Americans are in the midst of an important debate about the virtues and dangers of nationalism. Unfortunately, interlocutors are not always clear about what they are arguing for or against when they use the term. Some key distinctions from the work of Jacques Maritain can help clarify matters.
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No natural lawyer in the classical natural law tradition derives an ought from an is because, when it comes to practical reason, natural lawyers do not derive ought. Rather, they begin with the first principles of practical reason, which are underived. They then use these principles together with an understanding of the nature of the thing at hand to arrive at moral conclusions.
For centuries, judges, lawyers, and legislators agreed that the object, end or purpose of the law—more precisely, the “mischief” that it was enacted to overcome—is crucial for determining its meaning. Any uncertainties in the meaning of the terms employed by the lawgiver must be resolved in accord with general custom and common usage at the time the law was enacted. Bostock is the most recent example of the Supreme Court violating this foundational principle of the rule of law.
A new book systematically defends the American Founding against those who believe it was destined to end in nihilism.
For Abraham Lincoln, the victory at Gettysburg appeared almost as a ratification of the Declaration of Independence and its principles.
Many critics of the new Title IX revisions regarding campus sexual assault think that a healthy hook-up culture is achievable. However, they must contend with the fact that sexual assault and casual sex share an underlying premise: sexual desire takes priority over other considerations.
Sin corrupts every institution and every system because, one way or another, sinful human beings are involved. This means that laws, policies, habits, and customs are also corrupted by sin. We are called to do everything within our power to expunge sin from the structures of our society. Christians know that the justice of God demands that we do so. At the same time, we cannot accept that the structural manifestations of sin are the heart of the problem. No, the heart of the problem is found in the sinfulness of the individual human heart.
Christians are called not only to pray but also to act for justice, because faith without works is dead. Today, we are called to give new birth to the civil rights movement, to finally fulfill the promise of the American civil rights project for which so many fought and died.
Police killing is not the work of vigilant warriors defending society at great personal cost, and sometimes going too far. It is the day-in, day-out petty tyranny of a taxpayer-funded bureaucratic lobby group. The difference is that, unlike other public sector unions, police unions have military-grade equipment they can use to violently crush protests against their abuses, and they are legally immune from most consequences. They’re teachers’ unions, but with tanks and endless get-out-of-jail-free cards.
Neither the intent nor the letter of the Civil Rights Act, nor the Court’s own jurisprudence, compels sex blindness. The judges who have failed to see this truth are not “woke.” They’re asleep on the job.
In some respects, Alasdair MacIntyre offers strong arguments in favor of political liberalism. At the same time, he offers critiques for both liberalism’s proponents and opponents.
Although Alexander Hamilton is regularly invoked by contemporary American nationalists to lend legitimacy to their positions, his nationalism differs significantly from theirs.
Liberal justifications of liberal education are no longer effective. Teachers of humanities need a different way of defending the value of what we do and love. The Renaissance can teach us how to make a case for the study of old books that is compatible with the values of a pluralist society.
For the considerable body of people in the western world who still believe in self-government, and in the preservation of their nations’ traditional moral identities, the overreaching of the contemporary human rights project will perhaps lead them to reconsider natural law, presented in a prudently modest formulation. This is a crucial undertaking to which Pierre Manent’s new book is a worthy contribution.
Through being a Public Discourse reader, I’ve made friendships I would not otherwise have made. The joy of any movement is the relationships it fosters, and my life would be less fulfilled were it not for the intellectual camaraderie that is enjoyed by many within the Public Discourse readership.
The term “social justice” is typically associated with an aggressively progressive political agenda led by a muscular Uncle Sam. But there is an alternative understanding of social justice—one that is especially well-suited to helping the nation address many of today’s most troubling challenges. It’s time for conservatives to explain this approach and articulate an agenda for the future based on it.
Social conservatives are not just moralizing when they reject so much of what passes for liberation in our time. It’s not that we’re against self-determination, but rather that we are for the flourishing and well-being of persons, and thus we insist on fostering the institutions that are essential to this task.
The common good is the final cause of political association, not least because practical decisions are always decisions about achieving what is good and avoiding what is bad. But invoking the common good under the influence of De Koninck, Maritain, or even Aquinas doesn’t on its own advance the political conversation that characterizes a healthy polity.
Integralism delivers a more realistic view of how states actually function—including states that are secular—than do models currently dominant in political and legal philosophy.
A powerful antidote to such atomistic existence, loneliness, and alienation, is found in the family: productive, resilient, and together. A family-centered life with the home as the engine of education and economics orders one’s vocations and roles in ways that build lasting familial bonds and provide stability amid a changing world. COVID-19 quarantining provides an opportunity for this reality to sink in.
One can certainly debate the scientific warrant of a quarantine, its effectiveness in a given region or country, its proportionate value in the face of its economic consequences, and its psychological effects on citizens. Still, in principle, the state may legitimately request Catholic Christians to undertake such a quarantine, in accord with the natural law. There is nothing illegitimate about such a request, if it falls within certain parameters of temporary and just use, nor is it historically unprecedented.
In the effort to combat COVID-19, making the public aware about the truth of the pandemic has been more effective than government lockdowns. China’s suppression of information, the WHO’s dilly-dallying with declaring a pandemic, and President Trump’s refusal to take COVID seriously enough from an early date all cost lives. Once Americans understood the gravity of the problem, they began social distancing on their own, before government-mandated lockdowns began. That has been the most effective measure in controlling the virus’s spread.
The use of fetal tissue from aborted human beings in medical research predicates the health of some on the deliberate destruction of the lives and health of others. That predication is incompatible with the fundamental commitments of medicine. In the face of this global crisis, we must hold to our ethical principles more firmly than ever.
Shutting down the questions of Christian nationalists comes from a faith tradition of its own, a faith in collective humanity, international travel, and free exchange. Time will tell whether such a faith can remain vibrant.