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The Way of Life

John Paul II and the Challenge of Liberal Modernity

Carson Holloway

Publication Year: 2008

The passing of John Paul II provoked questions about the Pope, particularly in his relation to modernity. Was he opposed to the tenets of modernity, as some critics claimed? Or did he accommodate modernity in a way no Pope ever had, as his champions asserted? In The Way of Life, Carson Holloway examines the fundamental philosophers of modernity-from Hobbes to Toqueville-to suggest that John Paul II's critique of modernity is intended not to reject, but to improve. Thus, claims Holloway, it is appropriate for liberal modernity to attend to the Pope's thought, receiving it not as the attack of an enemy but as the criticism of a candid friend.

Published by: Baylor University Press

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Table of Contents

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xi

This book seeks to explicate the critique of liberal modernity that is, I will contend, implicit in the moral and social thought of Pope John Paul II , and in particular in his celebrated encyclical Evangelium Vitae, or The Gospel of Life. I use the term “liberal modernity” broadly to refer to certain influential intellectual and political trends of the last several...

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pp. xiii-xiv

A good portion of the research for the book was done during the 2005–2006 academic year, when I was a William E. Simon Visiting Fellow in Religion and Public Life in the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. I wish to thank the Madison Program for supporting my work and the Simon...

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1: Introduction

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pp. 1-5

The world wondered, in the first place, at the remarkable conclusion of a remarkable life. Karol Wojtyła had witnessed, in some cases from the position of a key actor, the great events of a momentous century, yet he had lived to see and to celebrate the dawn of a new century and a new millennium. He had come to Rome as something new and strange...

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2: The Gospel of Life and the Culture of Death

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pp. 7-30

Evangelium Vitae, or The Gospel of Life, is probably the most famous of John Paul II ’s many encyclicals. By directly and decisively addressing two highly controversial issues of widespread interest—abortion and euthanasia—the document generated an extraordinary amount of comment beyond the Catholic community and thus achieved a public prominence...

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3: Hobbes and the Origins of Liberal Modernity

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pp. 31-60

There are evident similarities between the social and political teaching of John Paul II , as it appears in Evangelium Vitae, and the liberal tradition. The liberal tradition emphasizes the rights of individuals, and in particular the right to life, as the basis of political association. Similarly, John Paul II contends that “every human community and the political community...

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4: Locke's Theistic Liberalism

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pp. 61-82

From the standpoint of John Paul II ’s concerns, the political philosophy of John Locke must appear, at least at first glance, as altogether more sound than that of Hobbes. To begin with, unlike Hobbes, Locke undertakes in his primary and most public political works—the Two Treatises of Government—no rejection of free will or express demotion of reason to...

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5: Hume and the Morality of Sympathy

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pp. 83-105

Hobbes and Locke must be regarded as two of the key intellectual architects of liberal modernity. Their teachings, however, appear to advance precisely those strains of thought of which John Paul II is so critical in Evangelium Vitae. As we have seen, Hobbes openly embraces, and Locke at least opens the door to, the kind of hedonistic individualism that the...

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6: The Ambiguity of the American Founding

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pp. 107-122

As we have seen thus far, the arguments of John Paul II ’s Evangelium Vitae imply a critique of various strands of liberal modernity. This is most clear in the case of Hobbes, who forthrightly affirms all the principles and openly draws all the conclusions that the pope associates with the modern erosion of respect for human rights. Hobbes begins from...

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7: Tocqueville and the Moral Trajectory of Modern Democracy

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pp. 123-142

At first glance, one might expect modern democracy as Tocqueville presents it to be broadly congenial to John Paul II ’s call for a “civilization of love.” Modern democracy, after all, is founded upon equality. In America, Tocqueville claims, equality is the “generative fact” from which almost everything flows. Generally, democratic peoples love...

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8: Conclusion

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pp. 143-158

The preceding chapters of this book have examined various strains of modern political thought in light of John Paul II ’s argument in Evangelium Vitae. This examination suggests that, judged according to the pope’s principles, the various manifestations of liberal modernity, from the most radical and extreme to the more qualified and moderate, are seriously...


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pp. 159-178


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pp. 179-183


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pp. 185-189

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781602582224
E-ISBN-10: 160258222X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781932792966
Print-ISBN-10: 1932792961

Page Count: 205
Publication Year: 2008

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 607893616
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Way of Life

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Human rights -- Philosophy.
  • Catholic Church. Pope (1978-2005 : John Paul II). Evangelium vitae.
  • Liberalism -- Philosophy.
  • Political science -- Philosophy
  • Catholic Church -- Doctrines -- History -- 20th century.
  • John Paul II, Pope, 1920-2005 -- Political and social views.
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