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What We Can't Not Know: A Guide Paperback – February 15, 2011
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J. Budziszewski mixes systematic moral philosophy from a natural-law point of view with specific arguments on the life/death issues of our times (abortion, euthanasia) and on the state's interest in preserving privileges of marriage to one-man-and-one-woman couples. At times the effect is a little frustrating -- as a reader I sometimes found myself longing for the "pure" natural-law position-paper unencumbered by specific examples. However, it is clear from the book that the integrity of the author demands that he address these specific, most consequential moral issues of contemporary U.S. culture, as examples and instances of the general argument.
Most useful to me was the "conversational" chapter near the center of the book, in which Budziszewski answers various objections to Natural Law. One suspects this "conversation" is very like exchanges he has with his students daily. His ability to point out the flaws in various presentations of moral relativism was particularly satisfying.
Budziszewski himself says this book is not intended to convince the opponent or the skeptic, but rather to strengthen the "common sense" and natural conscience-awareness of the already convinced, and those who wannabe convinced. If you fall into the latter two groups, this book is worth a read.
In my book, Jesus and the Religions of Man, I asked, "Where did Marx go wrong?" I pointed out that Marxists created a three-fold hierarchy of moral values for "the classes, the masses, and the enlightened." They criticized capitalists for oppressing the poor, nagged ordinary people to work hard, don't spit, and take thought for comrades, and justified their own actions by a loose "end-justifies the means" code. The existence of these three systems side by side I found not only hypocritical, but ironic, since Marx himself said communism "abolishes" all morality. But I did not have an explanation for the phenomena, beyond noting that moral law seems hard to abolish.
Budziszewski does not say much about Marxism, but he does explain this, and similar, behavior. He argues that "deep conscience" exists in everyone, and that ultimate values -- neatly summarized by the Ten Commandments -- are indestructable. His writing is lucid and brilliantly (and perhaps deceptively) simple. Even though this book is chock-full of interesting ideas, it is easy to read.
I found two main weaknesses, one negative, the other positive. The negative weakness is that Dr. B's case would be not only easier to digest, but also stronger if he referred to non-Western cultures more. (Having lived many years in and studied several Asian cultures, examples that confirm his argument spring to mind.) The positive weakness is that Dr.Read more ›
Budziszewski emphasizes the Natural Law as 'built into' (or, more properly, 'designed into') the universe, and 'built into' our own human nature (ie, 'written on our hearts'). As such, the force of Natural Law doesn't depend on whether or not one 'accepts' it (this reminds me of Churchill's famous quip when told that Lady Astor had "accepted the universe" - "she'd better"). Transgressing the Natural Law has inevitable consequences, some of them quite unexpected, or with long time lags.
Budziszewski states at the beginning that he is writing for a Christian audience, which is fine, as far as it goes, but it leaves me waiting for his next(?) book, in which he states his case to those "outside the household of faith". It seems to me that Natural Law ideas could be very helpful for public discourse, at least insofar as they can show that Judeo-Christian moral reasoning doesn't depend solely on matters of faith or revelation.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
There are many ways to describe this book - compelling, well-reasoned, captivating, interesting, undeniably polarizing in some ways, and at times somewhat painful due to the sheer... Read morePublished 1 month ago by StoryMaker
This is an excellent explanation of Natural Law Theory and its application by one of its chief exponents. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Kevin E. Martin
In a world where baby body parts are bought and sold and marriage has been redefined, it is urgent that we reaffirm that there are certain broad, moral truths that we can’t not... Read morePublished 6 months ago by John
This book is a gem for everyone interested in natural law. The fact is that everyone must be interested in natural law nowadays.Published 6 months ago by Ernesto Soares Arruda
I had heard many good things about this book, but when I started reading it, I was disappointed. I find this author to write in circles and some of the critical points of his... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Laura Mibeck
It's amazing and frightening how we suppress, ignore and myopically treat what we can't not know. Yet here's an author who loudly and clearly in the public square is saying... Read morePublished 10 months ago by D.