Accepting Limits

A profound review of what seems a profound book. Dalrymple on Daniel J. Mahoney’s The Conservative Foundations of the Liberal Order: Defending Democracy against Its Modern Enemies and Immoderate Friends:
I think Mahoney proves his case that a sense of limitation is necessary if the democratic ideal is not itself to become despotic in its pursuit of perfection. So far, so good. But what he does not do is explain how such a sense is to be encouraged in a population whose elite is either not religious, or religious only pro forma, and which is already much influenced, not to say rotted, by Promethean Yes-we-can-ism.
The acceptance of limitation is a habit of the heart as much as a doctrine of the mind. Clearly it is possible to develop that habit without being religious, but it is more difficult, for it requires not only a certain temperament but also an intellectual sophistication by no means common or easily acquired. 
I do not think there is much prospect in the Western world of a religious revival, nor does Mahoney suggest that there is…  The likelihood, then, is that people will continue to seek not only the meaning of their lives, but their salvation, in a variety of secular causes promoted by narrow ideologies that serve as lenses through which everything in the world can be seen and interpreted.

17 thoughts on “Accepting Limits

  1. Jackson

    To quote Dalrymple
    “Despite the expected genuflections in the direction of multiculturalism, the greatest insult in Te Papa (other than to the intelligence of the visitors) is to the Maori, for the finest examples of their magnificent wood-carving art, which even to an unschooled eye such as mine were obviously of the deepest significance to those who made them, are placed in the midst of the household detritus of modern New Zealand. Nothing could be more demeaning to the men who devoted their lifetimes in mastering the art of carving.

    Not that the visitors to Te Papa are allowed to contemplate the Maori expression of man’s artistic and religious impulse in silence: far from it.”

    Interestingly enough, I’m currently watching a re run of Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation on BBC iplayer. Clark is saying very similar things about the works of the medieval masons.

    This is probably where I see most hope. No I don’t think we can all do crafts full time but I think there much potential in this area. I thought the recent British TV series Mastercrafts by Monty Don was rather good.

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  2. mike

    I don’t have access to the full article, but it’s interesting that he talks about Te Papa and its painful displays of political correctness. I was there a couple of years ago and was rolling my eyes constantly; the implicit message of almost every exhibit was that New Zealand was a prelapsarian paradise until Europeans arrived. Some of it was so simplistic it defied belief.

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