My dear friend, Hadley Arkes, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters at Hillsdale College this past Saturday, May 9. Excerpts of his commencement address have been published on The Catholic Thing. I republish some of them here:
Aristotle said that the polis, the political order, was prior in the order of nature to the family. This urbane man certainly knew that people were perfectly capable of having sex even when their governments broke down. But that was different from a family. For what constitutes a family? Would it be two people – or several joined together in a polygamous or polyamorous ensemble? Would it be two people of the same sex, the same species? What constitutes a family is something that has always depended on the moral understanding that pervades the community and finds expression in “the laws.”
Our late friend, Allan Bloom, wrote that “the children who are the products of nature and real love lack something that can be provided only by law and its constraints”:It is only within the context of the law that a man can really imagine that the offspring from his loins can people the world. . . . The law that gives names to families and tries to insure their integrity is a kind of unnatural force and endures only as long as does the regime of which it is a part.Those laws on marriage invited us, as parents, to say the most telling words that parents may say, as they claim their children as their own, and do it through that simple device of imparting a name. As they do that, they replicate those words spoken by God in relation to Israel. And is there finally anything simpler or more decisive than those words that come back to us from Isaiah: “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name, thou art mine.”
This is a day when we celebrate again the parents who have given their names to children, borne the responsibilities for them, and the students who have borne their own responsibility, in a handsome way, by working faithfully to justify the sacrifices made for them…
You can read more here.