On entering the Catholic Church earlier this year, Hadley Arkes explained that he had become convinced that the Church was fundamentally a truth-telling institution. He arrived at this judgment after repeatedly seeing the Church act as the lone voice of reason defending unpopular moral truths in an age of relativism. From his academic perch, Arkes, too, has defended these moral truths, casting doubt on the claims of some overly excitable commentators that the defense of life or the protection of marriage is the work of “Christianists,” “theocons,” or other Bible-thumping theocrats. Arkes’s latest book, written well before his baptism, shows that the anchoring truths of the natural law are accessible to reason and provide the proper lens for seeing beyond the illusions of some of the trickiest cases of constitutional law.
A professor at Amherst College since 1966, Arkes is one of the leading proponents of natural-law jurisprudence. His new book, Constitutional Illusions and Anchoring Truths, can profitably be read as the culmination of many diverse yet intertwined strains of Arkes’s thought. From moral philosophy to applied ethics and constitutional theory, the foundational role that moral reasoning plays in public life unites all his life’s work.