• What Was the Enlightenment?
    Articles,  Blog

    What Was the Enlightenment?

    Modern science, medicine, political freedom, the market economy—all of them, we’re told, are the result of a sort of miracle that took place 250 years ago. That miracle is called the Enlightenment, a moment in history when philosophers suddenly overthrew religious dogma and tradition and replaced it with human reason. Harvard professor Steven Pinker puts it this way: “Progress is a gift of the ideals of the Enlightenment.” There’s just one problem with this claim. It isn’t really true. Consider the U.S. Constitution, which is frequently said to be a product of Enlightenment thought. But you only need to read about English common law—which Alexander Hamilton and James Madison certainly…

  • Interpreting the Bill of Rights
    Articles,  Blog

    Interpreting the Bill of Rights

    IN “DEMOCRACY’S DISCONTENT,” I BEGIN WITH THE CONTRAST BETWEEN TWO POLITICAL PHILOSOPHIES, ONE LIBERAL, THE OTHER REPUBLICAN. THE MAIN DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LIBERAL AND THE REPUBLICAN PUBLIC PHILOSOPHIES LIES IN THE CONCEPTION OF FREEDOM AND OF CITIZENSHIP THAT THEY AFFIRM, AND THE LIBERAL CONCEPTION TO BE FREE, TO BE A FREE CITIZEN, IS TO BE ABLE TO CHOOSE MY OWN ENDS, WHATEVER THEY MAY BE, CONSISTENT WITH RESPECTING A SIMILAR LIBERTY FOR OTHERS. IN THE REPUBLICAN CONCEPTION, FREEDOM IS A MORE DEMANDING NOTION. TO BE FREE IS TO SHARE IN SELF RULE, TO PARTICIPATE IN SELF GOVERNMENT. NOT JUST TO GO AND VOTE EVERY TWO YEARS OR FOUR YEARS, BUT…