Andrew Fulford Archive Nota Bene

Being Eudaimonists in a Liberal Society

Mr. J. L. Leidl has written a worthy salvo at Ethika Politika in the ongoing debate about American liberalism and the politics of virtue. Near the end of his piece he addresses the question of what a eudaimonist can do in a pervasively liberal society. He rightly dismisses three options: MacIntyrean withdrawal, a pragmatic acceptance of liberalism (Mr. Robert Miller’s suggestion), and outright revolt (which Mr. Miller thinks is the only other alternative). Mr. Leidl argues, instead, we ought to follow the example of Pope John Paul II, exemplified in his stance on nuclear weapons:

Pope John Paul II recognized that nuclear warfare was unacceptable and that a world without nukes was the only ultimate solution capable of ensuring peace. Yet he did not advocate for the immediate disposal of all nuclear weapons in one fell swoop, a non-pragmatic measure that would have invariably failed and quite possibly could’ve toppled the uneasy balance struck between the Americans and the Soviets. Instead, the pope stipulated that possession of nuclear weapons as a matter of deterrence would be acceptable in the present, so long as the world progressively worked toward complete disarmament.

It is this nuanced approach that the pragmatic eudaimonist in a liberal society must seek to maintain. A society defined by liberalism is simply unacceptable, and should ultimately be remedied. One cannot support liberalism as some sort of Spinoza compromise in the same way that the pope could not support a world characterized by mutually assured destruction. However, the eudaimonist’s response to liberalism need not be one marked by “riots and revolutions,” as Miller believe is the only recourse available to those who choose not to support a liberal regime. Rather, one can work within the liberal system with the intention of loosening, slowly but surely, its grip on American society. In essence, one can be in a liberal regime without being of it. One can be pragmatic without being a liberal, all the while keeping his eyes affixed to the revitalization of authentic political communities in which eudaimonia, properly understood, is allowed to flourish.