For reasons that pass all understanding, modern academic disciplines are where English prose goes to die. Fortunately, profound and compelling historical writing has a history of its own that predates the modern research university by two and a half millennia, stretching back to Herodotus in the fifth century BC. Such a tradition is resistant to the chloroform of the modern academy, so long as gifted storytellers find publishers and readers.
Month: July 2020
Judicial Nominees Must Explicitly Acknowledge That Roe Was Wrongly Decided
Roe v. Wade is no secondary issue. It is not something to be pushed to the side of the nomination process. Roe is central. Roe is a window into the constitutional worldview of a would-be justice. It is a measure of their sense of what a justice should be. That is why I say today that I will vote only for Supreme Court nominees who have explicitly acknowledged that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Adapted from a speech given on the floor of the Senate by Senator Hawley on June 30, 2020.
Which Americans Are Really “Highly Effective People”?
Thirty years after its publication, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has shaped our culture in significant, lasting ways. Yet many of the upper-middle-class, successful Americans who cultivate Stephen Covey’s habits fail to apply his most essential, all-encompassing principle—the one that guided his entire vision of the good life.
Why Are Philosophers and Theologians So Hostile to Economics?
Bad writing by philosophers and theologians about economics is a moral issue. If their views about economics are taken seriously—as they often are in churches and in policy advocacy—they threaten the life-changing effects of free markets for the poor across the world.
Homer at the Beach
On Calypso’s island, we encounter both the allure and the dangers of the beach. There, Homer brings us right up against a mysterious fact: the fantasy of an undying beach body—even that of a love goddess whose collagen never loses its tensile strength—will not really make us happy. The best kind of lover will have skin in the game: skin that can age, that has aged, that is actively aging before our eyes. To escape the history that is written into our bodies is to escape the meaning, the meaningful struggle, of our lives.
The Church Has the Form of a City
The book of Acts shows that the Catholic Church has the form of a city in which a specific work is conducted. That work of sanctification has its source in the sacrifice of the Mass, which the state must allow the Church to continue celebrating as much as possible. This essay originally appeared in French and is translated here for the first time.
The News Makes You Dumb
We should stay away from the news lest we fall prey to its mania, foolishness, and stupidity. We should read books—difficult books—and be challenged to improve ourselves rather than settle for easy answers.
“Going Dark” and the Politics of Software Code
Apple has been entangled in several recent controversies over its decision to adopt unbreakable encryption for its iPhone. The company has inscribed an absolute right to privacy in its code and, in so doing, has failed to take into account the proper moral and legal limits on that right. Other technological solutions should be considered that could balance the rights of physical security and privacy.
Thought, “the World,” and Education
Inwardness, intellectual or otherwise, is the source and the safeguard of individual human flourishing, without which no community is judged to do well. Individuals must experience their learning as a mode of freedom and spontaneity, not a complex navigation of yet another structure of authority and achievement.
Two Cheers for Politics
The intellectual life and political life are distinct elements of the human good, but they mutually support one another.
The Beautiful Uselessness of Learning
The humanities matter because human life matters. Rightly lived, the intellectual life is an ascetic one that calls for renunciation and sacrifice. Most of all, seriousness demands that we continue to pursue the truths of human existence and align our lives with them.
Isolation Bookshelf: College Daze
Like the spirit of liberty itself, the spirit of liberal education is “not too sure that it is right.” As colleges and universities are beset by the twin challenges of the pandemic and of ideological activism, will we able to keep that spirit of inquiry alive?
Hamiltonianism and the American Nation: A Response to Carson Holloway and Bradford P. Wilson
Carson Holloway and Bradford P. Wilson’s critique of my interpretation of Alexander Hamilton’s place vis-à-vis contemporary American nationalism makes legitimate points but also misreads important features of Hamilton’s thought and the new nationalism.
Hamiltonian Nationalism: A Response to Samuel Gregg
Samuel Gregg admonishes us that Hamilton was really “a different kind of nationalist from those that claim this mantle in our time.” While we yield to no one in our respect for Gregg, we think he has gone astray here: partly by overlooking some relevant aspects of Hamilton’s thought, and partly by mischaracterizing today’s American nationalism.
Mary Eberstadt on What Plagues the West
“Post-revolutionary men and women are living in ways that are profoundly unnatural for the ineradicably social creatures that we are; and many are suffering as a result, at times without even knowing the name of what ails them. This preoccupation, and the desire to do something about it, continues to shape my work.”
The State of Social Conservatism and the Role of Public Discourse
Public Discourse offers social conservatives precisely the type of forum that the particular challenges of our time demand. In the face of countless challenges to our familiar assumptions about politics, law, and economics, we need an honest and robust conversation among people who share the same basic moral commitments but defend widely different policies on the basis of those commitments.
Religious Liberty Is Important, But It’s Not Enough
The religious liberty triumphs of the past several days are important, but they’re not enough. Not nearly so. We need to contend about the truth of the matter. Through legislation and litigation, we need to make it clear that it’s lawful to act on the convictions that we are created male and female and that male and female are created for each other. Privacy and safety at a shelter, equality on an athletic field, and good medicine are at stake for everyone—religious or not.
Responding to a Fundamental Crisis Within Islam Itself
If we are to abolish the primordial cycle of hatred, tyranny, and violence that plagues humanity, and avert civilizational disaster, people of all faiths must work together to prevent the political weaponization of fundamentalist Islam. We should learn from the unique heritage of Muslims on the Indonesian island of Java, who defeated Muslim extremists in the sixteenth century and restored freedom of religion for all citizens, two centuries before the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom and the Bill of Rights led to the separation of state and religion in the United States.
Democratic Lawmaking and the Creation of International Abortion Rights
A new book exposes judicial activism and the manipulation of legislative processes to illegitimately create abortion rights in eleven Western democracies.
Darwin, Marx, Aquinas, and China
What often intrigues my Chinese colleagues and students is that we do not need to accept the Christian faith that Thomas Aquinas embraced to see that, on his principles, there is no need to choose between viewing creation as the constant exercise of divine omnipotence and acknowledging the causes that the natural sciences disclose.
Just Peace Theory: A Syllabus of Errors
The Catholic Church should not abandon Just War doctrine in favor of Just Peace theory. The social and political realities of our time, as in all times, require that we have a theologically grounded moral framework for both judging particular acts of war and then working to limit war on the basis of those judgments.
Whose Nation? Which Nationalism?
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.
On the First Principles of Moral Reason
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.
Textual Literalism and Legal Positivism: On Bostock and the Western Legal Tradition
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.
Black Americans and the Fourth—and Fifth—of July
A great war was fought. Slavery was abolished. Still, on this fourth and fifth of July, 168 years after Frederick Douglass gave voice to feelings of alienation from white American pride and patriotism, recent events compel us to recognize that such feelings persist.