For conservatives, a retreat into self-imposed isolation isn’t a responsible option, says Acton research director Samuel Gregg. Instead, he argues, we need more conservatives publicly witnessing that humans are wired to know and freely choose truth, and that this has implications for the political order:
At the risk of oversimplification, in one corner are those perhaps best described as “MacIntyrians,” after the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre and his seminal book After Virtue (1981). They suggest that modern liberalism’s advance in the academy and the wider culture (especially the media) is now so pronounced that it’s rendering any alternative shaping of the public square extremely difficult. Some even hold that aspects of the American experiment, by which they appear to mean a type of Lockean materialism, were bound to eventually marginalize alternative arguments.
In the other camp are those who might be called “Murrayites.” Named after the Jesuit philosopher John Courtney Murray and his equally important text We Hold These Truths (1960), this group readily acknowledges that American intellectual and popular culture is in very bad shape. They aren’t, however, convinced that the American experiment is either down-and-out or irredeemably flawed. Instead, they maintain that much of the American Founding continues to provide a sound general context for religious conservatives to make and advance their political, social, economic, and national security positions.
The significance of this discussion, however, goes far beyond the world of Catholic conservatives. Its wider importance—not just for Catholics but also other conservative-minded Christians, Jews, and those of a secular bent—is this big question: will natural law and appeals to right reason remain a salient element in American conservative public argument?