The Corner

Prof Hart

Jeffrey Hart concludes the WSJ’s American Conservatism series with an attempt to sum up the conservative mind today. Hart is always worth reading, particularly when he’s writing for NR, of course. But Joseph Knippenberg makes a good point about something which bothered me too. On the one hand Hart says that conservatives need to drop their “utopian” adherence to the strict pro-life position (carried down to the human embryo). Hart says that since such a view will never be written into law, to pine for enactment of right to life views is therefore utopian. He may or may not be right on the political question. But there are two problems here. The first, as Knippenberg notes, is that Hart also endorses religion and religiously oriented metaphysics. But, as the Catholic Church teaches, the right to life position is absolute. How is, say, a Catholic conservative to be rightly religious while wrongly utopian? Which is supposed to give way to the other?

The second point is more pragmatic. Why should the fact that we will never ban abortion in all its forms be proof not merely of the hopeless utopianism of prolifers, but proof that the absolutist position must be abandoned entirely?

We will never successfully ban murder, theft, or unwarranted violence bur we maintain some loyalty to the moral principles which condemn and limit these things. I understand it is not a perfect analogy, but the point remains that one can at least uphold a principle as absolute even if it is necessary to make compromises with reality about how to apply that principle. The fact that the overwhelming majority of pro-lifers who consider abortion a grave crime have remained law-abiding and non-violent is testament to that fact.

Woops: While I was writing the above I see Peter posted a link. One wonders what Peter thinks about Hart’s abortion vs. religion conflict (if by “one” you mean me, which I do).

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