Place Of Religion In The Liberal Philosophy by Ralph Raico

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Author
Ralph Raico
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9781610160001
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Book review

Forty years ago, historian Raico completed his dissertation under the direction of F.A. Hayek at the Univ of Chicago. Its title masks its power and importance: The Place of Religion in the Liberal Philosophy of Constant, Tocqueville, & Lord Acton. It has been published for the first time by the Mises Institute, & this is not merely to honor a great historian & thinker.

The research contained within it amounts to a major contribution to public intellectual life of the US at the time. The issue he addresses-the revelation of a different form of early liberalism, one heavily influenced by moral concerns & steeped in an older religious ethos-has major implications in our own time as well.

What resources were available that highlighted this alternative liberal tradition? There weren't many at the time. It was during this period when Raico went to work on his dissertation. He hit target with an extended discussion of three massively important figures in the history of liberalism for whom a religious orientation, & an overarching moral framework, was central for their thought: French Protestant Benjamin Constant, French Catholic Alexis de Tocqueville, & Lord Acton.

Raico provides a detailed reading of their work in all these respects & shows that one need not embrace statism, & that one can be a consistent & full-blown liberal in the classical tradition, & not come anywhere near fulfilling the stereotype that conservatives were then creating of libertarians. Ours is a varied tradition of secularists, yes, but also of deeply pious thinkers, too. What drew them all together was a conviction that liberty is the mother & not the daughter of order. Forty years later, it is striking how poignant Raico's treatise remains. And it is fact: conservatives who were blasting away at libertarians at the time never saw this book. It is just now published. It's this way with great books, classic studies of this depth: it remains as powerful & relevant now as ever.


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