Metaphysical, Not Political

Jeremy Beer over at The American Conservative posted, presumably in recognition of our recent holiday of love, a profile of David L. Schindler, a theologian at the John Paul II Institute here in DC entitled “Philosopher of Love.” The good news, if we can call it that, is that I think Schindler is, perhaps, right. The bad news is that that means that liberalism is the problem and we’re all in trouble because we don’t even have a system within which we can really work, at least not with integrity or hope of lasting succes. Why? Because

all of our political, economic, legal, and religious institutions are necessarily grounded in some conception of order—in a metaphysics—even if they reject or ignore the Christian claim. From the Christian view, liberal institutions foster a problematic “mode of being”—a distorting matrix for the formation of our intentions, attitudes, and ideas. Thus, the idea that just putting “good people,” or at least those with the “right ideas,” into political office will make a decisive cultural difference is insufficiently attentive to the shaping power of this matrix in a liberal regime.

Is Schindler right?

1 Thought.

  1. No, Schindler is hitting a straw man. What Schindler defines as the very heart and soul of “liberalism” is really only one strand of liberalism. I think if you read people like Locke with some awareness of the historical context (i.e. if you’ve read enough 17th century political tracts to have a sense of how people talked at the time) and with at least a modicum of charity and open-mindedness (instead of bringing your “liberalism is all about such-and-such” narrative with you and foisting it upon the text), you can see how deeply committed they are to love as the fundamental basis of the universe.

    Good Lord, just read the first two pages of the Letter Concerning Toleration. Just the first two pages. No, seriously, go read it. Do you know what that is you’re reading? It’s love and hatred. Love for the people who are being imprisoned and tortured and murdered, and hatred of hell and all its works.

    I have to confess I am losing patience with these people who reduce liberalism (or modernity, or the Englightenment) to a cardboard cutout version and then criticize it for not being deep.

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