Schindler, “Freedom from Reality”

P03373We’re late getting to this, but last year the Notre Dame Press released a new treatment of Locke’s concept of liberty, Freedom from Reality: The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty, by D.C. Schindler (John Paul II Institute). “Diabolical” makes it sound worse than it is; the author uses the word in the sense of “divisive” and “subversive” rather than “Satanic”–though of course the author may have the latter meaning in mind, too! The book is one of a series of recent works critiquing classical liberalism as paradoxical and, ultimately, the source of its own destruction. It looks like a useful addition to the conversation. Here’s the description from the publisher’s website:

It is commonly observed that behind many of the political and cultural issues that we face today lies an impoverished conception of freedom, which, according to D. C. Schindler, we have inherited from the classical liberal tradition without a sufficient awareness of its implications. Freedom from Reality presents a critique of the deceptive and ultimately self-subverting character of the modern notion of freedom, retrieving an alternative view through a new interpretation of the ancient tradition. While many have critiqued the inadequacy of identifying freedom with arbitrary choice, this book seeks to penetrate to the metaphysical roots of the modern conception by going back, through an etymological study, to the original sense of freedom.

Schindler begins by uncovering a contradiction in John Locke’s seminal account of human freedom. Rather than dismissing it as a mere “academic” problem, Schindler takes this contradiction as a key to understanding the strange paradoxes that abound in the contemporary values and institutions founded on the modern notion of liberty: the very mechanisms that intend to protect modern freedom render it empty and ineffectual. In this respect, modern liberty is “diabolical”—a word that means, at its roots, that which “drives apart” and so subverts. This is contrasted with the “symbolical” (a “joining-together”), which, he suggests, most basically characterizes the premodern sense of reality. This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.

Pritchard, “Religion in Public”

0804785767This November, Stanford University Press will publish Religion in Public: Locke’s Political Theology by Elizabeth A. Pritchard (Bowdoin College). The publisher’s description follows.

John Locke’s theory of toleration is generally seen as advocating the privatization of religion. This interpretation has become conventional wisdom: secularization is widely understood as entailing the privatization of religion, and the separation of religion from power. This book turns that conventional wisdom on its head and argues that Locke secularizes religion, that is, makes it worldly, public, and political. In the name of diverse citizenship, Locke reconstructs religion as persuasion, speech, and fashion. He insists on a consensus that human rights are sacred insofar as humans are the creatures, and thus, the property of God. Drawing on a range of sources beyond Locke’s own writings, Pritchard portrays the secular not as religion’s separation from power, but rather as its affiliation with subtler, and sometimes insidious, forms of power. As a result, she captures the range of anxieties and conflicts attending religion’s secularization: denunciations of promiscuous bodies freed from patriarchal religious and political formations, correlations between secular religion and colonialist education and conversion efforts, and more recently, condemnations of the coercive and injurious force of unrestricted religious speech.

Sowerby, “Making Toleration”

The Glorious Revolution is one of the most important events in the political and religious history of the English-speaking world, providing the context for liberal Lockean ideas of government that influenced the American Constitution a century later. I’ve always had the impression that the Revolution was essentially a Protestant rebellion against the last of the Stuart Monarchs, James II, who seemed poised to restore Catholicism in England.  A new book by Northwestern historian Scott Sowerby, Making Toleration: The Repealers and the Glorious Revolution (HUP 2013) , apparently revises the traditional understanding of the Revolution, characterizing the event as an essentially conservative reaction to James II’s liberalism. The publisher’s description follows:

In the reign of James II, minority groups from across the religious spectrum, led by the Quaker William Penn, rallied together under the Catholic King James in an effort to bring religious toleration to England. Known as repealers, these reformers aimed to convince Parliament to repeal laws that penalized worshippers who failed to conform to the doctrines of the Church of England. Although the movement was destroyed by the Glorious Revolution, it profoundly influenced the post-revolutionary settlement, helping to develop the ideals of tolerance that would define the European Enlightenment.

Based on a rich array of newly discovered archival sources, Scott Sowerby’s groundbreaking history rescues the repealers from undeserved obscurity, telling the forgotten story of men and women who stood up for their beliefs at a formative moment in British history. By restoring the repealer movement to its rightful prominence, Making Toleration also overturns traditional interpretations of King James II’s reign and the origins of the Glorious Revolution. Though often depicted as a despot who sought to impose his own Catholic faith on a Protestant people, James is revealed as a man ahead of his time, a king who pressed for religious toleration at the expense of his throne. The Glorious Revolution, Sowerby finds, was not primarily a crisis provoked by political repression. It was, in fact, a conservative counter-revolution against the movement for enlightened reform that James himself encouraged and sustained.

Waldron on Natural Law

Jeremy Waldron  (NYU School of Law) has posted What is Natural Law Like? The abstract follows.

“The State of Nature,” said John Locke, “has a Law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one.” But what is “a law of nature”? How would we tell, in a state of nature, that there was a natural law as opposed to something else — like positive law, a set of customs, natural morality, natural ethics, a set of natural inclinations, the truth of certain prudential calculations, a widespread but perhaps false belief in some transcendent law, the voice of God, or just a natural disposition on the part of some pompous people to make sonorous objective-sounding pronouncements? What form should we expect natural law to take in our apprehension of it? This paper argues three things. (a) John Finnis’s work on natural law provides no answer to these questions; his “theory of natural law” is really just a theory of the necessary basis in ethics for evaluating positive law. (b) We need an answer to the question “What is natural law like” not just to evaluate the work of state-of-nature theorists like Locke, but also to explore the possibility that natural law might once have played the role now played by positive international law in regulating relations between sovereigns. And (c), an affirmative account of what natural law is like must pay attention to (1) its deontic character; (2) its enforceability; (3) the ancillary principles that have to be associated with its main normative requirements if it is to be operate as a system of law; (4) its separability form objective from ethics and morality, even from objective ethics and morality; and (5) the shared recognition on earth of its presence in the world. Some of these points — especially 3, 4, and 5 — sound like characteristics of positive law. But the paper argues that they are necessary nevertheless if it is going to be plausible to say that natural law has ever operated (or does still operate) as law in the world.

Witte on Early Protestant Models of Church, State, and Marriage

From the excellent Oxford Journal of Law and Religion (whose content is still available for free) is this extremely interesting piece by John Witte (Emory), Church, State, and Marriage: Four Early Modern Protestant Models.  The abstract follows.

This article recounts the rise of four early modern Protestant models of marriage that emerged in place of the medieval Catholic sacramental model. These are the Lutheran social model of Germany and Scandinavia, the Calvinist covenantal model of Geneva, France, the Netherlands and Scotland, the Anglican commonwealth model of England and its colonies and the budding separationist model of John Locke. Theologically, the differences between these models can be traced to the genesis of these models respectively in medieval Catholic sacramental theology, Lutheran two kingdoms doctrines, Calvinist covenantal constructions, Anglican commonwealth theory and Lockean contractarian theories, respectively. Politically, these differences can be seen in shifts in marital jurisdiction. Medieval Catholics vested exclusive marital jurisdiction in the church. Anglicans left marital jurisdiction to church courts, subject to royal oversight and Parliamentary legislation. Calvinists assigned interlocking marital roles to local consistories and city councils. Lutherans consigned primary marital jurisdiction to the territorial prince or urban council. Locke pressed for a sharper separation of church and state in the governance of marriage. The Article concludes with a brief reflection of the implications of the Lockean synthesis for modern contests over marriage law and its governance.

Alzate on Religion and Self-Interest in Locke

A tension exists at the heart of liberal political theory: a society that encourages individual rights is not so good at motivating citizens to make necessary sacrifices for the community as a whole. In a recent article, Beyond Rights: Religion Offsets Self-Interest in the Lockean State, Elissa Alzate (College of Wooster/UC-Davis) examines the thought of John Locke and argues that, for him, religion provides the solution: religious groups foster the social bonds that make cohesion possible in the liberal state. An abstract follows.  — MLM

 Liberal political thought embodies a tension between the citizen and the community. The liberal state is based on principles of individual rights and appeals to self-interest. Conversely, the political society created out of the liberal social contract must transcend the self-interest guiding independent individuals; the contract creates something greater than the aggregate individuals – a community, whose interest is greater than the interest of Read more