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Conflict Of Visions Essay Research Paper Conflict

Conflict Of Visions Essay, Research Paper

Conflict of visionsLibertarian philosophy founded in reason, individualism While current thought has it that the intellectual foundation of our society has seriously eroded, it was somewhat refreshing to see libertarianism discussed recently in this paper. As the only political philosophy that is founded purely on reason, it may be the case that it offers the only real hope for a society that is thrashing to and fro between the worlds of traditional values and immediate feelings. I would like to add to the discussion by pointing out some of its potential weaknesses, and comparing it to its more predominant siblings, conservatism and liberalism, with the intent to both strip it of its innocence and show more of its advantages. First let’s talk about some of its strengths. First and foremost, it is based on intellect. Conservatism, with its base firmly on the ground of what has historically “worked,” has almost as much disdain for pure reason as liberalism, which, although it often corrals the more brilliant thinkers, defers its decisions to emotion and feeling. The question arises, “Should we base all our decisions on pure reason?” It is, after all, our power to reason which differentiates us from all other living organisms.Throughout the ages it has been libertarian thought which has provided the most dynamic of progress by both freeing us from the liberals’ emotional shackles and breaking the conservatives’ traditional paradigms. Libertarianism shows the most respect for the individual. One of the fondest memories I have of my undergraduate days was the undying individualistic streak most everyone maintained. Today, with all of us striving to be multiculturally aware, politicallycorrect, celebrants of the Hegelian brotherhood of diversity, it is sad to note that all the fruits, flakes and losers who rebel from this notion have become not only the few remaining individualists, but also the ones we won’t tolerate. Liberals believe we areall one being. When you itch, I scratch. Conservatives think the collective genius of past generations is preferable to the thought of the individual. Both are filling a hole with its own dirt. It is only by recognizing ourselves as individuals that we can maintainour self-esteem, our health, our conscience, in fact, everything that we cherish. These things we first develop in ourselves, we respect and value in others. Maybe someday we will stop lumping people into groups, stereotypes, races, minorities,majorities, gangs and classes and reach out a friendly hand to the individual instead. But alas, libertarianism is not without its weaknesses: *First is the presumption that all men are capable of reason. Look around. If you as a college student can’t look around and draw the conclusion that all you see sho w signs of at least modest reasoning skills, then how do you expect the rest of society,without the benefit of a college education, to maintain this faculty? Edmund Burke, the father of modern western conservatism, spewed forth a constant stream of venom towards Thomas Paine, the American patriot and libertarian hero, for this exact reason. Burke believed very few men were capable of higher reason. Watch CNN tonight and see if you disagree. *Another problem for libertarianism is getting elected. The libertarian movement is not new. While it is true that libertarians are able to scrape together candidates and get on ballots, their victories are relatively few. They, along with conservatives, exhibitan extreme distaste for government. If they don’t feel comfortable with government in general, then how are they going to govern? *There is also an argument to be made that it is quite fatuous to make every decision on the basis of reason. Edmund Burke believed it was insanity to treat every decision as if it had to be reasoned. Some decisions are best made by simply using whathas worked in the past. For instance, conservatives would argue that we do not need to constantly reassess, or reason, the need for a strong military, since historically we have always found the existence of one to be beneficial in times of crisis. Burkethought that it was tradition that kept us from the vicissitudes of good and bad tries at applying reason to everything. There is something to this. *Finally for Libertarians, there is a weakness that is (especially in the U.S.) hard to overcome. This is their hostile attitude toward religion. Thomas Paine started this by following his immensely popular and influential works on freedom and libertywith a highly controversial treatise on religion that did severe damage to his reputation and career, (at least in his own time).Ayn Rand, the ideological heroine of libertarian thought, was an admitted and vocal atheist. Ludwig Von Mises, the brillianteconomist whose prescient denunciation of the perils of socialism help secure him as the economic godfather of libertarian thought, was also extremely skeptical of religion. While it may be argued that there is no place for religion on a foundation ofpure reason, with over 90 percent of Americans claiming some religious belief, it would appear impossible to establish a political party that is suspicious of religion. It is interesting to note (and sad) that Libertarians aren’t popular enough to have earned any malicious nicknames so they can be summarily discarded solely for their imputed reputation, as for example the cruel Religious Right-Wing fanatics and theBleeding Heart, big-spending Liberals have. But if they are to grow to any significance, they will surely earn one. It may be the sign of progress for Libertarians when we start reading daily about the escapades of those Self-Centered, AnarchistLibertarians. Then they will have arrived. Meanwhile, I live fairly comfortably with a big liberal heart, a fairly conservative voting record and the self-assured identity of a libertarian. The Influence of the Enlightenment On The French Revolution Dateline: 5/09/98 The Intellectual movement known as the Enlightenment occupies an important position in the growth of Western civilization. How it totally effected society, especially French society is a subject of debate, from the beginning of the Revolution to today. In fact, two schools of interpretation are involved. The first school is the conservative school , Edmund Burke is the best example. The second is the liberal school of which Thomas Paine represents. Both were supporters of the American Revolution for varied reasons, however, when the French Revolution happened, Burke blamed the Enlightenment and the French philosophers for the problems and mistakes. Paine supported the French revolutionaries cause and defended the Enlightenment and the French philosophers. Their famous debate is available to us today, through collections of their works, and on the Internet. We shall take a look at these views and discover what the contemporaries of the French Revolution felt about the Enlightenment. For Reference, check out Burkes dissertation on the French Revolution and Paine’s opposing Viewpoint. Edmund Burke- Reflections on The Revolution in France Burke’s main argument that the Enlightenment was a negative influence is best presented below. Compute your gains; see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors, and all their contemporaries, and even to despise themselves, until the moment in which they become truly despicable. By following those false lights, France has bought undisguised calamities1 at a higher price than any nation has purchased the most unequivocal blessings!… The Fresh ruins of France, which shock our feelings wherever we can turn our eyes, are not the devastation of civil war; they are the sad but instructive monuments of rash and ignorant counsel in time of profound

peace. Thomas Paine- The Rights of Man Paine on the other hand sums up his argument that the Enlightenment was a positive influence below. The only signs which appeared of the spirit of liberty during those periods are to be found in the writings of the French philosophers… All those writings and many others had their weight; and by the different manner in which they treated the subject of government, Montesque by his judgment and knowledge of laws, Voltaire by his wit, Rousseau and Raynal by their animation, and Queenay and Turgot by their moral maxims and systems of economy, readers of every class met with something to their taste, and a spirit of political inquiry began to diffuse itself through the nation at the time the dispute between England and the then colonies of America broke out. Burkes entire argument revolves around the English experience of the glorious revolution and the fact that the glorious revolution had a basis on precedent and the framework of law. He used examples of the British constitution to condemn the French Revolutionaries for their doing away with the French precedents of change. He considered the blame to be squarely on the shoulders of the Enlightenment philosophers, Voltaire and Rousseau to him were the chief instigators of the violence and upheaval. He thought that the French should have been more cautious when they implemented the changes. Burke, condemned them as presumptuous doctrinaires who misunderstood the true nature of political institutions and were sowing the seeds of anarchy and destruction. It was from this point of view that he criticized the Enlightenment and its influence in his widely read Reflections on the Revolution in France. Paine on the other hand, argued that the changes that took place where necessary, and that the precedents and laws of the past had no bearing on the issue. He used the examples of Natural rights and civil rights of man to show how Burke erred in his own judgment. He states that the past belonged to the past. The laws of old were dead because those laws only effected the people at the time these laws were enacted. They, were dead, so it follows in his reasoning, the laws died with them. Paine, argued that the needs and desires of the living should prevail regardless of tradition, that the people were perpetually sovereign, and that government was for the purpose of implementing man’s inalienable rights. He in essence accepted the Enlightenment philosophy and applauded its influence during the French Revolution. Next week we shall take a look at the French Revolution. Please, support History The 18th Century, by clicking on the ads that appear here. Thank you. Comments Want to be kept updated on what is happening here? Subscribe to the History –The 18th century newsletter, clicking on the Newsletter link on the navigation bar above. With every new book, Thomas Sowell further cements his position as one of the paramount thinkers of our time. Not onlydoes he tackle big, important issues, but he does it with an originality of perspective and a boldness of style that makeeveryone, even his opponents, sit up and take notice. His latest book-A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins ofPolitical Struggles-is hot off the press, and it’s dynamite, the kind of thoughtful, readable and controversial book that isbound to become a classic. A Conflict of Visions is a study of the nature and importance of social “visions,” and of their roles both in history and behindthe scenes of the political clashes that dominate today’s headlines. By “visions, ” Sowell means different senses of how theworld works, particularly views of causation in human societies. They underlie such things as ideologies and explicitlyformulated political doctrines and are particularly powerful because unlike conflicting interests, they are largely invisible,even-or especially-to those who have them. Sowell maintains that even though they are implicit rather than explicitjudgments, they show a remarkable internal consistency and this helps explain how so often in life the same people continuallyline up on the same sides of different issues, even though the issues might be seemingly unrelated. In this respect visions aremore powerful and tenacious than “class interests,” or “paradigms” or other motivating forces. Indeed, Sowell notes that whileconflicts of interests dominate the short run, conflicts of visions dominate history. “We will do almost anything for our visions,except think about them.” The purpose of this book is to help us think about them. Sowell identifies two distinctly different visions, which he calls the”unconstrained” vision of man’s nature and the “constrained” vision. They differ in their view of the nature of knowledge and ofhuman reason; they differ in their views of how society works and in the very conception and meaning of such basic conceptsas reason, equality, power, rights, justice, and freedom. Ideologies based on these two conflicting visions can tear apart acommunity, a nation, a world, and have implications and consequences over the course of centuries. Intellectuals like ThomasPaine, William Godwin, and Condorcet line up as representatives of the unconstrained vision. Figures like Adam Smith,Edmund Burke, and Friedrich Hayek represent the constrained vision. And each is part of a long march through history. How do they differ? Those with an unconstrained vision think that if we want a society where people are enlightened,prosperous, and equal, we must develop programs and work to implement them. They focus on results or outcomes. Those with a constrained vision, on the other hand, believe that the goal of reason is not to remodel society; reason isconstrained to identify “natural laws” and work within them. They focus on general rules and processes. Sowell takes us on a sweeping tour of the different conceptions of equality, power, and justice these conceptions have hadover the years. He traces the influence of visions through the generations. He asks fascinating questions: why are failed visionsin the natural sciences so much easier to abandon than in the social sciences? What makes some people undergo radicalconversions? How does evidence influence vision? Are visions stronger than self-interest? How do those with one visionregard those with another? But those questions just scratch the surface of what he does in this unusually suggestive work. Sowell doesn’t appear here in the role of an advocate of either vision; he is content to examine each and show its inherentlogic. He notes that it is the “moral thrust” of each that has given it historic importance. A Conflict of Visions is an exciting book that ranges over far more territory than I’ve been able to indicate here. ThomasSowell is that kind of thinker. In fact, I think that with every passing year it becomes more and more apparent that he is themost important intellectual of his generation. He has a kind of tenacious commitment to understanding the world we live in thatis more than a rarity, and a kind of intellectual courage that commands respect . Sometimes I disagree with him-no,sometimes I want to strangle him-but he is always worth listening to. He always has a perspective that you won’t findanywhere else. If you haven’t read him before, start with this book. If you have, you won’t need any encouragement from me. Contents: Preface 7 Part I: Patterns1: The Role of Visions 132: Constrained and Unconstrained Visions 183: Visions of Knowledge and Reason 404: Visions of Social Processes 675: Varieties and Dynamics of Visions 95 Part II: Applications6: Visions of Equality 1217: Visions of Power 1418: Visions of Justice 1729: Visions, Values, and Paradigms 204