Faith and Reason

Interesting NYT article about Robert George, a Princeton professor who seems to have taken over as the intellectual leader of the Catholic-Evangelical political alliance after Neuhaus died. (I admittedly would likely not have clicked through to the article if Tyler Cowen had not blurbed it as “proof that intercourse is special.” At least from the summary in the article, however, it seems simply like a rewording of standard Catholic arguments.)

The article brings back memories for me, because George is a Thomist, and I was very attracted to the Scholastics when I was a Christian. The claim that Christian morality can be arrived at through universal reason is, I suppose, the only way that someone who loves intellectual rigor can justify imposing their beliefs on the rest of the world.

What’s flabbergasting, looking back, is how incredibly weak the edifice is. Sure, us mushy relativists have a hard time making a coherent case for any single position. But George is attempting to carry the meticulously jointed weight of a skyscraper on premises blatantly selected for their end result:

First, he contends that marriage is a uniquely “comprehensive” union, meaning that it is shared at several different levels at once — emotional, spiritual and bodily. “And the really interesting evidence that it is comprehensive is that it is anchored in bodily sharing,” he says.

In other words: sex only belongs in marriage because marriage is about sex.

I understand the pleasure of certainty. I remember the comfort of believing that the world actually has a right answer. But I also remember the nagging–and later searing–doubt of knowing that the whole approach was build on a few, highly doubtful assumptions. I’m sure George is too smart not to realize that, and I don’t envy him that feeling.

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