Tuesday, February 04, 2014

In Advance of the Liberal Arts

All fame is fleeting....

NTodd takes me back to Niebuhr; and I just want to let things speak for themselves here:

John Adams
But this my Friend, to be serious, is the Fate of all ages and Nations; and there is no resource in human nature for a Cure...Limited Monarchy is founded in Nature. No Nation can adore more than one Man at a time. It is an happy Circumstance that the object of our Devotion is so well deserving of it; that he has virtue so exquisite and wisdom so consummate.

There is no Citizen of America will say, that there is in the World so fit a Man for the head of the Nation. From my soul I think there is not; and the Question should not be who has done or suffered most, or who has been the most essential and Indispensable Cause of the Revolution, but who is best qualified to govern us?

Nations are not to sacrifice their Future Happiness to Ideas of Historical Justice. They must consult their own Weaknesses, Prejudices, Passions, Senses and Imaginations as well as their Reason.
Reinhold Niebuhr:

A further consequence of modern optimism is a philosophy of history expressed in the idea of progress. Either by a force immanent in nature itself, or by the gradual extension of rationality, or by the elimination of specific sources of evil, such as priesthoods, tyrannical government and class divisions in society, modern man [sic] expects to move toward some kind of perfect society. The idea of progress is compounded of many elements. It is particularly important to consider one element of which modern culture is itself completely oblivious. The idea of progress is possible only upon the ground of a Christian culture. It is a secularized version of Biblical apocalypse and of the Hebraic sense of a meaningful history, in contrast to the meaningless history of the Greeks. But since the Christian doctrine of the sinfulness of man [sic] is eliminated, a complicating factor in the Christian philosophy is removed and the way is open for simple interpretations of history, which relate historical process as closely as possible to biological process and which fail to do justice either to the unique freedom of man or to the daemonic misuse which he may make of that freedom.

Reinhold Niebuhr, The Nature and Destiny of Man: A Christian Interpretation, Vol. I (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press 1996), p. 24.

Democracy has a more compelling justification and requires a more realistic vindication than is given it by the liberal culture with which it has been associated in modern history. The excessively optimistic estimates of human nature and history with which the democratic credo is linked are a source of peril to democratic society, for our contemporary experience refutes this optimism and there is danger that it will seem to refute the democratic ideal as well. Modern democracy requires a more realistic philosophical and religious basis.

 The social science will never be much improved, until the people unanimously know and consider themselves as the fountain of power, and until they shall know how to manage it wisely and honestly. Reformation must begin with the body of the people, which can be done only, to effect, in their educations. The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people, and must be willing to bear the expenses of it...They must be taught to reverence themselves, instead of adoring their servants, their generals, admirals, bishops, and statesmen.
"Modern democracy requires a more realistic philosophical and religious basis."  Which further requires an education in both philosophy and religion (religion is not a province which public schools cannot teach; it is only one they cannot proselytize in.)  But then that would require a recognition that validity of a concept is an objective problem, but one's relationship to that validity (i.e., "truth") is equally important, but a subjective problem.  What I know about religion, in other words, is one thing; my relationship to that knowledge, is another.  Both, to underline the point, are of equal importance.  If we are going to consult  our own "Weaknesses, Prejudices, Passions, Senses and Imaginations as well as [our] Reason," we cannot reasonably exclude religion, as well as philosophy, from the discussion.

1 comment:

  1. Modern democracy requires a more realistic philosophical and religious basis.

    That jumped out at me too. I'd say the left is in enormous need of more realism, there is too much romantic fantasy about progress and dialectical pendulums swinging and knocking over one pin after another till it has them all down and it's Millennium time.

    I had an idiot angry at me today for noting the French Revolution hadn't turned out especially well angrily denouncing my attack on democracy. Which gave me the chance to note, again, that democracy was notably not the result of the French Revolution.

    I agree with your statement about the necessity of religion as well as philosophy in education. I look at people my age and younger, the generation that was the product of an entirely secularized education, in which mention of, not only religion but also morals were thought too likely to violate Supreme Court rulings and even a sense of civic decency seems to be absent. I recall on a blog we both used to be familiar with, when one of the commentators less prone to be a jerk started expressing disdain for the concept of morality. It shocked me even more than the promotion of biological determinism there had about six years earlier. I don't see any alternative to teaching moral values in the public schools and to hold public figures to moral values, especially those consistent with a democratic government, equality and a moral obligation to respect rights equally foremost among those. Even the biggest jerks in my jr. high could be made ashamed of themselves, on occasion, on the basis of unfairness. Well, there was one but he turned out to be criminally psychotic. Today his kind of behavior isn't only common, it is encouraged in the media and allowed free reign by indifferent adults.

    I could go on, which is no surprise.