28.4.2008 kl. 15:54

Liberalism was the political theory of the modern age, partly because it was a response to circumstances of diversity in world-views that arose in the early modern period with the Reformation and the Wars of Religion, and partly because it was a version of the animating project of modernity, which was the Enlightenment project -- 'the project' as Alasdair MacIntyre summarizes it 'of an independent, rational justification of morality'. The diversity of world-views which gave rise to the liberal project in early modern times is with us now; but the Enlightenment project which informed and sustained liberalism is now a dead letter. It lingers on in academic debates about realism in ethics and in the philosophy of science but -- except in the United States, where along with an equally atavistic Christianity it continues to pervade public culture -- is virtually extinct; and, if there remain philosophers wedded to that Enlightenment project, they are few and unimportant in the larger scheme of things, since philosophy itself is now a culturally marginal activity. The intellectual foundations of the Enlightenment project have fallen away; but liberal theory, for the most part, proceeds as if nothing has happened. -- John Gray, 'Liberalism' (1994)