As the conference concludes, I want to give you a brief sense of the book upon which this event is based. Robby George’s Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality was published fifteen years ago by Oxford University Press. It made quite a splash in its day, and it is a book worth considering and thinking hard about.
Here is some more information about the text from the official Oxford website:
“Contemporary liberal thinkers commonly suppose that there is something in principle unjust about the legal prohibition of putatively victimless crimes. Here Robert P. George defends the traditional justification of morals legislation against criticisms advanced by leading liberal theorists. He argues that such legislation can play a legitimate role in maintaining a moral environment conducive to virtue and inhospitable to at least some forms of vice. Among the liberal critics of morals legislation whose views George considers are Ronald Dworkin, Jeremy Waldron, David A.J. Richards, and Joseph Raz. He also considers the influential modern justification for morals legislation offered by Patrick Devlin as an alternative to the traditional approach. George closes with a sketch of a “pluralistic perfectionist” theory of civil liberties and public morality, showing that it is fully compatible with a defense of morals legislation. Making Men Moral will interest legal scholars and political theorists as well as theologians and philosophers focusing on questions of social justice and political morality.”
“George is an accomplished controversialist; his arguments are always clear, sophisticated, and highly interesting. Making Men Moral deserves the attention of moral, political, and legal theorists.”–Choice
“Making Men Moral is a strong defense of morals laws against arguments critical of traditional jurisprudence by contemporary liberal legal scholars.”–Modern Age
“…contains much erudition and wisdom worthy of study and reflection.”–Modern Age
“There is much to praise in George’s book.”–Ethics
“This book is clear, incisive, and well argued. I highly recommend it.”The Review of Metaphysics
An excerpt from a review of the text by a Harvard PhD student in First Things:
“George’s perfectionist theory of civil liberties merits scholarly attention, especially from liberals who too easily dismiss natural law thinking as an outdated approach to politics and ethics. Making Men Moral shows unequivocally that natural law thinking can support and improve our liberal political regime.”
I commend the text to you; it has spawned a discussion that has now sprawled over fifteen years and continues into the current day.