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Monday, April 03, 2006

"Political Agape"

I just returned from a great two-day roundtable at Emory's Center for the Study of Law and Religion.  The focus was a work-in-progress -- "Political Agape:  A Defense of Prophetic Liberalism" -- by an Emory theologian, Prof. Timothy Jackson, who has written about -- among other things -- Dr. King, Christian charity, adoption, and social justice.  The participants included theologians, philosophers, social scientists, and lawyers, and the conversations -- at least, the parts I was able to understand, after I looked up words like "alethiology" and "kenosis" -- were really rich. 

Jackson's project is to build a defense of liberalism -- or, sometimes he says "liberal democracy" -- around a moral anthropology grounded in (his words) "sanctity", which is itself a function of human dependence and need for "agape" (love of neighbor), rather than "dignity", which Jackson thinks has become too closely tied to capacities ("rationality") and autonomy.  His version of liberalism is one that is "morally perfectionistic" -- thicker -- than the versions he associates with, say, John Rawls.  (In Jackon's view, it is a mistake to require of citizens in a liberal democracy that they offer, or even that they be prepared to offer, non-religious arguments and proposals in the political arena.)

Again, I am afraid that a lot of the discussion about the book was over my head, but I was and am intrigued by and attracted to political theorists who put anthropological questions -- i.e., what are we, what (if anything) are we for, and what are the implications for how we may be treated and treat others of the facts about who and what we are -- at the center of the inquiry.  Here, for anyone who might be interested in Jackson's earlier work, is his book, "The Priority of Love:  Christian Charity and Social Justice."

Posted by Rick Garnett on April 3, 2006 at 11:18 AM | Permalink


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It always sounds better in Greek (or Latin), doesn't it? The one thing I am most grateful to George Orwell for is the advice that if you need to look up the words, the idea or its proponent or both are probably confused. (For the record, I did not know George Orwell personally. I am referring to his essays.)

Posted by: nk | Apr 3, 2006 3:05:31 PM

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