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The Arkes-Miller debate

Sébastien_Norblin_Antigone_et_Polynice (1)

A very interesting debate has appeared at Public Discourse following the publication of Hadley Arkes’s essay, Recasting Religious Freedom (subscription required) in the June issue of First Things, between Arkes and Robert T. Miller. The central issue involves a dispute over the best defense of religious freedom in an age shadowed by secularism. Arkes believes the best defense here, given the modern tendency to assume the beliefs of religionists are intrinsically irrational,  rests upon a positive account of the reasonableness of the views held by religionists (or non-religionists) rather than upon the sincerity with which they are held. Miller, however, argues that the views of religionists are a special case, and that we should avoid the requirement of judges inquiring into their reasonableness unless absolutely necessary.

The order of the debate is as follows:

Professor Arkes and the Law

Judging Beliefs and Shaping Laws: A Reply to Robert Miller

What Reason can Know and Government Should Legislate: A Rejoinder to Arkes

I will provide an update if Arkes responds to the rejoinder.

The Rule – A Documentary

There is a wonderful article in the City Journal, It’s Hard to be Saints in the City, on a new documentary on a preparatory school for minorities run by the Benedictines in Newark. Malanga writes:

Decades later, St. Benedict’s is still there, and its recent history is a remarkable story of educational success under extraordinarily challenging circumstances. The Rule, a documentary by Marylou and Jerome Bongiorno opening this Friday in New York and next week in Los Angeles, recounts the improbable tale of priests and brothers living under a nearly 1,500-year-old monastic code, and the Newark kids whose lives they have transformed.

The monks shape the whole learner by not only inculcating them with a great intellectual inheritance but also situating them within a community bound by obligations, to themselves, other students, teachers, and, in turn, their family:

“How do I measure success?” he asks. “You’re able to graduate St. Benedict’s, have a mortgage, deal with your marriage, deal with your family, stick it out. How do I measure success? I got a father working with his son, in his son’s life.”


Indeed. The Rule opens this Friday, September 5, at Quad Cinemas, Manhattan, on September 12th at the Laemmle Encino, Los Angeles, and airs nationally on PBS starting September 25.

h/t: Ellen of Tasmania

The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke

Burke Bromwich cover

Anyone familiar with conservatism as an intellectual disposition should be familiar with the work of Edmund Burke. He has come to us, arguably, as the paradigmatic figure of an intellectual movement that arose in defense, not of the status quo,  but of a manner of living that was both appreciated and enjoyed that had become threatened by the revolutionary political and social movements of modernity. It is then a welcome occasion that David Bromwich should have written The Intellectual Life of Edmund Burke: From the Sublime and Beautiful to American Independence, reviewed by David WomersleyWilliam Byrne, and Daniel McCarthy in order to help us recollect the man and his thought anew.

Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction

Scholastic Metaphysic

William Carroll, and Christopher Morrissey, both provide very good reviews of Edward Feser’s new work, Scholastic Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction, to which Feser has warmly replied, respectively.  I have just purchased my copy and must say that the reviews are definitely hitting the mark. I heartily recommend the work, but would suggest Feser’s The Last Superstition as a helpful introduction to the themes that will be covered in detail in Scholastic Metaphysics.

Update Sept. 10: A further review has appeared in the NDPR by Paul Symington.

Update Sept. 12: Feser replies.

Weekend Reading


Some long-overdue linkage:

Roger Scruton, Why Iraq is a Write-Off

Robert Royal, It’s So Enlightenment

Philippa Foot interview

Christopher Dawson, Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind

Longenecker on Brideshead Revisited: The Villain of the Piece

Bill Vallicella, The Gardener’s Racism?

Peter Leithart, Tradition and the Individual Theologian

Podcast: Dale Ahlquist on Chesterton’s Democracy of the Dead

Film Review, The Scandal of Calvary

Video: Desire of the Everlasting Hills

In Memoriam. h/t: CL




Weekday Reading


Linkage to fine reading and listening has been long overdue. Here is a selection collected over the last few weeks:

Feser – Where’s God?

Rachel Lu – Why I don’t use Contraception

Karen Swallow Prior – What we talk about when we talk about ‘Birth Control’

A. G. Gancarski – James Garner: Anti-Authoritarian Everyman

Samuel Gregg – Immigration: A Principled Catholic Approach Avoids Emotionalism

Dale M. Coulter – The Good Historian resembles an Ogre: Jacques Le Goff and the Long Middle Ages

The OFloinn – In Psearch of Pschye: Some Groundwork (This is a great introduction to Aristotelian-Thomistic metaphysics).

Robert Stacy McCain – Sex Trouble: Radical Feminism and the Long Shadow of the ‘Lavender Menace’

Daniel McCarthy – Why Liberalism means Empire

Charles E. Stokes, Amber Lapp, and David Lapp – A Bit of Religion Can be Bad for Marriage

Peter Wehner – The Nobility of Politics

Podcasts: Eric Cohen, Yuval Levin, and Meir Soloveichik discuss Burkean Zionism

Richard Reinsch talks to Philip Hamburger about the latter’s new book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful?

Film Review: Eve Tushnet reviews Polanski’s new film, Venus in Fur.

Book Review: Wilfred McClay reviews Roger Kimball’s The Future of Permanence.