Aquinas's Common Good

 
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Welcome to Liberty Law Talk. This podcast is a production of the online journal Law & Liberty and hosted by our staff. Please visit us at lawliberty.org, and thank you for listening.

James M. Patterson

Hello and welcome to Liberty Law Talk, a podcast presented by Law & Liberty and supported by The Liberty Fund. My name is James M. Patterson, and I’m an associate professor and chair of the politics department at Ave Maria University, a research fellow at The Center for Religion Culture and Democracy, President of the Ciceronian Society, and faculty affiliate of The Jack Miller Center. Today, our guest is William McCormick. He is a contributing editor at America Magazine, a visiting assistant professor at St. Louis University in the departments of political science and philosophy.

He is a Jesuit scholastic or seminarian of the Central and Southern Province of the United States. He studied politics at Chicago and Texas, and has published in History of Political Thought, The European Journal of Political Theory, and the American Journal of Political Science. We will be discussing his recently published book on Catholic University of America Press, The Christian Structure of Politics: On the De Regno of Thomas Aquinas. Bill, welcome to Liberty Law Talk.

William McCormick

Thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

James M. Patterson

Outstanding. Well, you know this is quite an impressive book. I was very fortunate to have read it, and I want to start off by asking you to tell us a little bit about who Thomas Aquinas was. From what I remember, he was described as corpulent, but there may have been a few other things about him that may be worth discussing besides the polite way of saying that he maybe had a little too much cheesecake.

William McCormick

I certainly hope so, or else my book wouldn’t have much to offer. Thomas Aquinas was a 13th Century Italian priest and theologian and Dominican, and he was one of the greatest theological lights of his time. And for centuries thereafter, he was regarded as an important name and influence in theology and philosophy in the Catholic church. But certainly, often more in spirit than letter. Often he was invoked as an authority and not studied very seriously.

So, the 19th and 20th, and now 21st Century, it’s been a really great pleasure to see a renewal of interest in his work, and especially the actual texts of his work as opposed to through the manuals and commentaries. Lot of wonderful commentaries written about him, a lot of wonderful manuals written about him, but to get back to the primary sources, this has been, yeah, just one of the fantastic intellectual achievements of Catholicism since the mid 19th Century, and Aquinas still has a lot to teach us today.

James M. Patterson

So, one of the interpretive devices you bring to thinking about Aquinas is the Augustinian, the Aristotelian and the Ciceronian. And I really like these three, but explain what they have to do in particular with De Regno, which is a bit of a curious work in Aquinas’ repertoire.

William McCormick

Well, I’m in the presence of someone who knows a great deal more about Cicero than do I, so I tread lightly, but I think one of the central puzzles of political philosophy, and one certainly to which Catholics have attended carefully is what does it mean for the human person to be naturally political? And in what sense does political community fulfill critical ends of the human person, in what way are human beings made whole, excellent, good, through political community? And some of the greatest thinkers in politics have addressed themselves to that question in one way or another.

And of course, we, I think, probably most familiar with the idea from Aristotle that human beings are naturally political, and that to be most fully human, they need to live in human community. And that’s how you develop the virtues, the different facets of human excellence that make us so good. And that Aristotelian idea is indeed in, I was going to say in my own book, it’s indeed in Aquinas’ texts, more importantly.

And I think that from a Christian perspective, the challenge, of course, is that… or, one challenge, is that because of the fall and the tendency of human beings to sin, it sometimes can seem that actually political community exists more as a corrective to fallen human nature. It might be even a punishment for fallen human nature, and that’s one interpretation often offered of the great thinker, theologian, and bishop Saint Augustine of Hippo that he was proposing politics as primarily a remedy against political community, primarily as a corrective to sin.

It’s hard to pin him down on that, and I’m not so inclined to think that he’s so… Augustine was an Augustinian, but it’s certainly there. It’s certainly there to be had, and there’s no question. And Aristotle recognizes this, too, that political community often has to restrain the wicked, as you might say. That there are people who are vicious, and many people, whether they are generally good or not who could do bad things. And political community has to restrain those kinds of crimes.

Cicero has an ambiguous role in this conversation, and it’s in the work of the great medieval historian of political thought, Cary Nederman, that we really see Cicero come to play. In De Regno, he suggests that Cicero is a via media between Aristotle and Augustine, and there are indeed places in Aquinas’ work where you might think yeah, I think that’s true. I think it’s true that there’s something Ciceronian going on in this work.

And it matters for a number of reasons, but the first one is that some people get frustrated with the political thought of medieval and ancient thinkers because modern thinkers might think that this political thought is just too metaphysical, that it just presupposes that these structures and institutions just sprout out of human nature. But all of these thinkers know that politics is very hard work, and it’s not magic, and indeed the attainment of virtue is an act of perseverance for a person and for a community day in and day out.

And part of what Cicero is emphasizing, or what you might think he’s emphasizing for Aquinas, is that yes human beings are naturally political and authority is really important. That the development of healthy forms of authority in a community are an achievement. They’re not simply something that you can take for granted. There’s a lot more I could say about that, but I think I’ve said quite a bit already, so…

James M. Patterson

So, one thing that’s part of this tripartite interpretive device, from what I understand you’re saying is that the readings of Augustine, Aristotle, and Cicero are a little schematic, right? They’re not quite fair to the authors themselves, but useful for organizing our understanding of what Aquinas is doing.

And also, one of the things that is part of your reading of De Regno is that only one of these figures is actually a Christian, and this corresponds to the fact that much of the political regime that Aquinas talks about is rooted in our understanding of nature, and not necessarily of grace or revelation. But, we’ll leave that to the side just for a second, because one of the things I think people overlook about De Regno is that it is not like a lot of other things that Aquinas writes.

And this has an impact on the way Aquinas writes this book, that I think people tend to misunderstand. For example, Aquinas seems to be very pro-monarchy in De Regno. Was he a monarchist, and if so, what do we make of what he has to say about the mixed regime being the best regime in The Summa?

William McCormick

Those are fundamental questions. Because Aquinas is writing for a royal audience, we expect him to have positive things to say about monarchy. Not in the sense that he’s committing flattery or lying, but in the sense that I think he’s going to want to take seriously the advantages of the regime to which he’s responding. There’s no question that for much of human history, monarchy was the primary form of politics, the primary regime form in many places. In times and places in Christendom, monarchy was uncritically accepted in the way that many people today would uncritically accept democracy.

And that’s really important to say. I think it’s safe to say that in De Regno, as well as in The Summa that Aquinas first and foremost is going to want to affirm the legitimacy of a variety of regime forms. And this is something that you have to keep hammering home to a modern audience that actually there are many different forms of legitimate government. There might be a best one, but the best one might not always be the one that’s most practical.

As you know, as well as I do, that Aristotle and Cicero too, and Plato, in their own ways spent a lot of time asking what kind of regime forms are good for different kinds of countries and regimes? So, today we would just say, oh, democracy is the best for every country, end of story. But, you might think that given the varied fortunes of democracy today and certainly since ’45, even if you loved democracy, you might say, “Yeah, there are places where it works and places where it’s more aspirational.”

So, I think it’s fair to say, I think you can argue that Aristotle sees really good aspects to monarchy and nevertheless, the mixed regime is much more plausible and much more effective for most settings. Also, bearing in mind that I think for Aquinas, the distance between monarchy and the mixed regime is not as great as it is for us, because he’s not talking about the absolutist monarchies of the 17th and 18th centuries, which could never have existed without the… well, for one thing, without the nation-state, and without the absolutism that went with the post-reformation dispensation.

So, he’s talking about monarchies that are heavily constrained, conditioned, and formed by other social bodies, and by norms and unwritten constitutions and in some cases different ethnic and tribal groups. These are not absolutist monarchies. So, there is a distinction for him between a monarchy and the mixed regime, but it’s not as great as I think for him, as it is for us.

James M. Patterson

So, there’s a sense in which Aquinas is not really recommending a sacral kingship. You talk about towards the end of the book where that the person responsible for the political operation of a monarchy has their authority directly ordered from God, and therefore cannot be questioned by any institutions beneath that order, right? That’s not the kind of monarchy that Aquinas is contemplating?

William McCormick

No, there is no whiff of divine right monarchy here. Certainly monarchy and all political form is blessed by God and can be blessed and supported by the church, but you don’t need revelation to know what good governance looks like at its most fundamental levels. And that’s why I think why it’s so important that Aquinas has so much use for non-Christian thinkers.

Again, he’s not a Baroque Era, or Romantic Era thinker who thinks Christianity turned everything upside down. In fact, that’s why I can’t recommend enough the work of my mentor, the late great Jim Shaw, who was constantly asking, “What does Christianity have to say to politics?” And he would often put this in provocative ways like, “Read the New Testament, read the gospels. How much politics is there? How many times did Jesus call for the overthrowing of regimes?”

In some ways, you can say Christianity is a lot less obviously political than Islam and Judaism, although I’m not an expert in either of those, so I don’t claim to have much more to say about it than that. I leave that to Remi Brague and others. But I think it is fair to say that yeah, at the very least I’ll just say there’s no divine right monarchy here.

James M. Patterson

Yeah, I think that’s right.

William McCormick

Stop where I started.

James M. Patterson

Yeah. That’s right. So, another thing that is an odd contradiction in De Regno is that he’s not a fan of tyrannicide in De Regno, but in the earlier, very young Aquinas and the Commentary on the Sentences seems to favor it. And we’ve already gotten a hint of why you would want not to endorse tyrannicide given that De Regno is written for a king.

You don’t necessarily want to sign his death warrant when writing him something. But then again, the reason why that’s interesting is because as you really stress in the book, Aquinas is very interested in describing tyranny. Why on earth would you even talk about that to a king?

William McCormick

It is a really surprising topic to bring up, as you say. And again, it’s another place where genre is so important. This isn’t a treatise. It is a letter written to a king, a specula principum, A Mirror of Princes. And so, to bring up such a delicate issue to a royal reader would seem to be… well, anyway, surprising. It’s incredible too, that Aquinas distinguishes between mild and excessive tyranny in the work, and he suggests that mild tyranny is not altogether uncommon and it’s reformable.

So, apparently taking from Aristotle’s discussion of politics, in the Politics, he says one of the ways to preserve a tyranny is actually to convert it into a just regime, is to divert it back to the proper ends of politics. And I think part of the emphasis, there’s so many reasons why he brings up tyranny, but I think part of what he wants to emphasize throughout this work is something that’s pretty boring, that would never make any newspaper headlines, would never get you a journal article, and that’s that politics is really hard work.

It is very hard work, and the day in and the day out are far less attractive than the glory, the riches, the Twitter fandom of politics today, or 800 years ago. But that’s what he’s asking the king to turn his attention to, the daily work of politics. And so, there’s a way in which Aquinas wants to comfort the king to say it’s very difficult, and you will fail frequently, and he wants to confront arrogant, proud political elites with their frailty and their limitations. And he wants to do so, I think, in careful ways, but I think he also needs to make that clear.

There’s also a really fun implication of all of this, which is that if politics is really hard work, then in stagecraft is a difficult task to which kings can only barely pretend to have any competence in, then how much less can the king claim power over the church? How much more ridiculous is the notion of civil religion?

And we see later in De Regno that that’s exactly where Aquinas takes that line of thought. But yeah, if politics is really hard work, and I don’t think you can say that enough, because in most times and most places, I do think leaders rather avoid leading and would rather… well, whatever their generation’s equivalent to Twitter is, that’s what they would want to do.

James M. Patterson

Joust, I don’t know.

William McCormick

Well, that’s… yeah. Games, bread, and circuses. That, yeah.

James M. Patterson

Yeah. So, what is the role of the common good here? That seems to be very vital to the distinction between a monarchy or a good government by the one, and tyranny, which is the evil government of the one. And its significance I guess can’t be overstated considering that tyranny is the worst regime. Most cases, I think you say that at some points, Aquinas maybe contemplates oligarchy might, but we’ll wait for that answer, I guess. What is the role of the common good here?

William McCormick

Well, the common good is everything. I mean, the common good obviously as you know probably better than I do, is a multivalent term, and certainly what Aquinas is trying to point to in part of the common good is that the common good just is the actualization of the being, the perfection of the citizens in their harmony, in their proper orientation. And the common good isn’t just a set of conditions that allows each person to flourish in his or her own ways. It’s not just an extrinsic good yeah, that the community pursues, but the common good really does mean that human beings can be properly human.

And that has maybe a paradoxical or a counterintuitive implication, which is that politics really needs to know its limitations, and politicians need to know that they are not God, and that they are not churchmen for that matter. Precisely because if politics is going to serve the common good, then it has a negative task of not offering a totalizing vision of humanity, of the good of the human person that stamps out those legitimate ends.

And this is where you get into all kinds of questions about whether Aquinas was a Whig, or was he some kind of liberal, and obviously those are difficult questions, because there’s so much anachronism and baggage in those conversations.

James M. Patterson

Absolutely.

William McCormick

But there’s no doubt that Aquinas is in favor of a limited government or constitutionalism in the broad sense of those terms. Obviously, again, those are anachronistic, but the government is directed and limited and formed according to him by the common good of the human community. So, it’s the most important thing and the least important thing, because you have to flesh out what that means. And again, that’s where he’s going to want to say what are the virtues, the concrete virtues, that a regime is cultivating in its persons, in its citizens?

James M. Patterson

One way to get at the limit there is in this distinction that you set up earlier in the book between the Liber and the Servus. I was taught classical pronunciation, so I never know how to do the church Latin pronunciations.

The idea of there being people who were free in some sense, and those people who are servants or slaves of some variety, in which case a person who is free somehow has a superior place in society in part because they’re more capable of securing for themselves a good that is not just for themselves, but most especially the common good. So, is that right reading of that distinction, or how would you rephrase that, or what do you make of that use in terms of describing the common good in Aquinas?

William McCormick

Oh, it’s very good and it’s very important. I think that today, of course, we primarily think of freedom in terms of a negative freedom, a freedom from. And that’s very important. There are a lot of negative factors, actors, in the world that you want to be free from. Free from hunger, free from poverty, free from unjust domination, but of course on the other hand, there’s a notion of positive freedom, which is a freedom for, and people probably know the great Dominican Servais Pinckaers has done amazing work on this distinction.

And for Aquinas, the Liber, the human person who is free, the human person who is free is free fundamentally if he or she is able to become who he or she is meant to be. If they can really become excellent. And so, a Liber, the free person, so Liber as in Liberal or free, that’s the agent who can participate in the cultivation of his or her own good, and as you say, in the good of other persons.

And that’s another aspect that divides a lot of modern from pre-modern notions of freedom, of course, is that freedom in this rich sense of excellence, often draws you closer, into closer association with other persons. Because we are, as McIntyre would say, rational, dependent, animals. We can’t perfect ourselves by ourselves, and there’s so many reasons why that’s the case. But so the kind of autonomy or freedom that would cut us off from other people, that’s not what Aquinas is about. And the Servus… I was also taught classical Latin, by the way, so it’s an occupational hazard.

You out yourself with your Latin pronunciation. On the one hand, I think they’re important historic questions about what Aquinas thought about slavery, and what he thought about natural slavery and those debates take you back to Aristotle but also take you forward to debates today. But, I think it’s very possible to abstract these considerations and say yeah, that there are people who are, because of social circumstances, political circumstances, are not able to actualize their freedoms in the rich sense here. That they’re not in a good place, in a good position, to be free for excellence.

And I think today, we would say that’s unjust. There’s nothing natural or good about that. Again, I’m not a expert on Aquinas on slavery, but the Liber/Servus distinction is, I think, very important for getting… yeah, for drilling down to what Aquinas means by the common good and how the Liber is called to participate. And again, this is 13th Century stuff. This is not John Locke, this is not Thomas Jefferson or Isaiah Berlin. So, you’re seeing some of the wonderful medieval roots of the best, I think, of the Anglo-American tradition here.

James M. Patterson

One of the things that appears to be part of the Liber category is the king himself. And the significance for this distinction of Liber and Servus is that what makes the king a Liber in this case is that he’s actually a servant of God.

In this case, it’s not to be understood that he’s a servant of God because God ordains him directly in some kind of unique sacral description that we had before, but one of the problems you see Aquinas address, as you describe in the book, the Christian structure of politics, is that why should a king govern at all, let alone govern well? So, what is the king’s reward?

William McCormick

It’s a great question, and it’s so powerful rhetorically in the book because Aquinas is very aware, as with many great medieval and ancient philosophers, that whatever Aquinas thinks about virtue, many political leaders are not ruling so that they can become more virtuous. So, you have to do a pretty thorough-going critique-

James M. Patterson

Unlike today, right though?

William McCormick

Well, there’s that. I think that Aquinas, like Aristotle, like Cicero, like Seneca, like so many great pre-modern authors, confronts what are often taken to be the great rewards of politics. Riches, honor, glory, and the pride and vainglory and arrogance that go along with that. And so, when Aquinas poses this question of the reward of the king, it comes after he’s detailed some of the great difficulties of ruling, and so you’re expecting that there would have to be a pretty amazing reward for the king for it to be worth all of this. And it’s true.

It is the case, and not only is it not riches, honors, glory and other things that are passing, it’s something eternal. Something everlasting, the beatific vision, happiness with God. And what’s striking, of course too, is that Aquinas argues that the end, the reward of the king, is not actually different from the reward toward which the king is hopefully shepherding his people.

But just as the citizens, all human persons are called to be in union with God to contemplate God on that last day, that the king himself, that his vocation as the king is to move in that direction as well. So, it’s not something its own little path, its own little diversion from the universal call to holiness as we might say today, but it really is the end of every human person.

James M. Patterson

This is a vision of governance that differs pretty profoundly from the modern vision as you mentioned. But also, one of the problems with the modern treatment of the common good, we see this, at least in my view, with some of the more recent criticisms of liberalism, surface seen among conservative Catholics today, is that because the common good is precisely common, it’s ordered to coming prior to any private good, right?

So, the idea of civil peace would come prior to, for example, the ownership of a particular car. How is it that Aquinas avoids turning the common good into something totalitarian, right? Something that makes claims on all forms of personal liberty, thus reducing everyone to a Servus rather than a Liber?

William McCormick

I think there are people who have definitely thought about this question more than I have, and I think it’s an important question to address to Aquinas, partially because I think he’s less concerned with totalitarian political projects than we are, and certainly the 20th Century was one of the saddest centuries in modernity for this issue. This issue, obviously it’s more than just an issue. But, I think one of the constant refrains in this book, which is quite powerful, is that the king is not God.

And Aquinas is clear in this, particularly in Book Two, but in other places as well, that God creates and His part of creating, of course, is to set ends for created objects and created persons. And the king, like all humans, all he can do… and it’s a pretty significant task, but his job is within that order of created goods. He orders them, governs them towards the end that was set by God.

In other words, there is a pretty definite vision here of how God has set up creation, and the king is fundamentally unjust, and any person is fundamentally unjust if they somehow seek to direct those creatures away from their God-appointed ends. Which is very important, because there are so many totalitarian visions of politics we know that build a whole quasi-religion out of what the point of a human life is and how the community is to be ordered.

And somebody like Mussolini, of course, trying to cover the state in glory and trying to fundamentally idolatrous vision of politics. So, I think that for Aquinas, one of the main limitations on politics is precisely that the king is not God, and that to try to set himself up as God is the worst… it’s heresy, it’s blasphemy, but it’s idolatry in a really practical sense. You think of John Milton’s Satan. “Evil be my good,” that’s precisely what Aquinas says a king cannot do.

James M. Patterson

So, as you said a little earlier, and as you do a wonderful job of explaining in the book, this is a specula. This is a Mirror of Princes, and for many readers, and for many listeners to this podcast, they’ll be more familiar with another specula, and it’s unfair, because it was a subversion of the genre.

And this, of course, is Machiavelli’s The Prince. And one of my favorite parts of this book was your discussion of how Machiavelli and Aquinas differ in their treatment of a figure of great importance to both of them, and that is Moses. So, I think this ties closely to the question that we just had about the king and the common good. So, what do we see here in this discussion, and tell me more about it?

William McCormick

Moses is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of political thought, and I think a lot of people are surprised to see how often he’s invoked by Aquinas, how often he’s invoked by Spinoza in very [inaudible 00:30:00] ways.

James M. Patterson

This is true.

William McCormick

And certainly Hobbes. Thomas Hobbes has, obviously, no use for Moses even though he’s deeply envious of him in a pathological way. And Machiavelli admires Moses for the same reasons.

James M. Patterson

I want to apologize to listeners who are fond of Hobbes, but I cannot get enough Hobbes bashing in any way possible, so I am only encouraging this.

William McCormick

You’ll find no love for Hobbes in my corner. I think he is very profoundly, interestingly wrong. He’s never wrong in a yeah, in a boring way. When he is wrong, he is really importantly wrong. Anyway, we can get into that later.

James M. Patterson

Different podcast.

William McCormick

Machiavelli’s The Prince is such an engrossing text, and the treatment of Moses is incredible, because Machiavelli says, as many know, he says he’s not going to treat on Moses, because obviously Moses was a prophet and a man of God. And that really is Aquinas’ point of departure, that Moses was such a brilliant leader because in a really privileged way, he saw the ends that God had set for the Hebrew people. And indeed, there was a covenant. It wasn’t just the general ends from creation, but God had entered into a covenant with His people, and Moses faithfully shepherded them within that framework.

That sounds like a legalistic term, but Moses sought to help them be faithful to that covenant. But Moses gets a different treatment in Machiavelli, and Machiavelli is so fascinated in what he calls unarmed prophets. Probably because Machiavelli was hoping to become an unarmed prophet of a sort. For Machiavelli, Moses is so fascinating because he thinks of Moses as one of the greatest charlatans and frauds of all time. He came up with this kooky religion, and he was able to use it to control the people very effectively.

So, he wishes somebody like Cesare Borgia could have done a better job in that direction. But, you couldn’t see a greater contrast in their treatments that… and it really reflects how they understand virtue, that to be, for Aquinas, to be godly, to be virtuous, to be just, is to follow God’s commandments, is to obey his creative, or to conform yourself toward it. And it’s not a bad thing. It actually makes you more of who you’re called to be. But, for Machiavelli, as you know, virtue is a euphemism for… well, it can be many things.

But it often just means a crafty strength that can be used for what’s sometimes understood as good, and sometimes for what’s good is evil. Machiavelli thinks that distinction between good and evil matters, because appearances can be used to influence and control. But yeah, for Machiavelli, Moses really is this crafty charlatan who’s able to manipulate the masses. And it’s a really disgusting picture of Moses. It’s deeply anti-Semitic of course.

James M. Patterson

Sure.

William McCormick

Yeah. But the contract between The Prince and De Regno are fascinating. I’m glad you brought it up. I had to cut so much of that stuff out of the book, so I’m hoping to put it somewhere else someday.

James M. Patterson

Well, I would be very excited to read the… I did not know that you had to cut stuff from there. But as I was reading it, I was wanting more, so clearly I should not be editing these books. Right? Because I’d be like, “Oh, digression on Moses? Yes, please.”

William McCormick

Thank God for good editors. They save academics from themselves every single day. Every single day.

James M. Patterson

It is true. It’s true. I don’t know how they do it. So, we’re coming to a little past 30 minutes, and so we should start looking towards a bigger picture before we close, which is why De Regno? Have I been saying… you say De Regno, and I’m wondering I’m saying this… am I saying this right?

William McCormick

No, no. It’s fine. The gn in Latin is sometimes pronounced like the gn in Italian by people more in medieval studies or more ecclesiastical circles, but you’re saying it just fine.

James M. Patterson

Okay. That’s always that problem with students, right, where the students have read more than they’ve said?

William McCormick

Exactly. Right.

James M. Patterson

So they’ll start saying words incorrectly. So, let’s just go with me just being a brilliant student.

William McCormick

Please. Please. It’s a good problem to have. It’s a great problem to have.

James M. Patterson

So, why write this book in the year of our lord 2021 and 2022?

William McCormick

Well, I think the short answer is that Aquinas has a great deal to teach us, and I think that the vision of politics were sometimes handed down, that said to be from him, coming from the Treatise on Law, or the Question on Law. It’s really beautiful, it’s really important, but I think that De Regno offers a far more supple vision of politics coming from Aquinas. Certainly we live in times when all of these categories, every single major concept we discussed, they are contested. And so, some of them really should be.

I mean, the history of politics is littered with the really egregious invocations of these terms. But I think that there’s still so much to be said about the classical notions of justice, of right, of law, of the common good, and what those aren’t straight jackets that conform us to very narrow visions of politics. They actually are congruent with a very ample vision of prudence, with a very ample application across a variety of different regimes across different circumstances in which humans find themselves acting politically.

And I’ll just say this, I mean to go back to what I started with, we’re in a really strange moment in the 21st Century, and maybe we have been for much of late modernity, I don’t know. We’re suffering from a lack of confidence in our political institutions and in our norms and values, and so I’m one of those people who suggest that there’s a great deal to be learned from the past.

And if nothing else, this is an act of ressourcement, as it were. Trying to uncover some of the tradition that we don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I think everything we’re saying has already been said a couple of times, but we certainly need to be reminded of them regularly, apparently.

James M. Patterson

That’s right. At least he gives us the right questions. I happen to be pretty sympathetic to the answers, especially as you interpret them in your book The Christian Structure of Politics: On De Regno of Thomas Aquinas. There’s my reformed pronunciation. Thank you so much for this wonderful conversation, and the next time you’re going to be on here, it’s going to be on that article that’s going to come out on the Treatments of Moses. Look, that’s coming out, right? I’ll see it done.

William McCormick

Well, with this kind of encouragement, I think I have to. It’s moving to the top of the to-do list. Thank you. I appreciate that encouragement, and yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This was delightful.

James M. Patterson

Thank you so much.

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