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November 2016
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Syndication

Patrick Deneen on democracy and liberalism

In Democratic Faith (Princeton University Press, 2005), political theorist Patrick Deneen examined what he saw as a state of crisis and a sense of quiet desperation underlying much of contemporary democratic theory. At the end of this month, St. Augustine’s Press will publish a collection of Deneen’s essays entitled Conserving America?: Essays on Present Discontents. In those essays, Deneen advances the case that our discontent, anxieties, and uncertainties are due to problems in the basic liberal principles embedded in the American Constitutional order.

In a lecture given in 2010 examining the relationship between community, culture, and liberalism, Deneen offered this summary of the origins and nature of classical liberalism.

Liberalism begins with the political philosophy of Hobbes, with refinement by John Locke, with the idea that humans by nature are naturally free and equal. These thinkers sought to describe the natural human condition to be one of autonomous and whole individuals who have no past, no culture, no history, no relationships, no memory. They are like Athena, sprung from the head of Zeus.

Deneen went on to describe the effects of this understanding of human persons on their sense of membership in communities or cultures. Before liberalism, persons were members of a whole and understood their identity in light of that membership. They were not — in Michael Sandel’s term — unencumbered selves. Liberalism, said Deneen, aims to liberate individuals from the claims and duties of membership

The autonomous individual at the heart of liberal theory cannot in fact come into being in reality without first liberating him or her from the inheritances of cult and culture. Liberal theory thus redefines all human relations in its wake. . . . Whether one’s religion, one’s community, one’s nation, even one’s family, all human relations are redefined by liberalism’s logic.

In this interview, Patrick Deneen talks with MARS HILL AUDIO's Ken Myers about the relationship between democracy and liberalism.

For more information, about the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. visit our website at marshillaudio.org.

Direct download: MHA_Audition_021.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 2:15pm EDT

Kenneth Craycraft, Jr., on religious liberty

Attorney Kenneth Craycraft, Jr. is the author of The American Myth of Religious Freedom (Spence Publishers, 1999). In that book, Craycraft argued that the protection for religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution is not as vigorous as many believers may hope. The underlying assumptions in 18th-century Anglo-American thought about the nature of freedom, of political authority, and of religion itself were even then predisposed to favor the interests of the state over religious claims if they came into conflict.

Craycraft observes that the liberal understanding of religious liberty is the freedom of individuals to choose from among a profusion of faiths. Religious liberty is thus just one expression of the fundamental fact of human nature and dignity as understood by liberalism: that we are beings with the capacity to make choices. Some religions, however, hold to the conviction that the most fundamental fact about us is that we are creatures made to glorify God and to live in accordance with the truth. Truth is prior to freedom. A choice is not authentically free if it is not in accord with what is true and good. By contrast, the assumption in the liberal idea of freedom as assumed by the Constitution and defended by the state is that freedom is prior to truth.

One of the consequences of Craycraft’s argument — which is similar to arguments made by many other constitutional lawyers, philosophers, and theologians — is that the actions of the government in recent years that are perceived as an erosion of religious freedom are in fact the fulfillment of latent assumptions underlying our Constitutional order.

In this fifth feature of our series on political theology, Kenneth Craycraft, Jr. contrasts the assumptions about religious liberty held by Locke, Jefferson, and others with a view maintained by many Christian theologians and philosophers.

This feature is hosted by Ken Myers, producer of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. For more information, visit our website at marshillaudio.org.

 

Direct download: MHA_Audition_020.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 1:11pm EDT

Michael Hanby on technological politics

In an article entitled “A More Perfect Absolutism” published in the October, 2016 issue of First Things, philosopher Michael Hanby observed that: “It is part of the absurdity of American life that we decide questions of truth under the guise of settling contests of rights. Which means that we decide questions of truth without thinking deeply or even very honestly about them.” One reason this deciding process is a particularly American convention is that Americans “have no common faith, history, or culture outside the decision to found the nation on eighteenth-century philosophical principles, we have always looked to politics and the law to perform the work of faith, culture, and tradition in giving us an identity as a people.” But what happens when politics that are all we know fails us?

Unfortunately, those eighteenth-century philosophical principles (i.e. political liberalism) are deeply committed to certain metaphysical assumptions about nature. These assumptions treat nature as merely material stuff, significant to us only insofar as we can act upon it and manipulate it to our advantage. In his article, Hanby argues that this is a deeply technological way of viewing the world that ultimately offers little guidance for political order.

In this fourth feature of our series on political theology, Michael Hanby discusses what he means when he says that liberalism is fundamentally technological in its assumptions.

This feature is hosted by Ken Myers, producer of the MARS HILL AUDIO Journal. For more information, visit our website at marshillaudio.org.

 

Direct download: MHA_Audition_019.mp3
Category:podcasts -- posted at: 3:18pm EDT