Menard Family George Washington Forum presents ‘The Theology of Liberalism’ on April 14
Nelson is the Robert M. Beren Professor of Government at Harvard University, where he was an undergraduate before earning his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge.
In his most recent book, “The Theology of Liberalism: Political Philosophy and the Justice of God” (2019), Nelson examines modern liberalism, often thought of as developing upon philosopher John Rawls’ theory of fairness for a more secular world after World War II. Rawls envisioned a world of democracies, equal rights and egalitarian economies that could sustain peace in the wake of two world wars.
But Nelson argues that modern liberalism is actually built upon “ancient theological debates about justice and evil,” with questions of morality and free will still entwined in political theoretical thought.
The answers, Nelson writes, have important implications for whether we believe that people are responsible for their actions.
“Professor Nelson argues that if, as many liberal philosophers argue today, the unequal distribution of wealth and status is a morally arbitrary function of nature, then people are not responsible for their own actions,” said Robert Ingram, history professor and director of the Menard Family George Washington Forum.
“Before Rawls, earlier liberal philosophers examined morality as a product of a just God giving people the freedom to make decisions and weigh merit,” Ingram said.
“Professor Nelson is considered one of the most important political theorists at a time when our society is dealing with the #metoo movement and the so-called cancel culture. I encourage you to attend this lecture as Dr. Nelson provides an alternative argument where modern liberalism and freedom can coexist.”
Nelson’s books include “The Royalist Revolution: Monarchy and the American Founding” (2014); “The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought” (2010); and “The Greek Tradition in Republican Thought” (2004). He also edited Hobbes’s translations of the “Iliad” and “Odyssey for the Clarendon Edition of the Works of Thomas Hobbes” (2008).
About the Menard Family George Washington Forum
The Menard Family George Washington Forum on American Ideas, Politics and Institutions teaches America’s foundational principles in their Western intellectual, political and institutional contexts. It is grounded on the idea that students facing an increasingly globalized world need to understand what characterizes and distinguishes the nation in which they live and the civilization from which it emerged. The Forum helps students become enlightened citizens in a liberal democracy whose roots run deep in Western civilization, but whose ideals and interests transcend the West.