Chappel, “Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church”

Here is an extremely interesting looking book about a complicated period for the RomanCatholicism Catholic Church: Catholic Modern: The Challenge of Totalitarianism and the Remaking of the Church (Harvard) by James Chappel. The book explores the Church’s changing approach to the issue of international human rights in this period, as well as other changes in response to the horrors of the early twentieth century. And it also appears to take on the question of the relationship of Catholicism and modernity very thoughtfully.

In 1900 the Catholic Church stood staunchly against human rights, religious freedom, and the secular state. According to the Catholic view, modern concepts like these, unleashed by the French Revolution, had been a disaster. Yet by the 1960s, those positions were reversed. How did this happen? Why, and when, did the world’s largest religious organization become modern?

James Chappel finds an answer in the shattering experiences of the 1930s. Faced with the rise of Nazism and Communism, European Catholics scrambled to rethink their Church and their faith. Simple opposition to modernity was no longer an option. The question was how to be modern. These were life and death questions, as Catholics struggled to keep Church doors open without compromising their core values. Although many Catholics collaborated with fascism, a few collaborated with Communists in the Resistance. Both strategies required novel approaches to race, sex, the family, the economy, and the state.

Catholic Modern tells the story of how these radical ideas emerged in the 1930s and exercised enormous influence after World War II. Most remarkably, a group of modern Catholics planned and led a new political movement called Christian Democracy, which transformed European culture, social policy, and integration. Others emerged as left-wing dissidents, while yet others began to organize around issues of abortion and gay marriage. Catholics had come to accept modernity, but they still disagreed over its proper form. The debates on this question have shaped Europe’s recent past—and will shape its future.

Good and Evil at Notre Dame

I’m delighted to be participating in the annual conference of the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, which begins tomorrow and runs through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Through Every Human Heart” and focuses on ideas of good and evil.

I’m on a criminal law panel moderated by Rick Garnett and together with Cecelia Klingele, John Stinneford, and Meghan Ryan. My remarks will consider the fate of evil as a concept in scholarship about criminal law and punishment. If I have some time left over, I’ll talk about good too. My general thesis is that both of these ideas are basically irrelevant in academic discussion of criminal law (I wrote something about this years ago in an old blog post…time flies).

Heydt, “Moral Philosophy in Eighteenth- Century Britain: God, Self, and Other”

Here is an interesting looking work of intellectual history concerning the 18th century, Great Britain.jpgwhich traces the development of various important Enlightenment ideas about morality in Great Britain: Moral Philosophy in Eighteenth-Century Britain: God, Self, and Other (CUP), by Colin Heydt.

The long eighteenth century is a crucial period in the history of ethics, when our moral relations to God, ourselves and others were minutely examined and our duties, rights and virtues systematically and powerfully presented. Colin Heydt charts the history of practical morality – what we ought to do and to be – from the 1670s, when practical ethics arising from Protestant natural law gained an institutional foothold in England, to early British responses to the French Revolution around 1790. He examines the conventional philosophical positions concerning the content of morality, and utilizes those conventions to reinterpret the work of key figures including Locke, Hume, and Smith. Situating these positions in their thematic and historical contexts, he shows how studying them challenges our assumptions about the originality, intended audience, and aims of philosophical argument during this period. His rich and readable book will appeal to a range of scholars and students.

Pieper, “Exercises in the Elements”

Here is a new collection of essays and other writings by the great twentieth century neo-Thomist philosopher, Josef Pieper: Exercises in the Elements: Essays–Speeches–Notes (St.Pieper Augustine Press). Pieper is perhaps best known for his extended essay, “Leisure: The Basis of Culture,” and I’ve written something before about one of my own favorites of his works, “Tradition: Concept and Claim.” This new and wide-ranging collection looks like it treats many different topics.

This title, which at first sight seems curious, shows Pieper’s philosophical work as rooted in the basics. He takes his inspiration from Plato – and his Socrates – and Thomas Aquinas. With them, he is interested in philosophy as pure theory, the theoretical being precisely the non-practical. The philosophizer wants to know what all existence is fundamentally about, what “reality” “really” means. With Plato, Pieper eschews the use of language to convince an audience of anything which is not the truth. If Plato was opposed to the sophists – among them the politicians – Pieper is likewise opposed to discourse that leads to the “use” of philosophy to bolster a totalitarian regime or any political or economic system.

A fundamental issue for Pieper is “createdness.” He sees this as the fundamental truth of our being – all being – and the fundamental virtue we can practice is the striving to live according to our perception of real truth in any given situation. The strength and attraction of Pieper’s writing is its direct and intuitive character which is independent of abstract systematization. He advocates staying in touch with the “real” as we experience it deep within ourselves. Openness to the totality of being – in no matter what context being reveals itself – and the affirmation of all that is founded in this totality are central pillars of all his thinking. Given the “simplicity” of this stance, it is no surprise that much of it is communicated – and successfully – through his gift for illustration by anecdote. Like Plato, this philosopher is a story-teller and, like him, very readable.

“The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America” (Gutjahr ed.)

One of the most interesting books I’ve read recently is Daniel Dreisbach’s Reading the BibleBible With the Founding Fathers, an exploration of the influence of the Bible on the political and cultural lives of the early Republic. This book, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in America (OUP), edited by Paul Gutjahr, looks like an excellent companion/reference volume on the same subject, though it extends beyond the late 18th and early 19th centuries, and contains essays by many leading lights (including Dreisbach).

Early Americans have long been considered “A People of the Book.” Because the nickname was coined primarily to invoke close associations between Americans and the Bible, it is easy to overlook the central fact that it was a book-not a geographic location, a monarch, or even a shared language-that has served as a cornerstone in countless investigations into the formation and fragmentation of early American culture. Few books can lay claim to such powers of civilization-altering influence. Among those which can are sacred books, and for Americans principal among such books stands the Bible.

This Handbook is designed to address a noticeable void in resources focused on analyzing the Bible in America in various historical moments and in relationship to specific institutions and cultural expressions. It takes seriously the fact that the Bible is both a physical object that has exercised considerable totemic power, as well as a text with a powerful intellectual design that has inspired everything from national religious and educational practices to a wide spectrum of artistic endeavors to our nation’s politics and foreign policy.

This Handbook brings together a number of established scholars, as well as younger scholars on the rise, to provide a scholarly overview–rich with bibliographic resources–to those interested in the Bible’s role in American cultural formation.

Roach, “Aethelred the Unready”

It seems only fitting that we are a bit delayed in noting this (still) new volume intended Aethelredto rehabilitate good old Æthelred the Unready (Yale University Press), by Levi Roach. (Those who remember their Walter Scott will want to distinguish Æthelstane the Unready, who also very much requires a favorable reconstruction). Actually, Æthelred sounds like an absolutely wonderful man (though, even after the rehabilitation, perhaps not a terrific king).

The Anglo-Saxon king Æthelred “the Unready” (978–1016) has long been considered to be inscrutable, irrational, and poorly advised. Infamous for his domestic and international failures, Æthelred was unable to fend off successive Viking raids, leading to the notorious St. Brice’s Day Massacre in 1002, during which Danes in England were slaughtered on his orders. Though Æthelred’s posthumous standing is dominated by his unsuccessful military leadership, his seemingly blind trust in disloyal associates, and his harsh treatment of political opponents, Roach suggests that Æthelred has been wrongly maligned. Drawing on extensive research, Roach argues that Æthelred was driven by pious concerns about sin, society, and the anticipated apocalypse. His strategies, in this light, were to honor God and find redemption. Chronologically charting Æthelred’s life, Roach presents a more accessible character than previously available, illuminating his place in England and Europe at the turn of the first millennium.

Farrelly, “Anti-Catholicism in America: 1620-1860”

Hostility to Catholicism is one of the hearty perennials of the study of law and religion in America. I have recently argued in this piece that there was an important shift in the political rhetoric of the late 19th and early 20th century from accentuating anti-Catholic to anti-Christian themes. That shift continues to be a vital one in today’s understanding of the separation of church and state.

But Anti-Catholicism in American: 1620-1860 (Cambridge University Press), by Maura Anti-CatholicismJane Farrelly (author of an excellent earlier volume entitled, “Papist Patriots”) begins in the colonial period and works its way to the Civil War. It looks well worth exploring.

Using fears of Catholicism as a mechanism through which to explore the contours of Anglo-American understandings of freedom, Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620–1860 reveals the ironic role that anti-Catholicism played in defining and sustaining some of the core values of American identity, values that continue to animate our religious and political discussions today. Farrelly explains how that bias helped to shape colonial and antebellum cultural understandings of God, the individual, salvation, society, government, law, national identity, and freedom. In so doing, Anti-Catholicism in America, 1620–1860 provides contemporary observers with a framework for understanding what is at stake in the debate over the place of Muslims and other non-Christian groups in American society.

Greasley & Kaczor, “Abortion Rights: For and Against”

Very few subjects have been more controversial and contested in American Abortionconstitutional law and politics than the moral and legal status of the unborn. Even still, the issue persists and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future. In this volume, philosophers Kate Greasley and Christopher Kaczor engage in an extended debate on the matter–Abortion Rights: For and Against (Cambridge University Press).

This book features opening arguments followed by two rounds of reply between two moral philosophers on opposing sides of the abortion debate. In the initial opening essays, Kate Greasley and Christopher Kaczor lay out what they take to be the best case for and against abortion rights. In the ensuing dialogue, they engage with each other’s arguments and each responds to criticisms fielded by the other. Their conversational argument explores such fundamental questions as: what gives a person the right to life? Is abortion bad for women? And what is the difference between abortion and infanticide? Underpinned by philosophical reasoning and methodology, this book provides opposing and clearly structured perspectives on a highly emotive and controversial issue. The result gives readers a window into how moral philosophers argue about the contentious issue of abortion rights, and an in-depth analysis of the compelling arguments on both sides.

“The Problem of Evil” (Peterson ed, 2d ed.)

Perhaps it is in part because I’m greatly anticipating attending and participating in this wonderful conference which will explore the perennial problem of good and evil, and because the issue of evil is at the forefront of what I, at least, find most interesting aboutEvil criminal law, this book (now in its second edition) on The Problem of Evil (Notre Dame University Press), edited by Michael Peterson, looks comprehensive and fascinating. Organized as a series of essays that includes “Job’s Complaint and the Whirlwind’s Answer,” Dostoyevsky on “Rebellion,” and many other classic sources, as well as contemporary philosophical reflections on the nature of evil, it looks like a very helpful resource on the subject.

Of all the issues in the philosophy of religion, the problem of reconciling belief in God with evil in the world arguably commands more attention than any other. For over two decades, Michael L. Peterson’s The Problem of Evil: Selected Readings has been the most widely recognized and used anthology on the subject. Peterson’s expanded and updated second edition retains the key features of the original and presents the main positions and strategies in the latest philosophical literature on the subject. It will remain the most complete introduction to the subject as well as a resource for advanced study.

Peterson organizes his selection of classical and contemporary sources into four parts: important statements addressing the problem of evil from great literature and classical philosophy; debates based on the logical, evidential, and existential versions of the problem; major attempts to square God’s justice with the presence of evil, such as Augustinian, Irenaean, process, openness, and felix culpa theodicies; and debates on the problem of evil covering such concepts as a best possible world, natural evil and natural laws, gratuitous evil, the skeptical theist defense, and the bearing of biological evolution on the problem. The second edition includes classical excerpts from the book of Job, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, and Hume, and twenty-five essays that have shaped the contemporary discussion, by J. L. Mackie, Alvin Plantinga, William Rowe, Marilyn Adams, John Hick, William Hasker, Paul Draper, Michael Bergmann, Eleonore Stump, Peter van Inwagen, and numerous others. Whether a professional philosopher, student, or interested layperson, the reader will be able to work through a number of issues related to how evil in the world affects belief in God.

Hyde, “Civic Longing”

In a recent paper, I argue that the ambit of civic identity among Americans is shrinking, which is one reason for the rise of identity politics, including a particular variety of anti-Christian identity politics. In Civic Longing: The Speculative Origins of U.S. Citizenship (Harvard UP), Carrie Hyde, a professor of English, contends that the “cultural forms” of Civic LongingAmerican citizenship were drawn from a variety of sources, including Christian theology and natural law. One note of caution, however: the blurb says that the recovery of these sources “provides a powerful critique of originalism.” If originalism is being used here to denote a particular theory of constitutional interpretation, I don’t see how what is described in the blurb deals it any kind of blow at all.

Citizenship defines the U.S. political experiment, but the modern legal category that it now names is a relatively recent invention. There was no Constitutional definition of citizenship until the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, almost a century after the Declaration of Independence. Civic Longing looks at the fascinating prehistory of U.S. citizenship in the years between the Revolution and the Civil War, when the cultural and juridical meaning of citizenship—as much as its scope—was still up for grabs. Carrie Hyde recovers the numerous cultural forms through which the meaning of citizenship was provisionally made and remade in the early United States.

Civic Longing offers the first historically grounded account of the formative political power of the imaginative traditions that shaped early debates about citizenship. In the absence of a centralized legal definition of citizenship, Hyde shows, politicians and writers regularly turned to a number of highly speculative traditions—political philosophy, Christian theology, natural law, fiction, and didactic literature—to authorize visions of what citizenship was or ought to be. These speculative traditions sustained an idealized image of citizenship by imagining it from its outer limits, from the point of view of its “negative civic exemplars”—expatriates, slaves, traitors, and alienated subjects.

By recovering the strange, idiosyncratic meanings of citizenship in the early United States, Hyde provides a powerful critique of originalism, and challenges anachronistic assumptions that read the definition of citizenship backward from its consolidation in the mid-nineteenth century as jus soli or birthright citizenship.

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