In a lecture a few months back I observed that you generally find very few conservatives in philosophy departments at American colleges and universities (as opposed to political philosophy in political science departments, where you tend to find conservatives much better represented). There are, however, two notable and interesting exceptions to this general rule: when you do find a conservative academic philosopher, he or she (but much more often a he) will be either a strong libertarian (such as Loren Lomasky at Virginia), or an evangelical Christian/devout Roman Catholic. There’s a larger point to be drawn from why this is so, but it will have to wait for the longer article/short book.
But it provides the hook to get back to the Power Line 100 Best Professors in America roster, which I’ve been neglecting lately. And one of the notable Roman Catholic philosophers of our time is Francis J. Beckwith of Baylor University. In addition to teaching some really interesting courses at Baylor (next semester: “Philosophy and Constitutional Issues”), he is also the associate director of the J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies. Did I mention he is also a lawyer? Well, we won’t hold that against him. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, including, most recently, a Festschrift for another Power Line 100 laureate, Hadley Arkes. (The book is A Second Look at First Things: The Case for Conservatism in Politics: The Hadley Arkes Festschrift.) You can find his popular writing most often these days at the fine site, TheCatholicThing.org (in this case, weighing in on the Washington Redskins name controversy).
Beckwith has been the subject of considerable controversy, thus fulfilling Churchill’s axiom that a man without enemies has no character. In addition to a typical tenure fight (which he won on appeal), he had the temerity, while still untenured, to engage openly the discussion about intelligent design, which is the only thing more academically incorrect today than being a climate skeptic.
You can find a number of full-length (as in an hour or more long) videos on YouTube of Beckwith in action, but here’s one five-minute excerpt from a panel at Georgetown where Beckwith reflects on the always knotty subject of abortion.