A cloud of willful unknowing

16.4.2018 kl. 13:02 - Sveinbjörn Þórðarson

Mark Lilla's great analysis of our current politico-philosophical malaise (from The Reckless Mind):

One of the less remarked consequences of the cold war's end has been the vacuum of understanding it left behind. If nothing else, the old ideologies focused the mind. With lineages that could be traced back two centuries, they presented clear, opposing portrayals of political reality, however distorted, and programs for acting within it. And they were not arbitrary constructs. They had roots in philosophical and religious traditions with radically different understandings of human nature and history that ran back much further. When the modern ideologies were jettisoned, so was a living connection with those traditions.

Now we are free of the old illusions. So one would expect to find our situation easier to understand and grapple with. In fact, just the opposite seems true. Never since the end of World War II, and perhaps since the Russian Revolution, has political thinking in the West seemed so shallow, so clueless. We all sense that ominous changes are taking place in Western societies, and in other societies whose destinies will very much shape our own. Yet we lack adequate concepts and even vocabulary for describing the world we now find ourselves in. More worrisome still, we lack awareness that we lack them. A cloud of willful unknowing seems to have settled on our intellectual life.