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73 Notre Dame L. Rev. 491 (1998).


The secularism I consider in this Article is a public reality, the secularism which shapes public debate, deliberation, dispositions, and action, and dominates our education and culture. I shall be considering the ideas, not the people; and people are often less consistent, and better, than their theories. There is no profit in estimating whether secularism's dominance now is greater than in Plato's Athens or lesser than in Stalin's Leningrad. There is certainly a rich field for historical investigation of the particular and often peculiar forms taken by western secularism under the influence of the faith it supplants. But I shall not try to resume or repeat the illuminating investigations carried forward by De Lubac, Voegelin, Fabro, Maclntyre, Chadwick, and many others. Still less do I join in the game of declaring this a post-modem, or post-baroque, or post-Christian, or historically-minded and post-classicist era, period, age or epoch. Instead I want to explore secularism's practical significance, as it can be illuminated by understanding practical reason itself. We try to carry forward that understanding when we reflect on the basic reasons for action, the first principles (as Aquinas calls them) of natural law, on the choices, intentions, and commitments they guide and shape, and on the personal dignity of a being who can respond either integrally and reasonably or arbitrarily and deviantly to their intelligibility and directiveness.


Reprinted with permission of the Notre Dame Law Review.



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