Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Thomas Sowell's latest column over at RealClear Politics is just as interesting for what it fails to say as for what it says.
To a small child, the reason he cannot do many things that he would like to do is that his parents won't let him. Many years later, maturity brings an understanding that there are underlying reasons for doing or not doing many things, and that his parents were essentially conduits for those reasons.Sowell is tantalizingly close to naming a fundamental truth about many intellectual movements, particularly the New Left, and gets even closer when he comments on the proliferation of the common misuse of the term "liberation".
The truly dangerous period in life is the time when the child has learned the limits of his parents' control, and how to circumvent their control, but has not yet understood or accepted the underlying reasons for doing and not doing things. This adolescent period is one that some people -- intellectuals especially -- never outgrow.
But he never explicitly says that the New Left rejects the primacy of existence, or even goes so far as to note that the cardinal sin of that ideological movement is that it fails to test its theories against reality!
Maturity, apparently "just happens" for some and not for others, and "intellectual" remains an adolescent fixation rather than a potentially valuable vocation -- at least for those intellectuals armed with philosophical ideas that have firm bases in factual data and the uncompromising application of logic.
His error is a common one, in which he treats an implicitly rational, reality-oriented philosophical outlook as a given, rather than as an implicit example of just another possible ideology. My last would doubtless strike many, probably including Sowell himself, as moral relativism at first blush, but it is not. For if the rational, "adult" ideology that Sowell implicitly favors can be judged as an ideology, so must all other ideologies be examined under the cold light of reason, and compared against the facts of reality, which include the requirements for man's survival.
It is easy, but wrong, to hold all intellectuals in such disdain, for to do so is to cede the deadly premise that so many of them have that a rational philosophy is not worthy of consideration in the marketplace of ideas, that ideology is somehow the one realm of human endeavor that is exempt from reason. Indeed, it allows them to go on pretending this is the case. Worse, it allows them to continue their attack against rational morality openly and unashamedly, while doing real damage to our civilization.
Funny that an adult I hold so much respect for -- and an economist at that -- made such a mistake after coming so close to the truth!