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1. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Oskar Gruenwald The American Promise: Liberty and Justice for All (Editorial)
2. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
William R. Clough The First Freedom: Religion in the American Republic
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The Founders of the United States had waged a war in the name of liberty. Yet shortly after independence they discovered, with the Articles of Confederation, that liberty did not make for a durable Republic. So they crafted the United States Constitution to form a more perfect union. Well aware of how flawed human nature is, they created a strong republican government with three co-equal branches overseeing a union of states, each ruled by laws passed, executed, and judged by their democratically elected representatives. Religious freedom was a particularly thorny issue; institutions of religion are where people exercise freedom of conscience. Religions form powerful interest groups, motivated by high ideals, but are corruptible, sometimes unrealistic, and often inflexible as to how their ideals are to be lived out in society. America’s Founders followed the hard road of refraining from either endorsing or restricting any establishment of religion, but submitting religious individuals to the rule of law. The courts have had to sort out how those ideals are to be applied in actual cases ever since.
3. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Daniel W. Hollis III The American Media Experience: Freedom, Bias, Mergers
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This essay surveys the history of American media from the colonial era to the present. It focuses on the First Amendment protections of press freedom, the nature and consequences of media bias, and the modern tendency at media consolidation via corporate mergers reducing the number and variety of media voices. Actually, these three elements are intertwined rather than independent. The government tried, without lasting effect, to regulate media through Sedition Acts, libel suits, prior restraint, the Fairness Doctrine, and net neutrality. For most of America’s history, media bias was presented up front by publishers so readers knew exactly what to expect. However, over the past quarter century, mainline national media have become increasingly ideological so that objectivity or the pursuit of truth may be seriously questioned. Media mergers have been about profits yet they effectively concentrate control of news outlets in fewer and fewer hands.
4. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Michael E. Meagher Democracy on Trial: John F. Kennedy’s Political Thought
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A remarkable political figure, John F. Kennedy contributed also to political theory focusing on community, sacrifice, and effective national leadership. Coming of age in the build-up to World War II, Kennedy’s early views were framed by the inability of Western democracies to meet totalitarian challenges. As his political career developed, JFK maintained a stance favorable to strong national leadership as a way of overcoming the individualism and self-centered aspects of modern life. A keen believer in service, community, and sacrifice, his famous “Ask not” moment of his 1961 Inaugural Address was informed by a concern with renewing American democracy. With a weakening of the social contract and increased political dysfunctionality in the twenty-first century, the political thought of the thirty-fifth president still speaks to us with its emphasis on courage, leadership, civil society, and the quest for national unity.
5. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
William R. Marty A New Political Pacifism: Churches in the Wake of the Great War
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In the aftermath of the carnage of World War I, a politically engaged pacifism spread rapidly among a number of traditionally non-peace churches, and among the populations of England and America. This pacifism meant to be effective in the world, and it was: it swayed the democracies of England and America to adopt many of its policies. It meant to achieve peace and end war. Represented as what Christian love requires in political life, it failed utterly and completely in its aims both as political prescription and understanding of Christianity. The relevance of this essay is that many of the erroneous assumptions and failed policies of the church peace movement of the 1930s appear to be still the assumptions and policies of secular statesmen of the present. The errors of the political pacifists live on, and if they are not corrected, the consequences are likely to be the same, or worse, for next time, unless we are wiser than the last, the evil ones may prevail.
6. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
D. Eric Schansberg Family, Religion and the American Republic
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Indications are that the success of the American experiment is fading. Perceived declines in family and religion are of particular concern as key aspects of civil society. But family and religion are difficult to measure, and it is challenging to have clarity about our own times and the past. The 1950s are commonly seen as the end of a long run of success for religion and family in America. Yet marriage and family have consistently gone through cycles of growth and decline. Thus, post-World War II religion was more “civil religion” than Christianity. To gain perspective on the past and envision the future, this essay revisits two classic books: Carle Zimmerman’s 1947 study of the family and Will Herberg’s 1955 study of religion. Zimmerman describes a decline in family structure that seems to fit the last 50 years. But other literature indicates that we may be at the trough of a cycle in family structure. How much does family structure matter to society, and what is the future of the family in America? Herberg describes religion as largely a way of “belonging”--more cultural than religious. How do cultural and “religious” dimensions contribute to the health of a society? Without vibrant religious faith and strong families, can we keep the republic?
7. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
George A. Seaver Civil Rights in an Extended Republic: Multiplicity and Competition, Not Government Preference
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It is now apparent even to traditional civil rights advocates that the well-meaning effort to be inclusive has degenerated into identity politics and its violent offspring in universities, the judicial system, and public education. Reviewing these institutions, it is necessary to return to what civil rights were intended to be, to their inherent part of the original “extended republic” concept used by James Madison. Prior to the U.S. Constitution, republican forms of government were considered appropriate only for limited, homogeneous populations, or city-states. The extension to a large republic in terms of population and land area, to multitudinous factions, was Madison’s greatest contribution to the Constitution and the long-term “exceptionalism” of the U.S. republic. The widely-held belief that attention to minorities began in the 1960s with the “Civil Rights Revolution” is wrong as demonstrated by the extended republic’s dependence on them and its success. The multiplicity and competition of factions, sects, and interests, the greater the multiplicity the greater the security, was the reason for this success, and government interference was considered harmful to this end. To help us return to that concept is the purpose of this essay.
8. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Charles A. McDaniel Political Polarization and the Churches: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy and the Future of Christianity
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Critics decry what they see as an odd association in the 2016 election of Donald Trump and evangelical Christians who emerged as his most reliable base of support. Yet President Trump’s popularity among evangelicals is not as remarkable as it may seem given the often-paradoxical relationship between religion and politics in the United States. Alexis de Tocqueville’s warnings about the vulnerability of American Protestantism’s prophetic voice to individualism and materialism may help to explain Trump’s status as a “religious” president. Polls suggest that security concerns have eclipsed moral issues in importance for many American Christian voters. Such a transformation, Tocqueville believed, would undermine the nation’s moral foundations. This concern led Tocqueville to admire the American principle of church-state separation and voice support for something akin to the “Protestant Principle,” which promotes maintenance of prophetic distance between religion and politics to morally ground democracy.
9. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
Gerald De Maio The Republican Schoolmaster and the Problem of Religion in America
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There is a view that the U.S. Supreme Court has acted as a “republican schoolmaster,” defining and educating the public on the permissible interaction between government and religion. The Court gave government, especially state governments, considerable latitude until incorporation of the religion clauses in the 1940s. In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Court articulated a rigid conception of church and state which set precedents for decades. Those precedents restricted accommodation to religion by government, based on an incomplete reading of the Founding debates on religion. It has been gradually corrected since Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree (1985). The implications of the separationist interpretation have had consequences that remain. The most obvious being forestalling experimentation with school choice for non-public school students and precluding the use of public facilities for religious groups until a series of corrective rulings beginning, for the most part, in the 1990s. The republican schoolmaster is now accountable for the intellectual lineage it uses.
10. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 30 > Issue: 1/2
James D. Moseley The Constitution of 1787, Based on Reason and Revelation
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The framers of the U.S. Constitution of 1787 understood that its principles are those of the Declaration of Independence, based upon reason and revelation, “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Yet, following so-called progressivism at the turn of the twentieth century, the principles of the American founding were questioned by historicism and moral relativism in the social sciences and humanities, with the most egregious effects today in constitutional law. This has been called “the crisis of the West.” Some perceive that the United States lacks a strong moral foundation, and call for redrawing the Constitution. However, before doing so, we may want to better understand its founding principles. We need to turn to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, as found in reason and revelation, which support the moral order of the Constitution. John Quincy Adams and Abraham Lincoln referred to passages from the Bible to illustrate the preeminent position of the Declaration to the Constitution. And they, like the founders, believed the Constitution’s principles must be adhered to for the nation to survive.
11. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Oskar Gruenwald The Promise of the Liberal Arts: Rediscovering Free Inquiry (Editorial)
12. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Charles Scriven The Rabbi and the Gadfly: Finitude and the Dialectic of Tradition and Critique
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Even when it embraces Socratic critique, education instills a particular tradition or way of life. But the postmodern shift invites suspicion of such efforts, and so engenders a crucial question: Given inevitable biases, how can educators do their work with a (justifiably) clear conscience? This essay approaches the question by way of Hans-Georg Gadamer’s “philosophical hermeneutics.” It introduces the title’s “rabbi” and “gadfly” images, then illuminates the argument’s context by considering two recent philosophies of education. Gadamer’s framework shows how his emphasis on conversation sheds light on the question of integrity in education. Finally, given the inevitable “tradition-assertion” that education involves, and in light of a seeming deficiency in Gadamer’s treatment of conversation, the essay explores an “ethics of affirmation.” The key claim is that the obligation to declare, or even to persuade, is as important as the obligation to listen.
13. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
William H. Jeynes Rediscovering Objectivity: From Groupthink to Civil Dialogue
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This essay proposes that many secular academics have lost much of their sense of objectivity and this is making civil intellectual discussion difficult. In order to have a civil dialogue, there must be a level of objective agreement that certain truths are indeed facts. This is apparent regarding debates about communism, abortion, U.S. history, and other topics. It is very difficult to have a sensible conversation with someone who will not acknowledge certain objective facts. Within the context of a self-imposed mental framework, the facts become secondary to the subjective perspective that a member of a politically-defined identity group is supposed to have. Focusing primarily on established facts unites people, whereas accentuating differences in perceptions divides people. Suggestions to resolve this problem include requiring students to interview those who disagree with them as well as more character education in the schools. Universities should endorse the 2015 Chicago Statement that students should be taught to effectively debate from all sides of an issue. Objectivity is a natural prerequisite if the United States is to become united once again.
14. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
William R. Clough The Angelic Doctor in the Twenty-First Century: Thomas Aquinas’ Quest for Truth
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In the United States, political, social, and philosophical polarization has led to intolerance and restrictions on free speech and the free exchange of ideas, most perniciously, in universities. St. Thomas Aquinas lived in an equally fractious time fraught with new discoveries, culture wars, and intellectual ferment. The thirteenth century witnessed the rediscovery of ancient sources and a renewed emphasis on observation and reason as tools for finding truth. Thus, Aristotle, a pagan; Averroes, a Muslim; and Maimonides, a Jew, were studied alongside the Bible and ancient Christian tradition. Thomas’ open, honest, thoughtful, kind, and confident spirit, framing his methodology of disputation--asking and answering difficult questions with full, honest attention to opposing viewpoints--could serve as a model for the best way to overcome the polarization, censorship, and stagnation that characterize much political and even intellectual discourse in the United States today.
15. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Steven McMullen Objectivity and Ethics in Economic Methodology: Dialogue With Theologians
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Dialogue between economists and theologians has recently shifted to questions about economic relationships, virtue, and consumer lifestyles as theologians have become critics of economics as a discipline. Their concerns center on a suspicion of social-scientific methods. Theologians sometimes observe that economic logic and language have become dominant in public and private life, which they attribute to economists’ attempts to work within a value-free reductionist framework. This essay summarizes this critique, focusing on the fact-value dichotomy, self-interest, and the wide application of economic logic. The dominance of economic methods must be understood as a way of pursuing methodological consensus in an arena where many important ethical concerns are hotly contested. Moreover, they are important for understanding a complex social environment. The goal of objectivity, which is at the center of this dialogue, is one that economists can strive for in a limited sense, while still working within an explicitly normative framework.
16. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Columbus Ogbujah Intellectual Censorship in Liberalism: Ethical Concerns
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In recent times, scholars have utilized their expertise in developing modules for social engineering, producing goods and services befitting the needs of a hyper-technologically savvy generation, and creating the atmosphere for civic participation in shaping the course of their everyday lives. This essay explores the seeming irony that at a time of such advancement in science and technology, and in liberal democracy--when there seems to be a boundless horizon to the scope of human ingenuity--the prospect of censorship by left-liberalism appears to threaten the very foundation of liberal democracies. The essay identifies the recent upsurge in left-liberal thinking, especially in college managements, and the ethical scars the increasing suppression of views deemed controversial creates in the lives of millions of people. This ideological quest for homogenization of thoughts and actions can only succeed at a great cost to liberty, responsibility, and human flourishing.
17. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Clifton Perry The Presidential Self-Pardon Paradox
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The clemency power of the U.S. President is limited to pardoning federal offences and expressly excludes federal impeachment from the pardon power. There is no explicit prohibition upon who might be the recipient of a presidential pardon. The U.S. Constitution does not expressly prohibit the President from issuing a self-pardon. If the American Framers placed only the one exception for impeachment, then arguably they meant to exclude all other conceivable exceptions. Yet, the very notion of such presidential self-forgiveness raises arguments criticizing the possibility. Would not a selfpardon place the President above the law? In the process of investigating the various arguments denying and supporting the possibility, the parameters and the goals of issuing and accepting or rejecting a presidential pardon are developed along with alternative methods of achieving the same result as a self-pardon without actually issuing a self-pardon. Hence, the puzzle. The essay’s narrow and guarded conclusions are arrived at defeasibly. That is, the essay is driven by the force of the arguments over this paradoxical constitutional dilemma. The essay is intended as the beginning rather than a completion of the inquiry.
18. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Stelian Gombos Bioethics in the Vision of Orthodox Theology
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This essay explores the spiritual crisis of postmodern man contrasting a Christian anthropology with a materialistic, mechanistic conception of human nature and being reflected in bioethics. Bioethics seeks to control general evolution via advances in biology and medical technology, but functions almost exclusively at an impersonal level. It objectifies procedures, numbers people, and addresses general states, and not persons or interpersonal relationships. Bioethics thus takes a global approach to ultra-generalized principles. When bioethics does not express itself in a religious confession or a cosmological theory, it ignores religious conceptions, and tries to rely merely on utilitarian principles and values. Such a mechanistic, one-dimensional anthropology is in essence alien to Christianity. In Orthodox vision, man’s natural state is a state of grace actualized in communion with God and fellow human beings.
19. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Peter W. Wood Restoring U.S. Higher Education
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To restore intellectual freedom, the search for truth, and promotion of virtuous citizenship to American higher education, reformers will have to overcome deeply entrenched intellectual and institutional opposition. The prospects for persuading existing colleges and universities to attempt such a thing are dim. Supporters of the traditional ideals of liberal education have on their side powerful arguments rooted in human nature and civilizational dynamics, but these supporters are marginalized in the academy and contemporary America as a whole. Hope for restoration of the traditional liberal arts, however, may be found in the growing public disenchantment with the price and quality of college education in America. Colleges are closing at an accelerating pace; new technologies and alternative social arrangements are gaining ground; and the higher education establishment is proving unskillful in responding to these challenges. As the turmoil expands, opportunities will open for new approaches. Advocates for a curriculum better rooted in human nature and in the achievements of Western civilization will have a fighting chance to restore perennial ideals and reinvent the undergraduate college.
20. Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies: Volume > 31 > Issue: 1/2
Jeffry C. Davis The Liberal Arts Paradigm for Interdisciplinary Studies
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The conceptual framework of an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program shapes the quality, variety, and results of intellectual inquiry. While there are many viable paradigms for IDS programs, a liberal arts framework particularly enhances interdisciplinary inquiry. Specifically, a liberal arts approach emphasizes integrative thinking, conceptual synthesis, character formation, and coherence across bodies of knowledge. In harmony with the liberal arts, an IDS program equips students to productively wrestle with the inevitable dysfunction and complexity of this world. By situating the task of inquiry among multiple disciplines, interdisciplinarians cultivate ethical-moral discernment alongside fluency in differing modes of academic analysis. Additionally, when oriented towards the liberal arts, an IDS program counters the false pragmatism of careerism and specialization by producing creative critical thinkers who can thrive in a variety of fields. Contextualizing interdisciplinary studies within a liberal arts schema provides students with rich opportunities to unite the mind, the passions, and the will for greater flourishing.