Sunday, May 04, 2008

First Principles round-up

Is there a political philosophy in the Declaration of Independence? One step toward answering this question—not the only step, but from the philosopher’s point of view the most fundamental—is to ask whether the “self-evident truths” of the Declaration are really true after all....

The foundation of the American regime was deeply influenced by the rationalist mood of Enlightenment thought, prima¬rily in its English and Scottish aspects. But it began and remained more fundamen¬tally an antimodernist recovery and rearticulation of Western and English con¬stitutionalism on the classical and medi¬eval patterns identified with the seventeenth century of Sir Edward Coke, a principal figure of the Elizabethan Renaissance, and of John Locke, himself a principal enlightener…

Until recently, even the harshest critics of marriage never denied that, for better or worse, its nature and purpose have been to unite a man and a woman. Much of the rising tide of criticism leveled at marriage focuses precisely on the tensions of attempting to bridge sexual difference. Ironically, this growing dissatisfaction has corresponded with the most sustained attempt to link marriage to romantic love. . . .

Premodern conceptions of marriage had far more to do with creating and preserving social and economic stability for a family, clan, or nation than with finding satisfaction for the unpredictable demands of personal happiness. When so large a share of social order depended upon marriage, love could only be viewed as disruptive. Like Greek and Roman myths, medieval European culture abounded with tales of unruly and untamable passions. . . .

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