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Civil Liberties and Public Morality

Why prevent victimless crimes? Why not let people act as they please as long as they do no harm to others? Many Americans agree that government has no business meddling in the "private lives" of its citizens, but Robert George thinks that this opinion needs to be reexamined. McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, Robert P. George persuasively argues that private virtue is a matter of public concern. George embraces "natural law theory" while questioning the central doctrines of modern liberal jurisprudence. He argues that moral legislation can play a legitimate role in maintaining a social environment conducive to virtue and inhospitable to at least some forms of vice.

In Making Men Moral: Civil Liberties and Public Morality (1995), George defends the society which seeks to "make men moral" as long as the moral legislation is rightly grounded in natural law. In so doing, he replaces legal positivism - the notion that actions are right or wrong because government says so - with objective moral truths discoverable by reason.

Natural law theory is enjoying a revival of interest in a variety of scholarly disciplines including law, philosophy, political science, and theology. Robert George stands at the forefront of this movement. In addition to Making Men Moral, he is author of In Defense of Natural Law (1999) and The Autonomy of Law: Essays on Legal Positivism (1999). He has also published articles in the areas of jurisprudence and constirutional law. George is a member of the editorial board of the American Journal of Jurisprudence and the board of directors of the Philosophy Education Society. He has received a Judicial Fellowship from the Supreme Court of the United States and is a former Presidential appointee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights.

Robert George received a law degree from Harvard Law School and a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. Professor George's talk is sponsored by CMC's Henry Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World.