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Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis Paperback – November 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"...George has done a great service in demonstrating that traditional morality still has an authoritative role to play...." -- The Weekly Standard, February 11, 2002

"Clash of Orthodoxies...is an excellent, scholarly presentation of the natural-law way of getting at hot issues such as abortion." -- World, March 23, 2002

"Robert P. George…is one of the most incisive legal and moral thinkers working today..." -- First Things

"The Clash of Orthodoxies is...dedicated to exploring the intricacies of the issues...and dealing fully with the opposing views." -- National Review, February 25, 2002 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

It is a common supposition among many of our cultural elites that a constitutional "wall of separation" between church and state precludes religious believers from bringing their beliefs to bear on public matters. This is because secular liberals typically assume that their own positions on morally charged issues of public policy are the fruit of pure reason, while those of their morally conservative opponents reflect an irrational religious faith. In The Clash of Orthodoxies: Law, Religion, and Morality in Crisis, Princeton political theorist Robert P. George shows that this supposition is wrong on both counts. Challenging liberalism's claim to represent the triumph of reason, George argues that on controversial issues like embryonic stem-cell research, abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and same-sex marriage, traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs are actually rationally superior to secular liberal alternatives. Drawing on the natural law philosophical tradition, George demolishes various secularist pretenses, such as the notion that the very young and very old among us are somehow subpersonal and not worthy of full legal protection. He reveals the dubious person-body dualism implicit in secularist arguments, and he demonstrates the flawed reasoning behind the idea that the state ought to be neutral regarding competing understandings of the nature and value of marriage. George also revisits the controversy surrounding his participation in the First Things "End of Democracy?" symposium, in which he considered the relevance of Catholic teachings regarding the legitimacy of political regimes to the contemporary American situation. George argues that because natural law and natural rights doctrine lie at the foundation of the American republic, the judicial reading of the Constitution that has undermined democracy in order to enshrine the secularist agenda is deeply flawed. In advancing his thesis, George argues for a return to old-fashioned liberalism, a worldview that he claims is best exemplified by Pope John Paul II, whose teachings laud democracy, religious liberty, and economic freedom while also recognizing the demands of civil rights, social and economic justice, and the principle of subsidiarity. These demands restrain Catholics--and indeed all people of faith--from making personal freedom an absolute, and George takes to task those political leaders who, though believers, have denied or ignored the political responsibility this entails. The Clash of Orthodoxies is a profoundly important contribution to our contemporary national conversation about the proper role of religion in politics. The lucid and persuasive prose of Robert George, one of America's most prominent public intellectuals, will shock secular liberals out of an unwarranted complacency and provide powerful ammunition for embattled defenders of traditional morality. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 420 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1882926943
  • ISBN-13: 978-1882926947
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #386,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Here in Princeton, New Jersey there are a lot of highly educated people, including especially university professors and graduate students. Sometimes they share their viewpoints with the rest of us by pasting bumper stickers to their cars, usually older model Saabs or Volvos. I saw one the other day: "I do my part to keep the religious right angry." It conveys a widespread understanding among liberal elites that religious conservatives are not motivated by reason, at least not in their opinions about social issues, like abortion, euthanasia, and gay rights, which, from time to time, are the subject of public debate. Rather, they work from "prejudices" unthinkingly imported from their traditional religious beliefs into the political arena. Liberals believe that these conservatives would impose--not persuade or convince because their positions are not based in reason--their religious belief on the reasonable majority. A new book by Princeton professor Robert P. George, The Clash of Orthodoxies (ISI Books, 2001) challenges this understanding of religious conservatism. George, a Harvard and Oxford educated philosopher who holds the McCormick Chair of Jurisprudence once occupied by Princeton demigod Woodrow Wilson, sets out to make the case that the moral views of conservative Christians (often shared by observant Jews and other believers) are rationally defensible. Actually, he even goes farther, arguing throughout this 300-page work that "Judaeo-Christian moral teaching can be shown to be rationally superior to orthodox secular moral beliefs."
A remarkable thing about The Clash of Orthodoxies is its accessibility.
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Format: Hardcover
I'll keep my review short. Simply put, Professor George, a former student of John Finnis at Oxford, has created one of the best defenses of the Catholic Natural Law tradition, with no appeal to Divine Revelation -- which is an important point to make since your average skeptic considers Christian ethics as relying primarily, if not solely, on "irrational" faith. The book is primarily concerned with the effects of ethical subjectivism on legal/social matters; however, George nearly covers the whole gamut of ethical issues, including abortion, homosexuality, and contraception -- all in a clear, succinct manner. The first chapter alone is worth the purchase of the book; it is certainly one of the best essays I have read on the truth of Natual Law orthodoxy and Theistic Moral Realism, including a refutation of Atheistic Moral Realism (a la Iris Murdoch) via a debate with Josh Dever, who represents what George calls "liberal orthodoxy."

In order to get the most out of this book, one should also read George's 'Making Men Moral,' a defense of the social conservative position (e.g., communities banning pornography). If one enjoys George's work, he should also check out other books published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI). ISI is one of the leading organizations promoting conservative thought in academia. Their list of books is quite impressive.
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Format: Hardcover
In The Clash of Orthodoxies, a limpidly written and deftly argued collections of essays, Robert George, the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and one of the most important natural-law philosophers of our time, wants "to show that Christians and other believers are right to defend their positions on key moral issues as rationally superior to the alternatives proposed by secular liberals and those within the religious denominations who have abandoned traditional moral principles in favor of secularist morality." He triumphantly succeeds in this ambitious endeavor, and as a result our understanding of the cultural and moral struggle that convulses our country is vastly enriched.
To select one example from the numerous ones available in the book, Professor George's essay "The Concept of Public Morality" is a masterly clarification of an area that has become a terrible intellectual mess, a situation engendered by the reckless libertarianism of both the left and right. For instance, pornography is now an unavaidable part of our daily lives, and Professor George rightly contends that "where pornography flourishes, as it does in our own culture, it erodes important shared public understandings of sexuality and sexual morality on which the health of the institutions of marriage and family life in any culture vitally depend. This is a classic case in which the accumulation of apparently private choices of private parties has big public consequences." The stability (or what little stability is left) of what Professor George calls our "moral ecology" depends on the restoration of this kind of understanding in the place of the prevailing relativism that thwarts any serious reflection on the notion of public morality.
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Format: Hardcover
I can say without qualification that the Clash of Orthodoxies is one of the most important books of the last decade in the area of moral theory. There is simply no better reasoned case for the culture of life and no better examination of the philosophic heart of the debate between that culture and the many anti-life commitments of secular liberalism in contemporary America. In short, The Clash of Orthodoxies is an indispensable book, and it should be read by anyone who has an interest in engaging the moral arguments at the center of public discourse on the momentous topics of the culture of life.
Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, one of the most prestigious political science chairs in the country; he serves as director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, a dynamic new program centered at Princeton University and dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in constitutional studies and political thought; and he holds advanced degrees in law and legal theory from Harvard and Oxford. As one might expect, George's defense of traditional moral values evinces a high degree of philosophic sophistication, rivaling that of any moral theorist writing across the political spectrum today, and he is more than a match for liberal and leftist moral theorists such as John Rawls and Peter Singer.
Even so, no potential reader of this book should allow George's philosophic sophistication to give him pause. Indeed, the Clash of Orthodoxies manages simultaneously to communicate the essential core of the philosophic disputes at the center of the culture wars today and yet remain at a level easily accessible to the general reader and thoughtful non-specialist. Another virtue of George's books is its overarching fairness.
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