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America is under attack in the pages of First Things . In a recent article Notre Dame professor Patrick Deneen tells us that America is founded on a philosophy of “unsustainable liberalism.” Implicit in the ideas of the American founding, he argues, are certain mistaken philosophical premises about individual choice and man’s separation from nature. Moreover, these mistakes are not merely intellectual because, as their logical consequences play out over time, the inexorable results are severe and pervasive social pathologies: a corrupt political order, a collapsing economy, and a degraded and degrading culture. Indeed, in Deneen’s account, pornography, sexual promiscuity, abortion, divorce, violent video games, cheating in academia, and Wall Street frauds all stem from the faulty political philosophy of the American founding.

Now, such attacks on America, whether by Deneen or other conservative philosophers in the Thomistic tradition such as Alasdair MacIntyre, have three distinct parts. The first is a factual claim that America is a land of moral nightmares. The second is a philosophical claim that the moral philosophy that these philosophers support, which is organized around a substantive account of human happiness or fulfillment (that is, eudaimonism in the Aristotelian-Thomistic tradition), is incompatible with the liberal political philosophy that often serves to justify American political traditions and institutions. The third is causal: The moral nightmares result from the mistaken philosophy . . . . Continue Reading »

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