Public Morality and Liberal Society: The Political Thought of Harry Clor

April 29, 2010
Clor event flyer

Does the political community have a legitimate interest in promoting standards of decency and in restricting indecency?  Is the law properly concerned with public morality?  If so, then in a society that values freedom of expression, what are the legitimate means by which public morality can be fostered?  In particular, are obscenity and pornography properly regarded merely as matters of private preference, or are they matters of public concern and legitimate subjects of legal regulation and even prohibition?  Related to these questions is the status of moderation in public and personal life.  Is moderation, or self-control, a civic virtue and therefore something to be cultivated in a liberal democracy?  What is it, and why should we as individuals and as a political society want it?  Finally, what is the best way to equip ourselves to think about these often controversial questions?  In particular, can a liberal education, one that takes seriously classical writings and perspectives, bring us closer to the truth about the moral dimension of personal and political life than is otherwise available to us?

To discuss these questions of great cultural consequence, the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions is hosting a conference on the political thought of Harry Clor, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Kenyon College.  Clor’s scholarship, which includes the books Obscenity and Public Morality: Censorship in a Liberal Society, Public Morality and Liberal Society, and On Moderation: Defending an Ancient Virtue in a Modern World, has been at the center of the scholarly debate on the conference’s topic for more than 40 years.  We are pleased to bring together a distinguished group of political, constitutional, and cultural theorists, including Professor Clor himself, to revisit the leading themes and arguments of Clor’s work, and to consider the teaching art of this celebrated practitioner of liberal education at the college level.

Free Speech and Public Morality in a Free Society
Presenter: Walter Berns, American Enterprise Institute
Respondents: Rochelle Gurstein, Independent Scholar
Benjamin Kleinerman, Michigan State University
Chair: Robert P. George, Princeton University

On Moderation: A Book Discussion
Presenter: Fred E. Baumann, Kenyon College
Respondents: James W. Ceaser, University of Virginia
Diana J. Schaub, Loyola College of Maryland
Chair: Pamela K. Jensen, Kenyon College

Harry Clor as Teacher
Panelists: Richard Baehr, American Thinker
Steven J. Heyman, Chicago-Kent College of Law
Judy Hoffman, Attorney-at-Law
Frederick G. Tiffany, Wittenberg University
Chair: Kirk R. Emmert, Kenyon College

Conference Discussants:
Martha Bayles, Boston College; Andrew Busch, Princeton University and Claremont McKenna College; John J. Dinan, Princeton University and Wake Forest University; Peter S. FieldPrinceton University and University of Canterbury; Alberto Nones, Princeton University; Richard A. Samuelson, Princeton University and California State University, San Bernardino; Catherine E. Wilson, Princeton University and Villanova University

See Schedule for speaker biographies.


Free Speech and Public Morality in a Free Society

On Moderation: A Book Discussion

Harry Clor as Teacher


Prospect House Library

Cosponsored by:

  • The Bouton Law Lecture Fund