Several years ago, I stumbled on the philosopher Timothy Macklem’s book, Independence of Mind, one of whose chapters concerned the distinction between trust and faith in explaining the good of religious belief. Macklem drew a sharp division between the two: the former is subject to the constraint of “reason” while the latter, in Macklem’s view, is totally separated from “reason”–faith for Macklem is belief without any good reason for belief, or even without the possibility of any good reason for belief.
One can see the development of related themes in Professor Macklem’s (King’s College) new book, Law and Life in Common, just released by Oxford University Press. What is contained in the publisher’s description (below) are fairly ambitious claims about and desires for the persuasive force of law. And I wonder about the willingness of at least certain sorts of “arational” systems of persuasion to form the kind of partnership with law that he suggests are necessary for its capacity to build a common life.
We live in a moral world in which reasons come in different kinds, so that very often the claims of one reason upon us are no greater than the claims of some other reason. Yet the law, in its self-presentation and in theoretical accounts of it, proceeds as if its rational pull was conclusive, as if there were no sensible alternative to compliance with its terms. In itself that should not be surprising: each one of us very often acts as if the reasons that animate us were morally determinative, and indeed our actions may subsequently make that the case. Why should law operate in any other way? Yet we know that in truth reasons are usually not determinative of action, and while pretence to the contrary may not much matter in individual settings, it matters very much in the setting of the law.
The ability of the law to build a life in common, of whatever kind, is dependent on its ability to function as if its claims were pre-eminent rather than undefeated at best. If law is to succeed in its basic project of binding people to its aims, as it must, it is bound to convince us of the substance of its pretence by buttressing its necessarily limited rational claims with the pull of arational considerations. It needs partners, not only in the familiar prudential considerations that force gives rise to, but also in the beguilement that shared imaginings make possible. This book is an exploration of those partnerships, in principle and in their most important details. It seeks to describe the ways in which such practical workings of law are part of its nature.
Here is an interesting looking volume of essays that explores some of the ideological fringes in international political and legal thought, Radicals and Reactionaries in Twentieth-Century International Thought, edited by Ian Hall (Griffith University, Australia) and published by Palgrave Macmillan this month. The publisher’s description follows.
The history of international thought is a burgeoning field in International Relations, but so far it has mainly concentrated on the work of American and British “realists” and “idealists.” This book breaks new ground, moving beyond Anglophone thinkers and the mainstream traditions to examine the work of radicals and reactionaries from across the world. It includes original chapters on German conservatives and Italian socialists, Labour Party radicals and French fascists, as well as Italian and Japanese imperialists and Indian anti-colonialists. It explores the transnational transmission of theories and traditions of international thought, as well as their reception, adaptation, and rejection by thinkers across Europe and Asia during the course of the twentieth century.
The figure of the military chaplain is perhaps not as celebrated today as it once was; like many traditions, it, too, is challenged by the imperatives of change. Here is an interesting study of a successful chaplain who served both his country and his faith honorably: Catholic University Press’s recently released Navy Priest: The Life of Captain Jake Laboon, SJ, by Richard Gribble, CSC. The publisher’s description follows.
Navy Priest is a compelling biography of the Jesuit priest and Navy chaplain John Francis (Jake) Laboon. Father Jake made a significant contribution to the United States Navy, both as a World War II submarine officer and, most prominently, during a 22-year career as a chaplain. Laboon served as the first chaplain for the Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine Program, but also served as chaplain at his alma mater the United States Naval Academy, undertook a tour of duty with the US Marines in Vietnam, where he was awarded the Legion of Merit, and later served as Fleet Chaplain of the United States Atlantic Fleet.
Father Jake Laboon was born on April 11, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The third of nine children, he was raised in a faith-filled family. He attended Catholic schools until his matriculation to the United States Naval Academy in June 1940. A tight end for the USNA football team and an All American in lacrosse, Laboon graduated with his classmates in June 1943. He served with distinction in the Pacific submarine force, winning the Silver Star for gallantry aboard USS Peto (SS 265).
Laboon left the Navy in 1946 and immediately entered formation for the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). He was ordained a priest in 1956. Two years later he reentered the Navy as a chaplain, where he stayed until 1980. He then joined the pastoral staff serving at Manresa Retreat Center, in Annapolis, and was for four years the pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Parish in Woodstock, Maryland. In 1995 the destroyer USS Laboon was commissioned in his honor. Loved by all with whom he had contact, Father Jake was a model of Christian fidelity, faith and complete dedication to God and country.
The rise of Christianity as a social force in China (unlike the decline of Christianity as a social force in the West) is an underreported story. Even well-informed analysts who look to China as a rising power sometimes ignore it. This month, Routledge releases the paperback version of what looks to be an interesting corrective, Christian Values in Communist China, by Gerda Wielander (University of Westminster). The publisher’s description follows:
This book argues that as new political and social values are formed in post-socialist China, Christian values are becoming increasingly embedded in the new post-socialist Chinese outlook. It shows how although Christianity is viewed in China as a foreign religion, promoted by Christian missionaries and as such at odds with the official position of the state, Christianity as a source of social and political values – rather than a faith requiring adherence to a church is in fact having a huge impact. The book shows how these values inform both official and dissident ideology and provide a key underpinning of morality and ethics in the post-socialist moral landscape. Adopting a variety of different angles, the book investigates the role Christian thought plays in the official discourse on morality and love and what contribution Chinese Christians make to charitable projects. It analyses key Christian publications and dedicates two chapters to Christian intellectuals and their impact on political liberal thinking in China. The concluding chapter highlights gender roles, the role of the Chinese diaspora, and the overlap of the government and Christian agenda in China today. The book challenges commonly held views on contemporary Chinese Christianity as a movement in opposition to the state by showing the diversity and complexity of Christian thinking and the many factors influencing it.
Last month, the Catholic University of America Press released Knowing the Natural Law: From Precepts and Inclinations to Deriving Oughts, by Steven Jensen (University of St. Thomas, Houston). The publisher’s description follows:
Recent discussions of Thomas Aquinas’s treatment of natural law have focused upon the “self-evident” character of the first principles, but few attempts have been made to determine in what manner they are self-evident. On some accounts, a self-evident precept must have, at most, a tenuous connection with speculative reason, especially our knowledge of God, and it must be untainted by the stain of “deriving” an ought from an is. Yet Aquinas himself had a robust account of the good, rooted in human nature. He saw no fundamental dierence between is-statements and ought-statements, both of which he considered to be descriptive
Knowing the Natural Law traces the thought of Aquinas from an understanding of human nature to a knowledge of the human good, from there to an account of ought-statements, and finally to choice, which issues in human actions. The much discussed article on the precepts of the natural law (I-II, 94, 2) provides the framework for a natural law rooted in human nature and in speculative knowledge. Practical knowledge is itself threefold: potentially practical knowledge, virtually practical knowledge, and fully practical knowledge.
This distinction within practical knowledge, typically overlooked or underutilized, reveals the steps by which the mind moves from speculative knowledge all the way to fully practical knowledge. The most significant sections of Knowing the Natural Law examine the nature of ought-statements, the imperative force of moral precepts, the special character of per se nota propositions as found within the natural law, and the final movement from knowledge to action.
Across the continent of Africa, Christianity and Islam are growing rapidly, side by side. The conventional wisdom is the two religions are destined for bloody conflict. This summer, Oxford will release a book that challenges this wisdom and argues that African religious diversity actually can encourage liberal democracy. The book is Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy, by Robert A. Dowd (Notre Dame). The publisher’s description follows:
Drawing from research conducted in Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda, Christianity, Islam, and Liberal Democracy offers a deeper understanding of how Christian and Islamic faith communities affect the political attitudes of those who belong to them and, in turn, prospects for liberal democracy. While many analysts believe that religious diversity in developing countries is an impediment to liberal democracy, Robert A. Dowd concludes just the opposite. Dowd draws on narrative accounts, in-depth interviews, and large-scale surveys to show that Christian and Islamic religious communities are more likely to support liberal democracy in religiously diverse and integrated settings than in religiously homogeneous or segregated ones. Religious diversity and integration, in other words, are good for liberal democracy. In religiously diverse and integrated environments, religious leaders tend to be more encouraging of civic engagement, democracy, and religious liberty.
By providing a theoretical framework for understanding when and where Christian and Islamic communities in sub -Saharan Africa encourage and discourage liberal democracy, Dowd demonstrates how religious communities are important in affecting political actions and attitudes. This evidence, the book ultimately argues, should prompt policymakers interested in cultivating religiously-inspired support for liberal democracy to aid in the formation of religiously diverse neighborhoods, cities, and political organizations.
Stanford University Press has released Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy, by Aishwary Kumar (Stanford). The publisher’s description follows:
B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, and M.K. Gandhi, the Indian nationalist, two figures whose thought and legacies have most strongly shaped the contours of Indian democracy, are typically considered antagonists who held irreconcilable views on empire, politics, and society. As such, they are rarely studied together. This book reassesses their complex relationship, focusing on their shared commitment to equality and justice, which for them was inseparable from anticolonial struggles for sovereignty.
Both men inherited the concept of equality from Western humanism, but their ideas mark a radical turn in humanist conceptions of politics. This study recovers the philosophical foundations of their thought in Indian and Western traditions, religious and secular alike. Attending to moments of difficulty in their conceptions of justice and their language of nonviolence, it probes the nature of risk that radical democracy’s desire for inclusion opens within modern political thought. In excavating Ambedkar and Gandhi’s intellectual kinship, Radical Equality allows them to shed light on each other, even as it places them within a global constellation of moral and political visions. The story of their struggle against inequality, violence, and empire thus transcends national boundaries and unfolds within a universal history of citizenship and dissent.
This summer, the University of Pennsylvania Press will release “Secularism in Question: Jews and Judaism in Modern Times,” edited by Ari Joskowicz and Ethan B. Katz. The publisher’s description follows:
For much of the twentieth century, most religious and secular Jewish thinkers believed that they were witnessing a steady, ongoing movement toward secularization. Toward the end of the century, however, as scholars and pundits began to speak of the global resurgence of religion, the normalization of secularism could no longer be considered inevitable. Recent decades have seen the strengthening of Orthodox movements in the United States and in Israel; religious Zionism has grown and radically changed since the 1960s, and new and vibrant nondenominational Jewish movements have emerged.
Secularism in Question examines the ways these contemporary revivals of religion prompt a reconsideration of many issues concerning Jews and Judaism from the early modern era to the present. Bringing together scholars of history, religion, philosophy, and literature, this volume illustrates how the categories of “religious” and “secular” have frequently proven far more permeable than fixed. The contributors challenge the problematic assumptions about the development of secularism that emerge from Protestant European and American perspectives and demonstrate that global Jewish experiences necessitate a reappraisal of conventional narratives of secularism. Ultimately, Secularism in Question calls for rethinking the very terms that animate many of the most contentious debates in contemporary Jewish life and far beyond.
In July, Ashgate will release “Religion and Legal Pluralism” edited by Russell Sandberg (Cardiff University, UK). The publisher’s description follows:
In recent years, there have been a number of concerns about the recognition of religious laws and the existence of religious courts and tribunals. There has also been the growing literature on legal pluralism which seeks to understand how more than one legal system can and should exist within one social space. However, whilst a number of important theoretical works concerning legal pluralism in the context of cultural rights have been published, little has been published specifically on religion. Religion and Legal Pluralism explores the extent to which religious laws are already recognized by the state and the extent to which religious legal systems, such as Sharia law, should be accommodated.
The concept of human dignity features prominently in international human rights law, including the law on religious freedom. The word bears many different meanings, though, which is one reason why human rights law is so complicated and varied.
One famous attempt to justify religious freedom in terms of human dignity is contained in the Vatican II document, Dignitatis Humane. In July, Eerdman’s will release a new book on the subject, Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity: The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom, by David L. Schindler (Gonzaga) and Nicholas J. Healy (Catholic University of America). The publisher’s description follows:
Pope Paul VI characterized the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom —Dignitatis Humanae — as one of the greatest documents of Vatican II. It is also perhaps the most intensely debated document of the Council; both the drafting of the Declaration of Religious Freedom and its reception have been marked by deep disagreements about what this teaching means for the Church.
In this book David Schindler and Nicholas Healy promote a deeper understanding of this important document. In addition to presenting a new translation of the approved text of the Declaration,Freedom, Truth, and Human Dignity makes available for the first time in English the five drafts of the document that were presented to the Council bishops leading up to the final version. The book also includes an original interpretive essay on Dignitatis Humanae by Schindler and an essay on the genesis and redaction history of the text by Healy.