Philosophy and the Founding
Posted in The Founding by Ken Thomas
Eminent constitutional scholar Matthew Franck has set up this website
, "Natural Law, Natural Rights, and American Constitutionalism" for the Witherspoon Institute. Explore and bookmark.
11:05 AM / January 20, 2011
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Thanks, Ken ... you've shot today's productivity. :-)
I'm an admirer of Dallas Willard, who is by profession a philosophy professor at USC, but is also a noted Christian writer an speaker.
In one of his audio series I have Willard speaks of how in today's academic circles, with respect to the concept of "human nature," the consensus is that humans do not have a nature. This, Willard says, is the conclusion of a centuries old pursuit of complete individual liberty.
Willard's point seems to be that in the pursuit of complete individual liberty -- by that he means the freedom to do what we want when we want, and, by implication, do so without consequences -- the abandonment of any constraints imposed by our nature was necessary.
But of course, to simply say we have no constricting nature is not the same as having no nature. And of course we do. Humans must live within a whole range of limits imposed on us by our very nature.
Some are obvious (I can't fly on my own because the nature of my physical construction does not permit it); some are less obvious and worse, painful to admit (I will never be a famous Hollywood actor because I do not have that talent and I am not physically attractive enough); and others are far less obvious and, in our quest for complete freedom to do whatever we want we reject the mere mention of them (certain behaviors, though pleasurable, are not good for us).
And of course all this then tumbles into the abyss when taken to its conclusion. If there are no constraints imposed on us by our nature, then any constaints (or allowances) we do impose are purely arbitrary. And thus subject to the changing whims of whatever selection mechanism we employ.
Of course on the flip-side of this are those who wish to hijack "natural law" for their own purposes. It's just as easy to make bad arguments based on the concept of natural law as it is to reject it entirely.
Blah ... there's not enough coffee in the world to wake me up enough to really understand this.
"It's just as easy to make bad arguments based on the concept of natural law as it is to reject it entirely." One of the first difficulties in explaining natural law is differentiating it from Darwinism. But even the concept of nature provides a starting-point in reality, and that too is a crucial step in drawing people back from the Abyss.