This is my last issue as Publisher of the Tory, so I’m going to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our loyal readers and to introduce our next Publisher – Zach Horton ’15. Zach has done a great job as Editor-in-Chief for the last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing where he takes the magazine in the next year.
I think the most appropriate subject matter for my last “Publisher’s Letter” is what I’ve learned throughout my time with the Tory. In my three years as an officer, I’ve learned quite a few practical skills – how to write more effectively, the best way to lead, motivate and organize a magazine staff, how to set up a strong online presence – but I think that the most important aspect of my experience at the Tory doesn’t have anything to do with any of that. While working on the Tory, I connected my political philosophy with real people and with my day-to-day experience, and that has been crucial in shaping my worldview. I remember exactly when it happened too.
During my sophomore fall break I was writing a Point/Counterpoint article on the death penalty with my friend Chris Goodnow ’14. Chris was arguing for the death penalty, and I was arguing against it. Prior to writing this article, I had primarily thought about politics from a disinterested academic perspective, but I was really invested in this topic and couldn’t figure out why. Finally, as I finished my last draft and sent it to my editor, I realized that the death penalty matters to me because it addresses the question of what it means to be human. My views on the death penalty weren’t the result of some utilitarian calculus about how society would most benefit from prisoners; rather, my belief on the issue was a response to the real, living human prisoners who are unconditionally worthy of life. At that moment, my personal philosophy shifted under my feet.
Before coming to Princeton and working on the Tory, I thought that the most important questions were about whether there were a God and whether some perfect code of ethics actually existed. Those are definitely among the most important questions, but studying politics has led me to believe that anyone who asks those questions must simultaneously ask what it means to be human and occupy a real, first-person perspective or else risk being completely irrelevant. Put differently, if you know all the answers to every complicated, controversial philosophical question but you don’t attempt to understand and integrate the experience of humanity equally into your philosophy, your philosophy has no legs. By thinking about the death penalty in terms of real, human people I put legs on my philosophy for the first time.
That method of seeing political issues in terms of real humanity as well as academic abstraction has bled into every other issue I care about. I care about campaign finance reform, term limits, and other electoral reforms because I not only understand the pathologies associated with incumbency and moneyed interests but also because I understand the evils of greed and pride in the human spirit. On an intellectual level, I’m pro-life because life is a human right. On a personal level, I’m pro-life because some of the most remarkable people I know narrowly escaped abortion. I could go on, but the point is clear – political reasoning is incomplete without considering the human element in its fullness.
In this way and many others the Tory has been indispensable in my personal education – an education that is at least as important as any academic education Princeton gives us. I’m going to miss working on the magazine, and I appreciate the hard work and friendship of all my officers. I know the magazine is in good hands with Zach and I’m looking forward to more current and future students having the critical learning and growing experiences with the Tory just like I did. Thanks for reading.
David Byler ’14