Wednesday, September 28, 2011

p. 21 The Conservative Foundation of the Liberal Order, Mahoney

Why is theory inadequate?

"In contrast to the tyranny of such an abstract democratic 'idea,' Tocqueville teaches us to practice the art of liberty within democracy and to defend the broader inheritance of Western civilization. The democratic order is not self-sufficient and depends upon a precious civilizational inheritance that it has trouble renewing and that it sometimes actively undermines. With no hope of simply resolving the 'problem' of democracy, we must draw upon its practice to correct its theory. But we must do so in the awareness that there is a tension in the very idea of 'popular sovereignty' between the abstract idea, always tending toward more radical interpretation and applications, and concrete exercise of democratic self-government. Instructed by Tocqueville, we are in a better position to defend democracy against those who love it immoderately."

My notes: Democracy tends toward the "more radical interpretation" in the West--that is, of total individual autonomy--but it can also tend toward a more Islamic state elsewhere in the world, which is also its enemy.

Connect Tocqueville and Marilynne Robinson's Absence of Mind. Robinson argues about the failure of scientism, which she identifies as a theory that fails to account for the human mind that created the theory.

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