Robert P. George

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Things always seem impossible until people do them.
Bullies are cowards and if you stand up to them they back away.

Robert Peter George (born 10 July 1955) is an American legal scholar, political philosopher, and public intellectual who serves as the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University. He lectures on constitutional interpretation, civil liberties, philosophy of law, and political philosophy. George, a Roman Catholic, is considered one of the leading U.S. conservative intellectuals.

Aside from his professorship at Princeton, he also serves as director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, is the Herbert W. Vaughan senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a research fellow at the Notre Dame Center for Ethics and Culture, and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He is also a bluegrass musician and a lawyer.

Quotes[edit]

2016[edit]

Interview with Bill Kristol (2016)[edit]

It takes 11 guys to change the world. It takes five to change a university.
A licentious people is not going to sustain republican government. We've got to make sure that republican government, government not only of the people as all government is but by and for the people doesn't perish from the Earth. If we lose it here, it's not as if it's going to be restarted somewhere else.
People look to the United States to see if whether self-government can actually work and it's not going to work unless we as individual people and as members of small communities, institutions of civil society, are able to govern ourselves or are able to control our own passions and desires.
[E]ven at 16 or 17 years old I understood that abortion was killing an unborn baby. I mean it was simple and straightforward and indeed it is simple and straightforward. We try to make this complicated, but it's simple and straightforward. You've got a new human life developing in the mother's womb and abortion is the business of killing that baby.
Interview with Bill Kristol (April 2016), transcript
[T]he most abject form of slavery there is, is slavery to one's own feelings or passions or desires. The goal, the project of living a human life, a truly human life, is all about self-mastering.
[W]hat is happening is what left-wing revolutions do tend to produce, whether they’re talking about the Russian Revolution or the French Revolution, and that is students – the next generation of revolutionaries – become not only more radical than their radical professors, but they turn on them so the revolution tends to consume its own.
It's the rich and powerful, by and large, who glamorize immorality, but it's the poor and vulnerable who pay the price.
  • Bullies are cowards and if you stand up to them they back away.
  • [W]hat is happening is what left-wing revolutions do tend to produce, whether they’re talking about the Russian Revolution or the French Revolution, and that is students – the next generation of revolutionaries – become not only more radical than their radical professors, but they turn on them so the revolution tends to consume its own. So now people who think of themselves of impeccably left-wing will say something that offends some group of radicalized students – perhaps students that they themselves helped to radicalize – and suddenly they are the ones under fire for not conforming sufficiently to the contemporary orthodoxy.
  • Roe was a shock to me because even at 16 or 17 years old I understood that abortion was killing an unborn baby. I mean it was simple and straightforward and indeed it is simple and straightforward. We try to make this complicated, but it's simple and straightforward. You've got a new human life developing in the mother's womb and abortion is the business of killing that baby. Now, the Planned Parenthood videos have made that very graphic but you didn't actually need the videos, uh, at least I didn't need to the videos to know that. But even then we didn't think of abortion as something Democrats were for and Republicans were against. The division of the parties into a pro-abortion party and an anti-abortion party came a little later.
  • My father had served with great honor and courage in the Second World War. He fought for a country that was not only great, but good. It had its flaws and had some imperfections. It was the original sin of slavery which you know which we hadn't completed extirpated because we still had racial injustice in the 50s and 60s and 70s. We had only recently abolished, formally abolished segregation. So I was aware that uh, America had its flaws and defects in its history. But I also believed in the country and believed in its principles. That's the way I was brought up and so I was shocked when I found people who were just openly, vociferously anti-American, condemning not only America's sins but America itself, condemning its principles and pointing in some cases to communist regimes like Cuba as being superior.
  • Things always seem impossible until people do them.
  • It's the rich and powerful, by and large, who glamorize immorality, but it's the poor and vulnerable who pay the price.
  • We have to do it for our children and for our grandchildren and so that this profound experiment in ordered liberty that was bequeathed to us by Madison and Washington and Hamilton and Adams and by Lincoln doesn't collapse. That republican government, which is ultimately what's at stake here, because a licentious people is not going to sustain republican government. We've got to make sure that republican government, government not only of the people as all government is but by and for the people doesn't perish from the Earth. If we lose it here, it's not as if it's going to be restarted somewhere else. People look to the United States to see if whether self-government can actually work and it's not going to work unless we as individual people and as members of small communities, institutions of civil society, are able to govern ourselves or are able to control our own passions and desires.
  • I say to my students, I say to my own children, I say to myself, uh the most abject form of slavery there is, is slavery to one's own feelings or passions or desires. The goal, the project of living a human life, a truly human life, is all about self-mastering. Now, if people live in a culture that encourages them to be masters of themselves and if they become masters of themselves, if they're able to control their own passions, no one's going to be perfect, we're not going to eliminate sin from the world or from the human heart, but if we're able to be masters of ourselves, masters of our own passions, then we will be able as a people to govern ourselves, we can genuinely make the republican experiment in ordered liberty work. But if we, if we lose it at the personal level, there's no way it's going to work at the societal level.

2017[edit]

Real manliness is about self-possession, self-control, and self-sacrifice. A real man will never be a bully, he will stand up to bullies.
Real manliness is about serving others sacrificially and protecting the weak and vulnerable.
Phony manliness is about vulgarity and bravado.
  • Phony manliness is about vulgarity and bravado. Real manliness is about serving others sacrificially and protecting the weak and vulnerable.
  • Real manliness is about self-possession, self-control, and self-sacrifice. A real man will never be a bully, he will stand up to bullies.
  • If you're a father of sons, think of a man you'd like your boys to emulate, then be that man--exemplify his selflessness, fidelity, courage.
  • A man of honor is never predatory or unfaithful. He does not regard women as objects. He treats women with respect as his equal in dignity.
  • There are no lebensunwertes leben--no "lives unworthy of life." Every member of the human family bears profound, inherent and equal dignity.
  • Stunning that liberals haven't noticed that Trump and Trumpians are happy to use for their own ends precedents liberals set when in power.
  • We're now quickly losing our Korea heroes as well--veterans of "the forgotten war." Let's not forget them or fail to honor and cherish them.
  • Al Franken deserves condemnation, but President Trump's intervention, given his own self-confessed misconduct, makes what should be bipartisan seem merely partisan. Not helpful. Pots and kettles, Mr. President, pots and kettles.
  • I myself am not a Trump supporter, nor was I supporter of Obama or Clinton. But I had and have friends who supported all of them and who deeply disagree with me on profound moral questions. It wouldn't occur to me to banish them from my life. Argue? Yes. Banish? No.
  • One needn't be a Christian to be pro-life. Many pro-life people aren't. But a fundamental tenet of Christian faith is the profound, inherent & equal dignity and right to life of every member of the human family. That, in the end, simply cannot be squared with the pro-choice view.
  • Of course one could claim that the human embryo or fetus is not (yet) a human being, but that's just science-denial. Or one could claim that human beings in early developmental stages don't have dignity but that is a denial that dignity is inherent and that all humans are equal.
  • My God! People! People!!! Do you not see where this goes??? Do the Dutch, who suffered under--and in many cases heroically resisted--Hitler's domination, forget that the "final solution" began with the dehumanization and eugenic killing of the handicapped?
  • Both views have had their glory moments, and both have had their moments of shame. Whether we’re conservatives or whether we’re liberals, it should remind us that we are human beings who are fallible.
  • [T]his is truly a great country. When true to ourselves we are unmatched. In the words of Irving Berlin, God bless America!
  • By this point in HIS first term President Obama already had a Nobel Prize. All President Trump has is a train station in a foreign country--not even a big country. Just a little one. Barely the size of Connecticut. Sad.

Interview with Matthew Bunson (2017)[edit]

To say that I did not support the candidacy of Mr. Trump is the understatement of the year. I fiercely opposed it.
Interview with Matthew Bunson (July 2017)
  • [P]rogressives are learning the hard way that their adversaries can play their game of vilifying and bullying opponents. Just desserts? I've heard some conservatives say so. But it is terrible for the country.
  • [T]he struggle over slavery and racial injustice that did result in civil war. Here, too, the disputes were not merely about means, but about ends — about fundamental matters of right and wrong. And although the war, after consuming the lives of nearly three-quarters of a million people, ended after four years, the struggle went on for more than a hundred more, and we are still living with its aftershocks today.
  • Despite our profound differences, Americans on both or all sides of the great cultural struggles of our day must recognize their opponents (or most, or at least many, of their opponents) as reasonable people of goodwill who, doing their best, have arrived at different conclusions about fundamental moral questions — including basic questions of justice and human rights. If that is to happen, political and intellectual leaders, as well as people in the media, are going to have to model treating their adversaries with respect — and not demonizing them.
  • To say that I did not support the candidacy of Mr. Trump is the understatement of the year. I fiercely opposed it... I have criticized as unnecessary his policy on pausing immigration from certain countries, and I have criticized as weak to the point of meaningless his executive order on religious freedom. Indeed, I characterized it as a betrayal of his promise to reverse Obama era anti-religious-liberty policies. Donald Trump is not, and usually doesn't pretend to be, a man of strict or high principles... As a pragmatist, he doesn't have a governing philosophy — he's neither a conservative nor a liberal. On one day he'll give a speech to some evangelical pastors that makes him sound like a religious conservative, but the next day he'll lavishly praise Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is waging an all-out war on those who stand up for traditional moral values in Canada.
  • Be not afraid... Have courage. Be bold. Do not let yourself be intimidated. Do not yield to the bullies. Stand up. Speak out. Fear God, not men. Be willing to bear the cost of discipleship. Be prepared to take up your cross and follow Jesus — even to Calvary.
  • Speak the truth in love, leaving no one in doubt about where you stand. Bear faithful witness. Be gentle as doves, but wise — even cunning — as serpents. Do not compromise your principles — out of fear or even in the hope of advancing worthy goals. Do not fall into the error of believing that a good end justifies a bad means. But do work tirelessly for the best causes — especially life and marriage, but also, and relatedly, to lift up the poor, the downtrodden and the persecuted, both here in the United States and abroad.
  • Praise God when we seem to be making progress; trust him when we seem not to be. Remember that it is ultimately God’s job, not ours, to bring the victories. They will come on his timetable and on his terms. Our job is to be faithful — to stand up, speak out, and bear witness. And by the way, no Christian is exempt from that duty. So no excuses.

2018[edit]

  • [T]ruth is the ground and condition of freedom. Unless it is true that human beings deserve to have fundamental liberties respected and protected, the tyrant does no wrong in violating them. Relativism, skepticism, and subjectivism about truth provide no secure basis for freedom. We should honor civil liberties because the norms enjoining us to respect and protect them are valid, sound, in a word, true.
  • I'm increasingly convinced that the principal moral errors of contemporary western societies, especially among elites, are rooted in the triumph of Hobbes' view of human beings as basically machines for having experiences. It's the anthropology underwriting the Age of Feeling.
  • People of faith--all faiths--need to understand that everyone, including the unbeliever, has a basic human right to religious freedom.
  • Republicans who are pleased by my calling out Dems on religious freedom should remember that religious freedom must be honored for everyone--including Muslims. Though some Repubs have been good on this, others (inc the President) have not been. There must be one standard for all.
  • Social conservatives should be sober realists about DJT. His support for us, where he has given it (e.g. judges), is transactional. He does not share our principles nor has he lived (or aspired to live) by them. There is real danger of his discrediting them among persuadables.
  • Canada is sinking deeper and deeper into illiberalism--in the name of liberal values
  • I'm learning that a lot of people--on the left as well as the right--have a problem with Jews. It is not that they object to Jews as people. It's that they object to Jews as Jews.
  • If you hate Jews you do not love God. You may claim to be a Christian (or Muslim) but the God you worship is an idol, not the God of Israel.
  • Others must do as their own consciences require, but I stand with @monacharenEPPC. She stands for true conservative, American, and Judaeo-Christian values.
  • I wish we conservatives could clone Mona Charen so that we could keep one for ourselves and give the other to the liberal movement which is equally badly in need of a truth-teller to call out the hypocrites and snollygosters.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day (2018)[edit]

[H]ad we been there, few of us would have been among the heroes who, at great risk to themselves, sheltered Jews and other victims or joined the forces opposing Hitler and the Nazis. Very few of us indeed.
"On Holocaust Remembrance Day" (27 January 2018), First Things
  • [C]onsider, humbly, that had we been there, few of us would have been among the heroes who, at great risk to themselves, sheltered Jews and other victims or joined the forces opposing Hitler and the Nazis. Very few of us indeed.
  • [E]ugenic doctrine did not originate with the Nazis. It began with polite, urbane, well-educated, sophisticated people who saw "social hygiene" via, among other methods, euthanasia, as representing progress and modernity. They wanted to ditch the old Judaeo-Christian belief in the sanctity of all human life and replace it with what they regarded as a more advanced and rational philosophy.

Quotes about George[edit]

  • [O]ne of the nation's most respected legal theorists... his sheer brilliance, the analytic power of his arguments, the range of his knowledge... a deeply principled conviction, a profound and enduring integrity.
  • [M]ost influential conservative Christian thinker... George's admirers say he is revitalizing a strain of Catholic natural-law thinking that goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas. His scholarship has earned him accolades from religious and secular institutions alike. In one notable week two years ago, he received invitations to deliver prestigious lectures at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Harvard Law School."

External links[edit]

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