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November 29, 2012

Deneen responds to Munoz on "our Founding liberal principles"

Following up on yesterday's post, here (at Public Discourse) is Patrick Deneen's reponse to Phillip Munoz's discussion of liberalism.  A bit:

What Muñoz neglects is that the liberal invocation of individual rights, voluntarism, and self-ownership—while useful as an appeal against practices such as slavery—unavoidably also undergirds the tendencies and practices that are at the heart of my critique, namely the tendency toward the expansion of voluntarism into all spheres of life and the effort to conquer nature so as to satisfy all human appetites and intentions that arise from an unconstrained human will. It should also be pointed out that liberalism invites the pro-choice conclusion, inasmuch as its basic understanding of the human person as “self-owner” leads to the conclusion that a fetus can be regarded as an intrusive “other” that impinges upon a woman’s sovereign self. . .

Ought one to be a “conservative” and a “patriot” toward our liberal inheritance?  The contradiction is breathtaking.  The liberal tradition institutionalizes mistrust of the “ancestral” or the inherited, asking each of us to assess whether or not it is in our individual interest to accept the inheritance of our patrimony, and if not, to make our own choices as free and independent individuals. This basic impetus is the ground condition of liberalism—by accepting its basic premise, one begins as a liberal, no matter whether one accepts one’s patrimony or not.

Every human relationship and institution comes under liberalism’s radicalizing and disruptive logic, requiring every aspect and moment of our lives to be subject to the logic of choice based upon calculations of individual advantage. This logic shapes our marriages, whether we are open to the birth of children, whether we remain with our families, whether we accept the teachings and remain members of our church, whether we remain loyal to our places and people, and even whether we continue to view ourselves as Americans. Ironically, it is in the nature of liberalism finally to undermine the very notion of patriotism, inasmuch as our patria—our fatherland—is one of those memberships that is subject to our constant reconsideration as free and independent individuals. The modern move toward trans-national, borderless cosmopolitanism is not a contradiction of Lockean liberalism—it is its culmination.

I consider myself a grateful patriot, but not to the abstract liberal principles of America. America has historically been much better than its principles . . .

I enjoy noting that both Munoz and Deneen are my colleagues at the University of Notre Dame.

Posted by Rick Garnett on November 29, 2012 at 07:41 AM in Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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