Last month’s issue of First Things had an exchange between Patrick Deneen and Daniel Mahoney.  Deneen repeated many of the arguments he has made in other articles and posts e.g. Lockeanism =’s Progressivism .  On the other hand, he did seem to pivot to the center on one particular point.  In a post at this site, Deneen doubted that Modern values like “excessive materialism, individualism, liberalism, atheism” could be separated from goods we associate with Modernity.  In the end he suspected it was a “package deal” which is why he thinks compromise with it is impossible.  Check out his posts on the pro-life movement and religious liberty for examples of this argument.  In the recent First Things piece, however, he seems open to viewing modern project as divisible:

“A different trajectory does not require a change in institutions; it requires a change in how we understand the human person in relationship to other persons, to nature, and the source of creation.”

What comes under attack in Deneen’s piece is the underlying philosophy, Liberalism, not institutions usually linked to it:

“The strictly political arrangements of modern constitutionalism do not per se constitute a liberal regime.  Rather, liberalism is constituted by a pair of deeper anthropological assumptions that give liberal institutions a particular orientation and cast: 1) anthropological individualism and the voluntarist conception of choice, and 2) human separation from and opposition to nature.”

Mahoney recognizes this point of agreement too when he says, “But even he grudgingly acknowledges that liberalism is often better in practice than in theory.”  Mahoney is here echoing John Courtney Murray’s line (often cited by Peter) that the Founders ‘built better than they knew.’  What Mahoney says we need today is to replace the philosophy supporting the institutions put in place by the Founders:

“Liberalism is not exhausted by Hobbes materialism and anthropological individualism.  This is John Courtney Murray’s project in We Hold These Truths , a project that in my view has not yet exhausted its promise.”

In this case, is there still a fundamental disagreement between Dr. Pat Deneen and the Pomo Cons?

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