Rockford Institute president unveils new book

• The Morality of Everday Life calls for return to casuistry

“This is a method for approaching and resolving these great problems that we face in our lives,” said Thomas Fleming, president of The Rockford Institute and editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, of his latest book, The Morality of Everyday Life: Rediscovering an Ancient Alternative to the Liberal Tradition.

The book, published by University of Missouri Press, is Fleming’s fourth book, his second in the fields of social theory and ethics. Fleming discussed the underlying thesis of his book—that “moral and social questions are not reducible to logical abstractions”—at a public lecture, reception and book signing at The Rockford Institute April 15.

In his book, Fleming calls for a return to the lost art of casuistry, which he describes as being an ancient form of ethics utilizing the moral codes of Natural Law and Revelation. He said for people to apply the ethical code, they would have to look into their hearts and apply the principles to their everyday lives. In so doing, Fleming said, people would need to address each question separately and objectively.

Casuistry has largely been replaced today by the work of novelists, essayists, advice columnists and, increasingly, films, Fleming wrote. Yet, as Fleming attests in his book, casuistry proves to be most useful when confronted with moral and social questions.

“Looking at every question must have an objective point of view because it gives you distance,” Fleming said. “All moral and political questions deal only with people with universal human rights and governments.

“Everything is an issue of rationality, thus all principles must be logical and be applied the same to people across the world,” Fleming added.

Yet, as Fleming explained in his book, “The rules are as fixed as the points of the compass or the overtone series, but applying them to the imperfections of human life is a messy and sometimes dangerous business.”

Although liberalism to many today refers to the political belief of a more socialist state, Fleming said both liberal and conservative political views derive from the ancient Liberal Tradition. The hallmarks of the modern liberal ethical tradition, Fleming said, are kinship, friendship, maternal love and patriotism. Fleming said both liberals and conservatives “don’t understand but accept” the principles of the Liberal Tradition.

“The Liberal Tradition dates back to the Renaissance, and certain things have been taken for granted and never discussed,” Fleming said.

As a result, Fleming called the theory of the right “nonsense on stilts” and said “all forms of leftism are based on principles that are absurd and lead to absurd and destructive ends, both in life and in government.”

“These bad ideas have made all the difference in the kind of world we live in,” Fleming said. “One of the things I don’t like about politics today is that they lie all the time. Both sides lie about their principles.”

Fleming’s book ($44.95, 270 pages cloth/hardcover) is available through area bookstores. For more information, contact The Rockford Institute at 964-5053 or visit

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