Friday, February 27, 2009

Canavan on liberalism

I will post some more recollections of Father Francis Canavan S.J. later today. In the meantime, his friend and (if I'm not mistaken) former student Dr. Kenneth Grasso posts a bio of him from an encyclopedia. It includes the vintage photo at left and this fine observation about his writings on Catholicism, American culture, and contemporary America’s search for a public philosophy:

"At the heart of [Canavan's] writings is a far-ranging critique of the liberal individualist intellectual tradition. Understanding liberal political theory to be shaped in important ways by the liberal tradition’s philosophical commitments (in particular, by its embrace of a nominalist metaphysics), Canavan argued that the liberal model of man and society is flawed because it is incompatible with the Christian understanding of the nature and destiny of the human person and corrosive of the matrix of institutions, convictions, and virtues on which a democratic society depends for its vitality and ultimately its very viability. He further argued that the claim of liberalism to be 'neutral' on the whole question of the human good is specious and turns politics into 'a shell game' in which, in the name of neutrality, social life is reorganized in accordance with liberalism’s distinctive and highly controversial vision of the human good."