The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Does the Right Dare Fight?” — Prof. Hadley Arkes in The American Mind

In a piece for The American Mind titled “Does the Right Dare Fight?” JWI Founder and Director Hadley Arkes builds on his previous critique of the Ahmari-French debate. Prof. Arkes first focuses on the reluctance of conservative lawyers to employ moral arguments in defense of the positions they hold.  Prof. Arkes continues by offering several concrete political actions countering Progressive orthodoxy on marriage, sexual orientation, transgenderism, and abortion. By accepting that law, morality, and a political program cannot be separated, Arkes writes, conservatives can regain a proper understanding of politics as a community of citizens directing themselves towards the highest human ends. Only this understanding, he argues, can provide the necessary unity amongst conservative factions for substantive political success.

Some excerpts from the piece:

On the premises of this pragmatic relativism we can no longer give an account of what makes religion a “good,” which deserves our efforts to honor, protect—and encourage—its spread.

“ The Left are convinced they are making nothing less than moral arguments on the deep rightness of same-sex marriage and abortion, the wrongness of saying anything critical about transgenderism, and anything else in the vision of sexual liberation. The conservative side in the courts responds with tired clichés of “conservative jurisprudence” and prides itself on avoiding moral reasoning altogether.”

“ The common good can be revived as we come to understand again, as a people, those principles of right and wrong that may justly claim to govern us precisely because they hold their validity for all of us, for everyone who comes under the laws. ”

“ The simple truth of the matter, running back to Aristotle, is that we have laws only because we have moral judgment, and as long as we have laws, we will never be detached from a life of moral judgments. And when we discover that the law just can’t evade the need for moral judgment, we discover anew…that we have never left the polis, even here in America.”

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Law and liberty cannot rationally become the objects of our love, unless they first become the objects of our knowledge.
— James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1790