian,” the political philosophy professor Harvey Mansfield. Her call for censorship, Deneen concluded, “is at this point almost wholly unnecessary, since there are nearly no conservatives to be found at Harvard.”

But this respect is difficult to maintain when these institutions will not admit that this is what is going on. Instead, we have the pretense of universality — the insistence that the post-Eich Mozilla is open to all ideas, the invocations of the “spirit of free expression” from a school that’s kicking a controversial speaker off the stage.

And with the pretense, increasingly, comes a dismissive attitude toward those institutions — mostly religious — that do acknowledge their own dogmas and commitments, and ask for the freedom to embody them and live them out.

It would be a far, far better thing if Harvard and Brandeis and Mozilla would simply say, explicitly, that they are as ideologically progressive as Notre Dame is Catholic or B. Y.U. is Mormon or Chick-fil-A is evangelical, and that they intend to run their institution according to those lights.

I can live with the progressivism. It’s the lying that gets toxic.

Conservatives must qualify their obsession with liberty to avoid statism, maintain self-government

11 Apr

Keenan makes an alarming and compelling case that the fundamental irony of deifying personal liberty (essence of liberalism), is Statism and the end of the experiment with self-government. Must read. He writes

Last Saturday I had the honor of addressing the 50th anniversary meeting of the Philadelphia Society. The title of the meeting was “The Road Ahead—Serfdom or Liberty?” My remarks sought to suggest that conservatives should be more circumspect about their rote incantation of the word “liberty,” and that there may even be something to be said for “serfdom,” properly understood. My remarks in full are printed, below.

“The Road Ahead—Serfdom or Liberty?”

The Philadelphia Society Annual Meeting—50th Anniversary

Patrick J. Deneen, The University of Notre Dame

I would like to begin my remarks by calling to mind two commercials that aired at different points during the last five years. The first aired in 2010, and was produced by the Census Bureau in an effort to encourage Americans to fill out their census forms. It opens with a man sitting in his living room dressed in a bathrobe, who talks directly into the camera in order to tell viewers that they should fill out the census form, as he’s doing from his vantage as a couch potato.

Fill out the census, he says, so that you can help your neighbors—and at this point he gets out his chair and walks out the front door, past his yard and the white picket fence and points at his neighbors who are getting into their car—You can help Mr. Griffith with better roads for his daily car pool commute, he says—and then, indicating the kids next door, “and Pete and Jen for a better school,” and continues walking down the street. Now neighbors are streaming into the quaint neighborhood street, and he tells us that by filling out the census, we can help Reesa with her healthcare (she’s being wheeled by in a gurney, about to give birth), and so on… “Fill it out and mail it back,” he screams through a bullhorn from a middle of a crowded street, “so that we can all get our fair share of funding, and you can make your town a better place!”

The other ad, produced in 2012, was produced by the Obama re-election campaign, though it was not aired on television and has today disappeared from the internet. It was entitled “The Life of Julia,” and in a series of slides it purported to show how government programs had supported a woman named Julia at every point in her life, from preschool funds from a young age to college loans to assistance for a start up to healthcare and finally retirement. In contrast to the Census commercial—which portrayed a neighborhood street filled with people who knew each others’ names—“The Life of Julia” portrayed a woman who appeared to exist without any human ties or relationships, except—in one poignant slide—a child that had suddenly appeared but who was about to be taken away on a little yellow school bus, and as far as we’re shown, is never seen again. No parents, no husband, a child who disappears.

The first ad is a kind of Potemkin Village behind which is the second ad. The first ad shows a thriving community in which everyone knows each others’ names, and as you watch it—if you aren’t duped by what it’s portraying—you are left wondering why in the world would we need government to take care of our neighbors if we knew each other so well? Why is my obligation to these neighbors best fulfilled by filling out the Census form? The commercial is appealing to our cooperative nature and our sense of strong community ties to encourage us to fill out the Census form, but in fact—as the commercial tells us—it is in order to relieve us of the responsibility of taking care of each other; perhaps more accurately, it’s reflecting a world in which increasingly we don’t know our neighbor’s names, and instead turn to the government for assistance in times of need.

The second commercial is what lies “behind” the Potemkin village of the first. Julia achieves her “independence” by means of her reliance upon the government. Her life is a story of “success” because she has been supported at every step by a caretaker government. She has been liberated to be the person she wants to become by virtue of being the beneficiary of the government dime. Julia, in fact, is freed of the bonds that are portrayed in the Census commercial. Freedom is where there are no people—only Julia and the government.

The title of this meeting is “The Road Ahead—Serfdom or Liberty?” I think it’s clear what the answer is supposed to be, and we are all aware that “liberty” is the watchword of the conservative movement. But here’s the problem: I think Julia regards her condition as one of liberty. She is free—free to become the person that she wanted to become, liberated from any ties that might have held her back, whether debts to family, obligations to take care of aging parents, the challenge and rewards of living with a husband and father of her child, or relying on someone to help her with a business or with her care as she grew old. Would she call her condition “Serfdom”? I rather doubt it.

Serfdom, to be accurate, is an arrangement whereby you owe specific duties to a specific person, a lord—and in turn, that lord owes you specific duties as well. What the life of Julia portrays is, in a strictly factual sense, the direct opposite of Serfdom—it portrays the life of a human being who for the first time in human history is FREE from any specific bonds or obligations to anyone (except maybe for getting her child onto a little yellow bus, never to heard from again). If you were to ask Julia what she would prefer—Serfdom or Liberty—she would surely respond Liberty.

But it’s a particular kind of liberty—a liberty unaccompanied by concrete duties and responsibilities to one another, but rather, abstract relationships increasingly and ever-more comprehensively mediated through the State. Because for Julia, and the denizen of the modern liberal state, our truest liberty is achieved when it is uniformly and unfailingly provisioned by the State, and not dependent on the unreliability of any other set of relations or institutions. This was the main point of E.J. Dionne’s latest book, Our Divided Political Heart, who argued that “community” and the State were the same thing, and the point summed up in a line stated several times during the Democratic National Convention, “The government is the only thing we all belong to.”

And this was exactly what early conservative thinkers recognized was the “end-game” of liberalism—it sought, to the greatest extent possible, the elimination of all constitutive ties to any mediating or civil institution, to be replaced by our direct relationship with the State. This would be accomplished not by means of enslaving the population, but by promising that this constituted the very essence of liberation. This was the basic insight of Tocqueville’s culminating chapters of Democracy in America—that the democratic despotism of a mild “tutelary” state would come about not by force and terror, but by the willing acquiescence of an isolated and individuated citizenry. This was the argument of Bertrand de Jouvenel, who observed in his neglected masterpiece On Power that the rise of the centralized modern State was spurred when monarchs, seeking to break the power of local lords, promised liberation to the people in return for their direct fealty, and thus began a long and familiar tradition of expanding State power in the very name of liberation of individuals from mediating ties. His argument was refined and made with distinct power in the modern context by Robert Nisbet in the earliest years of American conservatism, in his 1953 book Quest for Community, in which he argued that the totalized State was not simply the imposition of despotic force upon a recalcitrant people—it was never that—but was desired by populations whose “longing for community” had been transferred from a range of identities and memberships below the level of the State, to the State itself.

We begin to see this with ever-growing clarity in our own times—a new, kinder and gentler total State. It promises its citizenry liberty at every turn, and that liberty involves ever-greater freedom from the partial institutions of civil society, or ones remade in accordance with the aims of the State. The states as sovereign political units have been almost wholly eviscerated, and are now largely administrative units for the federal government. Satisfied with that victory, we now see extraordinary efforts to “break” two institutions that have always been most resistant to the total State: churches and family. We see an unprecedented efforts by the Federal government to abridge religious liberty by conscripting religious institutions like Little Sisters of the Poor (and my institution, Notre Dame) to be agents conscripted into providing abortifacients, sterilization and contraception—in the name of individual liberty. We can expect determined and even ferocious efforts to bend Churches to accept gay marriage as a norm, even to the point of forcing them entirely out of the civil realm. And we see increasing efforts of the government to “liberate” children from their families—represented perhaps most chillingly by the MSNBC clip showing Melissa Harris-Perry explaining how the greatest obstacle to State education has been the pervasive notion that kids “belong” to families rather than belonging “collectively to all of us.”

This broader social, cultural, political and economic pedagogy is having extraordinary success. A recent Pew study on the behavior and beliefs of the “Millennial” generation—those 18-32 years old—suggests that this is the least connected, most individualistic, and therefore “freest” generation in American history. In comparison to previous generations at a similar point in life, they are least likely to belong to a political party, least likely to be members of a Church, least likely to be married by age 32. They have high levels of mistrust, yet strongly identify as liberals and support President Obama. These are the generation whose best and brightest occupied the administration building this week at Dartmouth, demanding “body and gender self-determination”—that sex-change operations be covered on campus insurance plans. They are a generation that is increasingly formed by a notion of autonomy as the absence of any particular ties or limiting bonds—and while they highly mistrust most institutions and relationships, they nevertheless view the government as a benign source of support for their autonomy.

So, as I look again at the program title, I must admit that it’s not obvious to me what I’m supposed to favor—The Road to Liberty or Serfdom? Because, as thinkers like Nisbet recognized at the very beginning of the conservative movement in America, the rise of individual autonomy and centralized power would grow together—Leviathan would expand in the name of liberty. He understood that the most fundamental obstacle to the rise and expansion of the State was the “little platoons” praised by Edmund Burke—particular and real ties to private, religious, and civil institutions. He called for a “new laissez faire”—a laissez-faire of groups. He understood that what would prevent the rise of the kind of Liberty promised by Leviathan would be something like a robust patchwork of more local institutions and relationships that gives at least this nod to one aspect of “serfdom”—debts and gratitude to each other, obligations and responsibilities should and must be grounded in real human relationships.

Now, I’m not proposing that the conservative rallying cry should be, “Give me Serfdom or give me death!” I don’t think pushing serfdom is going to make conservatives more popular today. But I do think we need to recognize that conservatives haven’t cornered the market in promoting “liberty,” and if that is our totem, then the Progressives will win the debate, as on many fronts they are today. What distinguishes Conservatism is not that it believes merely in liberty—understood as autonomy—but that it has always understood that liberty is the necessary but not sufficient condition for living a human life in families, communities, religious institutions, and a whole range of relationships that encourage us to practice the arts of self-governance.

I’ve been asked to speak on the “the road ahead” in the realms of economics, culture, and politics. For the central vision of conservatism to survive the coming storm, in all these realms it must provide a better and fuller understanding of liberty, liberty as self-rule learned and practiced amid robust human relationships and personal bonds of trust and shared sacrifice. Conservatives just can’t be against Progressivism, because increasingly that is seen by the world as being against the freedom of everyone to do anything. It can’t simply be against government, but must be engaged in “demand destruction” of the individualist impulse that leads people to look to the government for its realization. In the realms of economics, politics, and culture, it must turn creatively to promoting ideas, policies and ways of living that show, support, and protect the excellence of the life, not of Julia, but of families, communities, Churches, and institutions that have always been the schoolhouses of republican self-government.

Original link to the American Conservative essay
original link to essay

Documentary on the Protestant Reformation with Dr. Peter Lillback

4 Apr

Now available for free online here: The Protestant Revolt

To Follow Rousseau or Locke on the HHS Mandate

27 Mar

From Hunter Baker:

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt taken from remarks at the Fortnight for Freedom, used with permission from the author.

The need for this article rose from recent actions of the government which indicate that religious freedom may be in serious danger. Specifically, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a mandate requiring all employers who offer insurance to provide coverage for contraceptive and abortifacient products and services. The mandate contained no exemption for religious institutions such as universities, charities and hospitals, which might find difficulty complying for reasons of faith and conscience.

This issue may appear to be a new one, but it is actually very old. The eighteenth-century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote a number of influential books and essays. One of the most notable is The Social Contract. In that book, Rousseau has a chapter titled “On Civil Religion.” In the chapter, he observes that ancient cultures traditionally united theology and politics. Each religion was tied to the laws of its state. There could be no conversion other than through conquest. The only missionaries were soldiers. There was nothing to discuss. Force decided religious disputes. There are still quite a few nations that practice the same philosophy today.

Rousseau points to Jesus as the person who disrupted that age-old system. For a time, you had the Christians operating within the context of a pagan empire while simultaneously refusing to accept the emperor worship that held the whole system together. The empire was willing to tolerate a polytheistic festival of religions as long as all would submit to the overarching religion of Rome. The Christians refused. And they were persecuted, terribly persecuted (killed by wild animals, tortured, turned into flaming lanterns), until, improbably, everything changed. Some of the powerful were converted, such as Constantine, and Christianity gained first protection, and then establishment status. The empire of Rome eventually fell. But the Christian church carried on.

From Rousseau’s perspective, Christianity presents a serious problem because there will always be the difficulty of double power since the church will not simply yield to the state. Where there is conflict, the church will go where it believes God is leading it. Rousseau thought such a conflict should be impossible. The state must rule without question. He praised Hobbes for trying to put the two powers back together under the rule of Leviathan in which the state would control religion completely. What is needed, Rousseau wrote, is theocracy such that there is no pontiff other than the prince and no priests other than the magistrate. The only real sin in this new state Rousseau envisioned is intolerance. It is not enough to have theological intolerance and civil tolerance. Theological intolerance cannot be tolerated. Anyone who “dares to say outside the church there is no salvation ought to be expelled from the state . . .”

Rousseau, of course, was one of the great intellectual inspirations for the French Revolution. The French Revolution, so different from the nearly contemporaneous American one, followed Rousseau’s logic. The revolutionary leaders carried on a massive campaign against the Catholic church and tried to create a new national civil religion. The method of the secular, statist revolutions has been that if there is to be something like a religious power, it must be a power under the control of the state and its leaders. But like the old pagans, the new pagans have found that the followers of Jesus Christ are not willing to accept the idea of the state as the supreme power. That resistance to the supremacy of the state has been and should always be one of the marks of the Christian church.

It seems to me that the mandate handed down (in an undemocratic, regulatory fashion) by the government’s department of Health and Human Services represents a return of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s political thought in our time. In essence, the state and its rulers are saying that its conception of what is good for human beings is superior to the church’s view and it will be made mandatory (even for the church) regardless of the church’s objections. The offense is compounded because the state could simply opt to tax the people and provide the services on its own. Instead, it insists that religious institutions themselves pay for the contraceptive and abortifacient products and services it rejects. It is not enough that religious organizations have to accept it as passive taxpayers. Instead, they must be forced to directly fund the products and services as part of their employment contracts.

Whether its members realize it or not, the administration is working directly under Rousseau’s canopy. It would have been a simple thing to insert a provision into the mandate accommodating objections based on faith and conscience. Employees working for religious employers (especially Catholic ones who are the most affected) hardly represent a large portion of the labor force. But the accommodation has not been made in any meaningful sense. And one has the feeling that the accommodation has not been made because the other side is working from their own view of principle. They are saying, with Rousseau, that what they see as civil and theological intolerance cannot stand. The Catholic Church finds itself at odds with the metaphysics of the United States government. Other churches will soon find themselves in similar circumstances if we do not curb the boldness of the government quickly. Though it is in a relatively low key way (low key as opposed to the French Revolution), the government is essentially saying that a particular view of the Catholic church will not be permitted to shape its organizational behavior, even though the church’s view does not threaten anyone with harm. Individuals who work for Catholic organizations could easily work elsewhere. The church does not force anyone to sign a contract of employment.

I have frequently been surprised to find people who should know better supporting the administration and its mandate. What it often comes down to is one’s political sympathies. Those who prefer a larger government and believe government is the primary provider for the good of people tend to think the mandate is a just measure. But I have discovered that they are able to see the problem with the mandate when I change the fact situation to one with which they are more sympathetic. Let us imagine a Quaker college with a core conviction regarding pacifism. Let us further imagine that the government were to insist that such a college host an ROTC unit on campus. Given these facts, would you insist that the Quaker college must simply buckle under, ignore its core beliefs, and do what the government says? When I put it that way, I find that supporters of the mandate suddenly understand the problem with the situation the government is putting the church in. If the issue is pacifism rather than sex or reproduction, then the matter of conscientious and spiritual objection becomes more clear. We can be blind to important principles when our particular ox is not being gored.

Read the rest

A compendium of posts on communitarian, Burkean, traditionalist, conservatism

21 Mar

Over the past couple of years, I’ve posted a few blog articles (some from me, some from others) on historic conservatism (the kind associated with Burke, Kirk, Nisbet, etc.).  I think if one were to read these in a single sitting, the essence of that philosophy would be clear and demonstrably distinct from alternatives (Neo-Conservatism, modern/movement conservatism, classical liberalism, modern liberalism, communitarian progressivism/monism).

As a starting point, I might just make the following general observations about the fundamental difference between a conservative view of the world and the liberal one (both historic and contemporary):

1) Conservatives generally want to “protect” society, while liberals generally want to “perfect” society.

2) Conservatives have a pessimistic view of human nature (corrupt).  Liberals have either an optimistic view of it (inherently good) or deny the existence of human nature altogether (human nature is not fixed in any way, but malleable).

3) Conservatives tend to emphasize the irreplaceable importance of social institutions (church, family, marriage, community and voluntary associations).  Liberals tend to reduce society to the individual and the State, with the State seen as a good, maybe better substitute for most social institutions (the great leveler).

Just keep these in mind as you read along:

The origins and dangers of communitarian monism

Remember Federalism? The place of federalism in communitarian conservative philosophy

OnElection 2012: Hobbes vs Burke?

How worldview libertarianism, classical liberalism, leads to Statism

E.J. Dionne’s communitarian monism vs Robert Nisbet’s communitarian pluralism

The Five Stages of Liberalism: How today’s Statists were yesterdays libertarians



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