It’s now week three of this semester’s Schemel Forum on the American Presidency, and the debates just keep getting more interesting. Today, we were talking about the extents of executive power, and two of the philosophers present mentioned John Locke‘s views on the power of a sovereign. Locke wrote in his Treatises of Government that a sovereign could act beyond the law under certain conditions – for example, if no laws yet existed to provide rules for a certain circumstance, or if the preservation of the public welfare were at stake. The hope was that the sovereign would be a wise enough ruler that these decisions could safely be left up to his discretion. We talked about how this idea could apply to the American presidency today – how far can the president go beyond stated laws in a time of emergency to protect the public?
We only have two weeks left, and lots of material left to cover. I’m anxious to hear the debates about executive privilege and “signing statements.” The last session on Guantanamo Bay also promises to be intriguing.
If you’re interested in the Schemel Forum, now is a great time to sign up for two of the upcoming Forums — Dr. William V. Rowe from the University of Scranton’s philosophy department will present a five-week forum in October on “Think World: Reflections on our Times,” and Father McKinney, also from the philosophy department, will present a three-week forum in November called “The Role of Drama in the Jesuit Tradition.” For more information, or to sign up to participate, contact Kym Fetsko at 570-941-7816.