The essay has to do with the relationship of politics to metaphysics. We posted the first graf of the essay below because it ought to make you think a bit. The rest is worth your time.
A few scraps:
...Contemporary secular progressivists seem to fit [Cdl.] Newman’s description in
that they are animated by a creed that is both anti-Christian and
absolutist, and they stridently promote it. However, the secularism of
our time is rife with sectarianism and marked by ideological
disagreement and heterogeneity, which doesn’t tally with Newman’s
version of liberalism as a “catholic” movement with a unified doctrine.
The intellectual turmoil is evident when one considers the three
metaphysical visions of reality that secularists promulgate, each one
incompatible with Christianity and with one another....
One of these views derives from classical liberalism—Locke, Kant, and
Rawls. It emphasizes the metaphysical primacy of freedom of choice in
the individual subject. Its battle cry is autonomy, and its fruits are
the ethics of authenticity. Each person has the right to define the
meaning of his life, his sexuality, his way of participating in civic
space, and his consumer opportunities. From this metaphysics we get the
culture of rights talk, and the notion that sincerity of conviction
serves as a moral warrant for the views that one holds.
In case you don't recognize it, that's Kennedy's yapflap in Casey.
Alongside this, there is the rival vision of the postmodern theorists
who follow Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, and Foucault in outlining the ways
that deep currents in human culture inform our mentality, structure our
pre-reflective interpretation of experience, and privilege or disempower
us in ways we fail to see. The metaphysics of Nietzsche are about
power, not rights or the individual autonomy of each citizen. When one
overturns social conventions that are arbitrary and oppressive, one
makes room for artistic creativity and Dionysian freedom in a world
marked by bourgeois convention and aesthetic mediocrity. From this
strand of thinking we get the discourse of prophetic denunciation,
militant calls for radical cultural transformation, and the politics of
Well, I wouldn't necessarily say "rival." There's a significant overlap between the politics-of-identity crowd and the define-your-own-world crowd. Both of them are at home in the (D) miasma.
And here we get the thread which has a great deal of currency in (R) circles:
Finally, there are the scientistic materialists, who think that the
great philosophical and religious visions of the past must be discarded
after the modern scientific revolution. Their battle cry is progress.
Modern science lays bare the illusion of our religious past and makes
room for a better society and a more rational world. The twin motors of
progress are scientific knowledge and better technology. Real humanism
is material: better medicine and food, the fight to prolong life and
fend off death. Typically, these advocates of democratic liberalism
follow the New Atheism and favor a political internationalism that
advances universal education in the sciences and the use of
A number of (R) folks will LOUDLY object that they are 'religious' folk, not consarned ATHEISTS!! That ignores the possibility of being a 'practical' atheist--one who shows up at church but doesn't believe a word that's said there--or, more common, showing up at a church which doesn't hold or teach any convictions about Last Things. Which, of course, obviates First Things, too (no pun intended.)
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