Clifford Staples

Clifford Staples, Ph.D., is a sociologist serving as a Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio.

recent articles

Joy and the Whole Truth about Man

The reality of joy provides, I think, the most obvious refutation of the ideology of materialism—the attempt to reduce human beings and human lives to the body, to matter and its effects. For joy is proper not to the body, but to the spirit. It is the soul that is joyful or joyless, not the … Read more

Enlightenment Origins of Contemporary Atheism

One thing I have learned interrogating, in Socratic fashion, the so-called atheists, agnostics, and skeptics who are thick on the ground and on-line these days is that the Christianity they reject is not any Christianity I would claim as my own, but a false Christianity fashioned for them by bigots. Rarely, it soon becomes clear, … Read more

Why Birthdays Should Be Celebrated

September 11th was my 64th birthday. Yes, 9/11, but we’ll leave that for another time. What I want to explain here is why for most of my life I found birthdays and most occasions for celebration meaningless and maddening, and why that’s no longer true. After drifting away from the Church in my late teens, I was … Read more

On Giving Catholic Books Away

Following Fr. Schall—who nudged me home to the Church some years back—I do a bit of evangelizing by recommending—or when feeling rich, giving—books to people. Hanging around secular universities the past 40 years, I’ve met a lot of left-liberal academics, most of whom are practical if not ideological atheists. Some of these are, like me, … Read more

Abolishing the Moral Order

In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis argued that all the celebratory talk about man’s increasing ability to control nature had a dark side in which some men took control over other men with nature as the instrument. But, so long as the Judeo-Christian understanding of man was dominant, it would be difficult for tyrants … Read more

Love Your Enemy, But Know Him Too

In the mid-1990s the philosopher Norman Geras published a short book on the “ungroundable liberalism” of Richard Rorty. Geras was annoyed that many of Rorty’s relativist fellow travelers were some of the same people demanding “social justice” of one sort or another based on claims about reality they took to be self-evidently true (e.g. “The … Read more

Christianity: An Antidote to Tyranny

Like all modern tyrants, Karl Marx hated religion, Christianity in particular, because he understood that it was going to be very difficult if not impossible to get men to follow him so long as they continued to follow Jesus Christ, and so the first thing an aspiring tyrant in the middle of Christian Europe needed … Read more

The Decline of the West

According to the German Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper, the “wisdom of the West” expresses the sum total of what man “ought to” be. This wisdom was then discredited and rejected in the Modern era, and so is largely unavailable to post-modern man, who bobs along in the wake of Modernism, which has largely discredited itself. Here … Read more

Well-Being vs. Well-Feeling: On Defining True Happiness

In the twenty years since the publication of Deal Hudson’s marvelous book Happiness and the Limits of Satisfaction, the eclipse of Greek and Christian ideas about happiness by the pursuit of pleasure, of “well-feeling” rather than “well-being,” has only advanced. This movement has been deepened and accelerated by my colleagues in the social and behavioral … Read more

God and the World in Christian Theology

Once it became clear that I was returning to the Church (a story for another time), I set out to study the Catechism, along with as much Catholic theology and philosophy as I could get. For the past few years I have been studying the work of Msgr. Robert Sokolowski, of Catholic University—as fine a … Read more

Down the Sociological Road to Nihilism

This semester I am teaching a basic undergraduate class in social theory, and the text we use (Contemporary Sociological Theory and Its Classical Roots, The Basics, Ritzer and Stepinsky) presents many “key concepts” in the field. The “definition of the situation,” is one such concept. This idea comes to us via American Pragmatism, and means … Read more

Pursuing True Happiness in a World Without Truth

“[T]he direct and pure experience of reality in its ultimate root is man’s deepest need.” ∼ Thomas Merton Among the many confusions in our modern-secular culture is the fundamentally incoherent idea—which is also a promise, a hope, and a dream—that true happiness is possible without truth, but instead can be had with more freedom and … Read more

Why it is Hard to Find Truth in Academia

These days I spend a good deal of my time in the university talking with students who are both philosophical skeptics and advocates for “social justice.” As a teacher, I feel compelled to try to explain how the first commitment undermines the second. Though my contribution is not always welcome, I foolishly persist in making … Read more

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