The American Public Philosophy Institute (APPI) hosted a lecture and discussion led by notable conservative public intellectual Robert George on campus on Thursday, Feb. 16.
George is regarded by many as the most preeminent conservative scholar of ethics and public policy in the United States.
George was educated at Swarthmore, Harvard and Oxford, where he graduated from Oxford’s DPhil program, acclaimed by many as the best philosophy program in the world.
Currently, he is a professor of politics and law at Princeton University while also serving as director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, where University of Dallas history professor Susan Hanssen has served as both adjunct professor and Garwood fellow.
In addition to teaching, George regularly contributes to the notable conservative journal “First Things” and is the author of several books related to law and political philosophy.
He also has extensive credentials in the public sphere: he was appointed chair of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the President’s Council on Bioethics.
For his service to the country, he was awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal by George W. Bush.
For many, Robert George may be considered one of the most qualified and esteemed figures to visit UD in the past year.
During his visit, George presented on “The Current Status of Social Conservatism.”
Following what he calls deep “theoconservative” roots, George brought an ancient yet lingering perspective to the modern absence of the natural law from public philosophy.
More precisely, the same battle Christianity fought against Gnosticism continues to be the primary conflict between the far left, who George identifies as “neo-gnostics” and the political right, who holds fast to the principles of natural law in a Judeo-Christian moral context.
“There is one fundamental thing that all the various points of Gnosticism have in common,” George said. “That is that Human beings are non-bodily persons who inhabit and use non-personal bodies.”
George listed multiple modern controversies in which gnostic dualism threatens to undermine a traditional philosophical anthropology.
Evidence of its resurgence is present in the rise of transgenderism, as transgender ideology intrinsically depends on the separation of the soul from the body.
“Early Christians went to the mat to defend against that dualism … that we are not just ghosts in machine, but rather we are a body soul unity.”
Fundamentally, he claims, Christianity will have to become the public defender of biology and science, and, ostensibly, objective fact.
“It’s a poor argument to say that abortion should be legal because we do, in fact, know when life begins,” George said. “That’s why honest scholars like Peter Singer argue that there is no difference between abortion and infanticide. He admits that abortion is taking a human life.”
In terms of social issues, neo-Gnosticism has made this reality a relative non-issue for many people, George claims:
“If you are willing to grant the dualistic premise, you can distinguish between a human being and a person,” George said. “A human being is just a biological member of Homo Sapiens, whether an embryo, a fetus, a baby, a child or an adolescent. But a person, Singer says, is not a mere human being. A person must have self-awareness to be a human.”
Neo-Gnosticism also poses a threat to traditional marriage, George claims.
“If you grant dualistic premises, then the union of two persons is a union of two psyches or ‘centers of awareness,’ and has nothing necessarily to do with biological part of the human being, because that is sub-human, or ‘that’s not you,’ ” George said.
Although some may see George’s philosophy as bigoted, APPI undergraduate fellow Joe Puchner sees the union of philosophy and conservatism as the characteristic, which gives conservative philosophical anthropology epistemological merit.
“As an esteemed professor, Dr. George showed me [that] someone who hopes to enter academia, [to] maintain a dialogue with the public sphere about these issues ought not be abandoned by those who identify as conservative,” Puchner said. “Philosophy gives social conservatism the high ground. Dr. George wouldn’t hold a chair at Princeton if he was simply a crazed bigot.”