Professor Berkowitz Book Review Appears in Wall Street Journal

"The Party of Death" by Ramesh Ponnuru deepens the divide between those who are pro-life and those who are pro-choice, according to a book review by Professor Peter Berkowitz that appears in the Wall Street Journal. Berkowitz maintains that Ponnuru's treatment of the subject matter, abortion, relies on the idea of a "bright line" between right and wrong, when in fact the complexities of the decision to terminate a pregnancy are many.

The Case Against Compromise, OpinionJournal, June 1, 2006. By Peter Berkowitz.

"To resolve these debates categorically--as Mr. Ponnuru does--is to commit an error that has been exposed by thinkers as diverse as Michael Oakeshott, Russell Kirk and Friedrich Hayek. The error consists of attempting to judge the complexities of morals and politics through the reductive lens of natural science, under the bright light of pure reason, from the cold heights of abstract theory. What gets lost is the ability to make relevant distinctions, to discern the wisdom embodied in custom and common sense, to acknowledge the ambiguities, mysteries and tragic choices of lived experience.

"Mr. Ponnuru insists that the embryo's unique genetic structure creates a bright line separating a 'party of life' from a 'party of death,' that the right to abortion is indistinguishable from a license to infanticide. (On this last point, as Mr. Ponnuru notes, the famously extreme Princeton ethicist Peter Singer agrees, while defending both.) But bright lines do not always exist--in law, ethics or politics. That doesn't mean that lines cannot be drawn; they can indeed, carefully, responsibly and defensibly. But they may be neither brightly obvious nor rigidly predictable. They may even shift over time, affected by the kind of debate to which Mr. Ponnuru has made such a forceful contribution."

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