January 26th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The Natural Family as an integrative social force in American history

EDITORIAL The Remnant, resistant, creative minority

ENERGY POLICY Enough hot air about carbon dioxide; let's talk LPG

CANBERRA OBSERVED Federal election: the media have done our duty at the polls for us

NSW ELECTION NSW is just starting to sizzle

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Archbishop Wilson free, but trial was no witchhunt

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Awaiting Hayne: full report sure to shake finance sector

LIFE ISSUES The unvarnished truth about surrogacy

HIGHER EDUCATION Massification: that's the name of the game

SOCIETY Dover Beach: a mordant post-Christmas reflection

IRELAND TODAY Celtic Tiger changed out of all recognition

MUSIC One note does not a monotone make

CINEMA Aquaman: High fantasy in ocean depths

BOOK REVIEW Uninformed consent

BOOK REVIEW A thoroughly modern movement

BOOK REVEW The foundation of a successful society


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The Diabolical Character of Modern Liberty

D.C. Schindler


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About the book

It is commonly observed that behind many of the political and cultural issues that we face today lies an impoverished conception of freedom, which, according to D.C. Schindler, we have inherited from the classical liberal tradition without a sufficient awareness of its implications. Freedom from Reality presents a critique of the deceptive and ultimately self-subverting character of the modern notion of freedom, retrieving an alternative view through a new interpretation of the ancient tradition. While many have critiqued the inadequacy of identifying freedom with arbitrary choice, this book seeks to penetrate to the metaphysical roots of the modern conception by going back, through an etymological study, to the original sense of freedom.

Schindler begins by uncovering a contradiction in John Locke’s seminal account of human freedom. Rather than dismissing it as a mere “academic” problem, Schindler takes this contradiction as a key to understanding the strange paradoxes that abound in the contemporary values and institutions founded on the modern notion of liberty: the very mechanisms that intend to protect modern freedom render it empty and ineffectual. In this respect, modern liberty is “diabolical” – a word that means, at its roots, that which “drives apart” and so subverts. This is contrasted with the “symbolical” (a “joining-together”), which, he suggests, most basically characterises the premodern sense of reality. This book will appeal to students and scholars of political philosophy (especially political theorists), philosophers in the continental or historical traditions, and cultural critics with a philosophical bent.


“This is a brilliant, incredibly erudite, and rigorously argued book. D. C. Schindler’s fundamental contribution is the working out of autonomy described as the flight from reality. Nobody has defended this account of the trajectory of modern liberalism more ably than he has. It is a huge and complete accomplishment by one of the most magnificent thinkers of our time.” — Peter Lawler, Dana Professor in Government, Berry College


“D.C. Schindler is probably the best Catholic philosophical theologian of his generation in the Anglophone world. In short, this book is an account and diagnosis of the rise of a modern concept of ‘liberty’ . . . and of an alternative vision drawn from classical and Christian tradition. It makes a better and more controlled case than any other book I know of dealing with these issues, and opens new perspectives on Locke and whole heritage of modern moral and political history.” — David Bentley Hart, Templeton Fellow, Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study


“Among the sacred cows of the modern age, a certain idea of individual freedom and political liberty has pride of place. D. C. Schindler unravels its genealogy in John Locke, exposes its self-defeating character, and pleads for a retrieval of a fuller conception, rooted in classical Greek philosophy. He thereby contributes to the healing of our intellectual, cultural, and social diseases. A daring and necessary enterprise.” — Rémi Brague, University of Paris–Sorbonne and Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich


“Schindler’s book is a brilliant tour de force of political and moral reasoning. A most timely and stringent analysis of modernity’s confused and calamitous dissociation of freedom and the good, Schindler’s book will be ranked with similarly intentioned, highly influential works by Polanyi, MacIntyre, and Gadamer.” — Thomas Pfau, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English and professor of Germanic Languages & Literatures, Duke University


“As a critique of deep currents of modern thought, Schindler’s masterful study does just what it should: it brings us into a position to understand and assess divergences at the level of fundamental principles, and to recognize their consequences. Schindler is one of the best guides available to a revivified classical philosophy that restores the soul and reality to the communion they were made for.” — Mark Shiffman, Villanova University


About the author

D. C. Schindler is associate professor of metaphysics and anthropology at the John Paul II Institute. He is the author of a number of books, including The Catholicity of Reason.

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