George and his critics

June 26, 2013

There was an interesting profile of Robert P. George earlier this week in the New York Times. George is on the faculty at Princeton and must be counted among the more prominent conservative academics in the US. The occasion for the profile is the publication of his most recent book, Conscience and Its Enemies, but the piece is mostly providing background on his interests and concerns. I have never read one of George’s books, and perhaps I ought to; on those few occasions when I have heard or seen him in the media he has been unusually thoughtful and articulate.

The NYT profile throws out a few mild criticisms of George’s work. A more interesting critique came from David B. Hart a few months ago. George is an advocate for natural law theory, in that he holds that there are certain truths, including moral truths, which are discernable by natural reason to all persons of good will and therefore able to provide a suitable foundation for public moral reflection and political action in a liberal democracy. This view is in some ways similar to Thomistic natural law theory, which has informed so much Catholic moral and political thought, except that George (and others) contend that natural law is intelligible and (indeed) compelling even within the comparatively denuded metaphysical furnishings of modernity (as opposed to the lush Aristotelian metaphysics native to Thomistic natural law). In his critique Hart calls down a plague on both their houses, and it makes for bracing reading. (It is true that Hart never mentions George by name, but I have it on good authority that he is prominent among the supposedly plague-ridden.)

Be that as it may, the NYT profile is worth reading.

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