Seton Hall University
Commencement 2013


Hadley P. Arkes is the Edward N. Ney Professor of Jurisprudence and American Institutions at Amherst College, where he has taught since 1966. Also a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, he is a leading expert on American political philosophy, public policy, and constitutional law.

Arkes received a B.A. degree at the University of Illinois and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago where he was a student of Leo Strauss.

In a series of books and articles dating from the mid-1980s, Professor Arkes has written on moral principles, arguing that they are true and necessary across cultures. He has also dealt with their relation to constitutional jurisprudence and natural law, and their challenge to moral relativism. His work draws on political philosophers from Aristotle through the U.S. Founding Fathers, Lincoln, and contemporary authors and jurists.

Among his several books, five were published by Princeton University Press: Bureaucracy, the Marshall Plan, and the National Interest (1972), The Philosopher in the City (1981), First Things (1986), Beyond the Constitution (1990), and The Return of George Sutherland (1994). His most recent book, Natural Rights and the Right to Choose, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2002. His articles have appeared in professional journals, and he has also become known to a wider audience through his writings in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Weekly Standard, and National Review. Professor Arkes has been a contributor, also, to First Things, a journal that took its name from his book of that title. For eight years he wrote a column for Crisis magazine under the title of “Lifewatch,” and he resumes that column occasionally with pieces for National Review Online.

Professor Arkes was the main advocate, and architect, of the bill that became known as the Born-Alive Infants’ Protection Act. He first prepared his proposal as part of the debating kit assembled for George H. W. Bush in 1988, and its purpose was to offer the “most modest first step” of all in legislating on abortion, and opening a conversation even with people who called themselves “pro-choice.” Professor Arkes proposed to begin simply by preserving the life of a child who survived an abortion—contrary to the holding of one federal judge that such a child was not protected by the laws. Professor Arkes led the testimony on the bill before the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives in 2000 and 2001. In 2002, the House and Senate passed the bill unanimously and, with Professor Arkes in attendance, President George W. Bush signed the bill into law.

Professor Arkes was the founder, at Amherst, of the Committee for the American Founding, a group of alumni and students seeking to preserve the doctrines of “natural rights” taught by the American Founders and Lincoln. With the same mission, he has recently served as Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School, and Vaughan Fellow in the Madison Program, at Princeton University.

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