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Decline and Fall of the Golden Age

In the West, in the Classical and Christian worlds, and also I think in the East, for example in the pre-Qin tradition of great ancestors, the Golden Age lay in the past. It was a concrete actuality, now wasted and ruined, but with its glimmering traces scattered across the world.

In the Enlightenment, the story was inverted. There was no past Fall. Humanity was forging light from darkness. The Golden Age lay in the future – no longer actual, but still real, with a potential being latent in historical inevitability. This inversion of the old story made it a long way. From the pre-Qin worship of the ancestor kings, we get to Mao’s vision of a superior future race, with “six hundred million equal to Yao and Shun”.

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From Protestant Toleration to Capitalist Neutrality

Liam Bright’s recent post – Why I Am Not A Liberal – was exciting, and I want to get in on the action. But others better qualified than me have replied to the philosophical points. Liam is linking some of those on the original post as he sees them. So I thought maybe I could make a historical-philosophical point. This is a rush job, and I’m shooting from the hip, so don’t hold me too hard to anything I say here.

Liam follows many contemporary liberals in tracing the roots of modern liberalism to early modern arguments for religious toleration. There’s a canon of big names that liberals are accustomed to dropping (let’s call it the Online Library of Liberty). The real big fish tend to be Protestants: John Locke and Pierre Bayle, for example. Modern liberals trace to them the notion that the state should be neutral on what Rawls called “comprehensive doctrines” and what early modern tolerationists would have called “confessions of faith”.

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Pinker and Van Norden on Irrationalism and Relativism

Case A: Steven Pinker’s new book on rationality attempts to make a cogito-esque argument for the absolute necessity of believing what ‘reason’ commands. Arguments “against reason”, he believes, end up defeating themselves:

When it comes to arguing against reason, as soon as you show up, you lose. Let’s say you argue that rationality is unnecessary. Is that statement rational? If you concede it isn’t, then there’s no reason for me to believe it — you just said so yourself. But if you insist I must believe it because the statement is rationally compelling, you’ve conceded that rationality is the measure by which we should accept beliefs, in which case that particular one must be false.

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History Wars and Culture Wars: Some Thoughts on Henry Reynolds

Truth-Telling: History, sovereignty and the Uluru Statement: Amazon.co.uk: Henry  Reynolds (author): 9781742236940: Books

The Uluru Statement and History

I’ve just finished Henry Reynolds’ book: Truth-Telling. The book is a response by one of Australia’s greatest historians to the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

The Uluru Statement is a declaration of sovereignty by a constitutional convention, convened in 2017 by a broad coalition of First Nations groups – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples “from all points of the southern sky”. They declare native ownership and sovereignty over the land of the Australian continent, which “has never been ceded or extinguished, and co-exists with the sovereignty of the Crown”.

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