August 15, 2012
Edward Feser: The Road from Libertarianism
Philosopher Edward Feser has posted an exploration of how reason moved him from libertarianism to limited government conservatism. It fits beautifully with the naming of Paul Ryan as Romney's VP and with Libertario Delenda Est:
For reasons I have explained in my Social Philosophy and Policy article “Classical Natural Law Theory, Property Rights, and Taxation” -- where the interested reader can find my current views on the matters referred to in the title -- I think that an A-T natural law approach to those matters entails the rejection of libertarianism, socialism, and egalitarian liberalism alike, and in most areas requires at least a presumption in favor of private enterprise and against government action. In other words, I think that moral principle should lead us to take a broadly center-right approach to matters of politics rather than a broadly center-left approach. But beyond that, abstract moral principle cannot tell us much, and we have to look to common sense, experience, history, current circumstances, and whatever economics and the other social sciences can tell us in order to decide upon concrete policy. That doesn’t give us anything like the “single magic bullet” approach to politics that the thesis of self-ownership seemed to provide. But if there’s one thing any conservative should know, it’s that looking for single magic bullets is after all a pretty stupid project where social and political philosophy are concerned. All the same, on some matters -- such as opposition to the abomination that is Obamacare -- I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with libertarians.
Paul Ryan's statements about Rand, Aquinas and Catholic social teaching have received a great deal of scrutiny in the last few days: a professor who claims Ryan the social conservative is actually Rand's nightmare; another professor who produces at the Puffington Host what can only be described as an incoherent stew; a potty mouth in the Village Voice who puts long Aquinas quotes and the words "fucking" and "bullshit" in close proximity.
The quote which all of these people reference, directly or indirectly (and unfairly truncated in the first piece) is:
"If somebody is going to try to paste a person's view on epistemology to me, then give me Thomas Aquinas. Don't give me Ayn Rand."
Emphasis added! Epistemology is not Catholic social thought. It is not economics. It is not political philosophy. These losers, and many others now coming out of the woodwork like carpenter ants either don't know the difference, or are intellectually dishonest hacks.
Feser's piece doesn't mention Paul Ryan, but I speculate that Ryan's intellectual development ran a similar course. Growing up Catholic, inspired as an undergraduate by Rand, Friedman and Hayek, he eventually came to a mature, limited government conservatism. That's not so hard to understand, and there is no inherent contradiction in it as imagined by those who are frightened by Ryan's intelligence, charisma and ability to explain the consequences of four more years of Obama.2012 Election Philosophy Posted by Ellis Wyatt at August 15, 2012 12:27 PM | TrackBack