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Meeting: "The Enduring Moral Order, Part II"

Updated: Feb 15, 2018

On January 25th, the Society assembled to resume its discussion about the "enduring moral order" articulated in Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Two additional readings were studied to provide greater clarity: an excerpt from Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries and a selection of Humean ethics from Roger Scuton's A Short History of Modern Philosophy.

Though the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" is often interpreted through the Lockean triad of life, liberty, and property, scholars believe that Blackstone's understanding of happiness is much closer to the phrase's intended meaning:

"...[M]an should pursue his own true and substantial happiness." [...] This law of nature, being coeval with mankind and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other—it is binding over all the globe in all countries, and at all times; no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this: and such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.

This passage demonstrated to students the extent to which the Christian moral order informed the founders as they crafted the guiding principles of the nation.

However, it was noted that Kirk's call for moral order is not restricted to any specific religious or ethical framework. In light of this, the Scruton excerpt on Humean ethics offered a compelling secular argument leading to the conclusion that the continuation and careful refinement of the customs of preceding generations is the best means of advancing the social order.



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