Monday, June 29, 2009

Postmodern Conservatives v. Front Porch Republicans, cont'd

In a previous post I mentioned how I looked forward to watching FP Republicans duke it out with PoMo Cons in the future. Well, my wish was granted as Patrick Deneen responded to that post by calling for a showdown. Lawler and Deneen have gone back and forth on the issue and several others have joined in. I would recommend checking the PoMo Con blog for the past weekend or Russell Arben Fox's summary of it on Front Porch.

Personally, I would be interested to hear Patrick Deneen’s, or any Front Porcher’s, thoughts on the Declaration of Independence and how it fits into their vision, if it does at all. The reason why I ask is because I find Lawler’s reading of it compelling and it is one of the reasons why I am interested in hearing what else the PoMo Cons have to say.

As a realist, I believe objective moral norms exist, can be known, and should guide our actions. And I want to persuade my fellow citizens about this too. But such an idea is abstract and Americans dislike abstract philosophy. This idea has to be embodied in our tradition if they are to be taken seriously. Americans are naturally suspicious of Plato and Aquinas, but not of Jefferson and Lincoln. Lawler, who is keeping John Courtney Murray’s argument alive, introduces realism into the American Political Tradition by linking it to the Declaration. The idea rejected by Locke has become the cornerstone.

Now Deneen has critiqued Lawler’s interpretation and it is forceful. But right now I would like to hear how he or any of the other Front Porchers will address this concern. It appears the figures and ideas they champion are either on the margins of the American Political Tradition or represent only a part of it, the South. They are very interested in fostering memory, but it tends to be the memories of a select region of the country.

Here is a possible out for them. Russell Kirk, who would be on their side on this debate, wrote a book titled The Roots of the American Order which addresses this very concern. Kirk borrows from Voegelin the idea of existential representation: every society attempts to reflect the order its members believe is underlying the cosmos as a whole. America, the city upon a hill, is just one example of this. The book then traces the historical ‘roots’ (Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, and London) of America’s search for order. Interestingly, Kirk leaves the Declaration and Lincoln out of his account.

It is strange that I have not seen more posts on Kirk on FPR since there seems, to me at least, to be an obvious affinity. Maybe I’ll make that my next wish…

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