Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

11 Responses

  1. David E. Bomar says:

    “Therefore the good man, although he is a slave is free; but the bad man, even if he reigns, is a slave, and that not of one man, but, what is more grievous, of as many masters as he has vices…” [St. Augustine, City of God, IV, 3.]
    This well worth reflection.
    From David Bomar

  2. Dot says:

    Most of us are slaves in one way or to some degree or another. Those who are simple and not subject to conventional mores are the most free. The one who can be peaceful and calm among the wolves barking at her feet are most free.

  3. Michael Strenk says:

    A wise comment, Dot, to a podcast full of wisdom.

  4. Dot says:

    Mr. Strenk: I was thinking of my youngest daughter.

  5. Thomas Fleming says:

    Boethius, whom I mentioned in the podcast, has an excellent discussion of freedom. Although a Christian, he couches the question in purely philosophical terms. His attempt to reconcile free will with divine foreknowledge is very useful. I had borrowed it years ago and was happy to find that it is he who makes they argument that the mind of God is beyond time. For Him, the future is what the present is for us. He is not changed by his knowledge of our evils nor does He directly cause them. Philosophers find gaps in his argument, but it is a serious step to justify sanity.

  6. Thomas Fleming says:

    The offer is still open for friends and readers to pose questions.

  7. Dot says:

    Are there differences regarding freedom as proposed by the Pope on abortion and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. There seems to be a conflict. The fetus has lost all freedom.

  8. Thomas Fleming says:

    Neither the Pope nor the bishops and flunkeys of the CCB have anything lucid to say on this or any topic. As for the broader question on the freedom of the fetus, one would begin by saying that pre-birth phase of a mammalian organism could hardly be possessed of, much less exercise, freedom. Now, if we are limiting ourselves to unborn human beings, we have to confront the confusion that has been created by the irresponsible use of language in such phrases, “the fetus is a person,” and “right to life.” If there is an unlimited right to life, then we have to abstain from hunting and fishing and the eating of meat, poultry and fish. Indeed, we probably should not use antibiotics. If we restrict the right to human beings, then we must surrender the right to defend our own lives from a criminal attacker, engage in defensive war, and execute serial killers. If there were a realty corresponding to the phrase, “right to life,” we would have to justify so bizarre a notion, either by references to Scripture, tradition, classical philosophy, or biology. I have never seen anyone bring up a shred of evidence to support such an obvious piece of nonsense. If someone will offer me an argument or piece of evidence that does not rely on some foolishness of Epicurus or John Locke, I’d be happy to examine it.

    Is a fetus a person? I suppose it depends on what one means, but certainly not a legal person who shares civil rights with fellow citizens. Is it an individual? Preposterous, since it can only survive by remaining attached throughout the term of pregnancy to its mother and then, once it is born, its survival depends on parents, siblings, and friends.

    Now, there are many legal persons who are comparatively viable and even economically autonomous who are not really “free” in a moral or political sense. Then it has to follow, that a life developing in the womb is not free, is not a person, and has no rights.

    Then why may we not extinguish such a life if it depends entirely on mother and to some degree father? For the very reason that this life belongs to us, that we are responsible for it, and that it is criminal in the highest degree to kill our own child. There is no right to life, but there is a parental duty to maintain and protect the life of our very unfree children.

  9. Dot says:

    Thank you for this answer. I have to say that I highly respect the responsibility of my brother, my grandparents and mother who accepted the high degree of care for my very crippled nephew. He was born with a meningocele that crippled him such that he spent his waking hours in a high chair. He also was hydrocephalic. His mother couldn’t handle this degree of care and my mother adopted him. There was a feeling of helplessness. Eventually, social workers helped so that he could live independently in a small apartment. He lived to 20 years. When my brother passed away a year ago, he looked forward to seeing his son again. No one had any freedom but I imagine they all are free now living among the saints.

  10. Thomas Fleming says:

    Yes, indeed, we are most free when we carry out the tasks assigned to us by our Creator. Thanks for the wise comment.

  11. Robert Reavis says:

    “we are most free when we carry out the tasks assigned to us by our Creator.”

    Clement of Alexandria
    Christians do not, in order to hide their fornication, “take away human nature, which is generated from the providence of God, by hastening abortions and applying abortifacient drugs [phthoriois pharmakois] to destroy utterly the embryo and, with it, the love of man.” From the very beginning of the early Christian communities there is the same connection of ideas. Drugs to destroy offspring are associated with lechery. Their use is condemned not merely because they furnish an aid to sexual sin or incorporate magic, but because they offend God.

    This is a huge subject and I agree with Tom that there is not much to learn from Popes and Bishops who use the same language as the culture promoting death. On the other hand you can’t get very far in opposing abortion or understanding the constant Christian objection to it without under standing the Christian teaching of Gods fundamental involvement and mystery in creation.
    To put it simply. It’s hard to know God today “from the things he created” cut off as we are from so much of it. “The swarm of animals, the change of seasons ,the spectacles of life and death” as George Santayana once put it, are just not part of what we see, experience and notice on a daily basis. I am not saying God is dead to us but we are dead to Him and “with that, we are dead to the love of man,” as the wisest of the Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, said above.