The James Wilson Foundation on Natural Rights and the American Founding

“Visit to a Familiar, Now Distant Place” – Prof. Hadley Arkes in The Catholic Thing

In his latest column for The Catholic Thing, JWI Founder and Director Prof. Hadley Arkes reflects on a speech that he recently delivered before the Catholic Boston College Republicans, who invited him to discuss Natural Law. He was pleased by the receptiveness of the students, but also found that some had accepted certain progressive doctrines. In particular, they had come to perceive same-sex marriage as so normalized as to be “natural” to humans. Prof. Arkes presents the case for traditional marriage that he made to the students, and addresses common counterarguments in favor of same-sex marriage. He calls upon educators to remember eternal truths in their teaching, summoning them again to “do the work they must ever do.”

Some excerpts from the piece:

“Same-sex marriage now seems so familiar, so widely accepted, that we could see it as ‘natural,’ for the homosexual inclination has endured in the human experience. Of course, there were few institutions as durable and ‘familiar’ in the world as slavery, up through the 19thcentury. That it was familiar and widely practiced was somehow never taken as a warrant for its rightness. There was a lure here to that mistake marked by Immanuel Kant: it was a serious error to work out a theory of ‘human nature’ by simply generalizing on the checkered record of our species.”

“What necessary truth about the model of ‘two people’ could possibly override that claim raised to a battle-cry: that ‘people should be free to marry the ones they love’? I was surprised to hear again that claim that there are no grounds for challenging any arrangement that has the ‘consent’ of the participating adults. But we long ago banned dueling even though it had the consent of the parties. We have barred people from renting out their bodies for consenting buyers, and most critically, we have barred people from waiving their freedom in a contract for slavery or peonage.”

“As the line goes, the questions are so old that we may forget the answers. But we may recall Chesterton’s remark that the purpose of education is to make young people old – to free them from the tyranny of being children of their own age.”

Read the full article here

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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