Emanations and penumbras

In the article on cannibalism by Theodore Dalrymple that is linked below, Dalrymple powerfully challenges the principle of “mutual consent” as a first principle of morality. Yet who can doubt that “mutual consent” is the bedrock principle of contemporary American public life?
While the principle of consent is the moral basis of free government, the principle of consent is itself secondary to the principle of human equality and derivative of the normative concept of nature, from which natural right reasoning follows. Under natural right reasoning, consent cannot validate slavery, for example, because the relationship of master and slave is unnatural between men who are created equal with respect to their inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
How has the principle of consent usurped the preeminent place formerly held by nature and natural right in American public life? In our essay on the Clinton scandals, “Perjury Penumbra,” Rocket Man and I attributed much of the responsibility for this development to “The Playboy Philosophy:”
Readers of a certain age may recall that in days of yore Playboy carried a monthly essay by Hugh Hefner under the heading of “The Playboy Philosophy.” The monthly Hefner essay was a staple of the magazine for what seemed like three or four decades. Every month, along with the girls and the fiction and the articles on stereo equipment and cars, Playboy carried a long


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