Contained        -          Uncontained
Receptive         -          Formative
Uncover           -          Create
Imitate              -          Imagine
Complete         -          Incomplete
Preserve           -          Innovate
Fixed                -          Plastic
Closed              -          Open
Past                  -          Future
Old                   -          New
Society             -          Personality
Masculine        -          Feminine

John Locke made clear that the new political and economic system he proposed in his Second treatise of Government, liberalism’s foundational text, would result in a different ruling class. In one of its key chapters, “Of Property,” he divided the world into two sorts of persons: the “industrious and the rational” and “the querulous and contentious.”

In the world of prehistory, he wrote, both kinds of characters might have existed in some number, but a subsistence economy marked above all by absence of private property made it impossible to tell them apart.

In such a world, each person gathers only enough food and requirements for each passing day, and any differences of talent, ability, and promise are wholly unrealized. Locke offers the Indians in the Americas as an example of such a “pre-history”: subsistence societies in which neither "industriousness and rationality” nor "querulousness and contentiousness” can become salient.

In such a world, a potential Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is so busy hunting or fishing for each day's meal that his potential goes wholly unrealized.

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.136

Forms of oppressive “opinion” were mainly manifest in everyday morality—what Mill witheringly criticized as “Custom.” While Mill at times argued that a good society needed a balance of "Progress” and “Custom,” in the main, he saw custom as the enemy of human liberty, and progress as a basic aim of modern society.

To follow custom was to be fundamentally unreflective and mentally stagnant. “The human faculties of perception, judgement, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is a custom, makes no choice.”

The unleashing of spontaneous, creative, unpredictable, unconventional, often offensive forms of individuality was Mill's goal. Extraordinary individuals - the most educated, the most creative, the most adventurous, even the most powerful - freed from the rule of Custom, might transform society.

“Persons of genius,” Mill acknowledges, “are always likely to be a small minority”; yet such people, who are “more individual than any other people,” less capable of “fitting themselves, without hurtful compression, into any of the small number of moulds which society provides,” require “an atmosphere of freedom.”

Society must be remade for the benefit of this small, but in Mill’s view vital, number. A society based on custom constrained individuality, and those who craved most to be liberated from its shackles were not “ordinary” people but people who thrived on breaking out of the customs that otherwise governed society. Mill called for a society premised around “experiments in living”: society as a test tube for the sake of geniuses who are “more individual.”

We live today in the world Mill proposed. Everywhere, at every moment, we are to engage in experiments in living.

[Patrick Deneen]
Why Liberalism Failed, p.145-6

For Cassirer the unity of culture across the separate spheres inter alia of science, technology and art is given by the human capacity for symbolic self-expression, our capacity to create whole worlds of objective meaning.

Cassirer derived from Kant this image of the human being’s constructivist or formative powers of world-making. Heidegger by contrast insisted on the image of the human being as gifted with a receptive openness to the world. Receptivity is the attitude which allows things to appear rather than challenging them forth.

The two normative images of humanity thus describe two fundamental relationships to the world, spontaneity and receptivity, and thus two fundamentally opposed understandings of technology, tied in the case of Heidegger to an originary ontology of disclosure and in the case of Cassirer to a ‘modernist ontology of construction.’

If Cassirer offers us a modern answer, it is not one premised on a distinction between ancient and modern technology. On the contrary, the very first use of tools set in train an ongoing process of revealing as unconcealment, that is, the uncovering of what is present but hitherto concealed in the world.

The nature waiting to be shaped and given form by technology is thereby revealed as essentially incomplete. From the beginning technological ‘discovery’ signifies the experimental path of formation and transformation mediated by the essential plasticity of nature.

The spirit of technology therefore resides for Cassirer in its capacity to reveal the latent in nature, waiting to be actualized. This spirit requires an attitude capable of withdrawing from a given reality in order to posit the possible.

Cassirer terms this ‘possibilization’ of the world ‘the greatest and the most remarkable achievement of technology.’

Modern art ‘discovers’ the spirit of creation, hitherto concealed by the doctrine of imitation, just as in turn the recognition of human creativity announces the metaphysical need of the moderns to discover the new and bring it forth.

The work of art, but also the work of technology, become ontologically original once the closed cosmos of tradition is left behind.

And what this signifies […] is nothing less than the displacement of nature by art and technology, which now express the exemplary possibilities of human being as creativity. The modern spirit is in this sense ‘after nature’: imagination takes the place of the imitation of nature, technology emancipates itself from the model of physis to become the evolutionary supplement of nature.

[David Roberts]
'Technology and modernity: Spengler, Jünger, Heidegger, Cassirer', Thesis Eleven, 2012, p.26, 31-2

[William James’s] uncertainty about the moral value of submission and self-surrender illustrates the difficulty of carrying on an essentially theological controversy without its theological context.

Even more than Emerson and Carlyle, James believed that this context could now be dispensed with. In its absence, however, Emerson’s affirmation of the goodness of being would tend to be construed either as fatuous optimism or as the product of an emotional need for absolute security and reassurance, while heroism, on the other hand - notwithstanding James’s warning that “mere excitement is an unworthy ideal” - would degenerate into Nietzsche’s “will to power.”

[Christopher Lasch]
The True and Only Heaven, p. 294

Modern productions completely miss the severe pattern of ritualistic renunciation in As You Like It. Rosalind is not Peter Pan, nor is she Virginia Woolf’s reckless, cigar-smoking Sally Seton. Rosalind is never madcap or flippant. Behind her playfulness of language and personae is a pressure of magisterial will.

Multiplicity of mood tends toward anarchy. Shakespeare’s Renaissance wisdom subordinates that multiplicity to social structure, containing its exuberant energies in marriage. In the Renaissance as now, play must be part of a dialectic of work, or it becomes decadent.

At the end of her play, Rosalind demonstrates the subordination of personality to society by relinquishing her theatrical androgyny and metamorphoses for obedience in marriage. Hierarchy is restored, in home and palace.

[Camille Paglia]
Sexual Personae, p.209, 227

The poets of the Iliad and the saga writers were implicitly claiming an objectivity for their own standpoint of a kind quite incompatible with a Nietzschean perspectivism.

What Nietzsche portrays is aristocratic self-assertion; what Homer and the sagas show are forms of assertion proper to and required by a certain role. The self becomes what it is in heroic societies only through its role; it is a social creation, not an individual one.

Hence when Nietzsche projects back on to the archaic past his own nineteenth-century individualism, he reveals that what looked like an historical enquiry was actually an inventive literary construction. Nietzsche replaces the fictions of the Enlightenment individualism, of which he is so contemptuous, with a set of individualist fictions of his own.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.150

[...] Goffman's sociology, since it claims to show us not just what human nature can become under certain highly specific conditions, but what human nature must be and therefore always has been, clearly makes the implicit claim that Aristotle's moral philosophy is false.

[...] the Aristotelian account of ethics and politics would have to rank for Nietzsche with all those degenerate disguises of the will to power which follow from the false turning taken by Socrates.

[...] it was because a moral tradition of which Aristotle's thought was the intellectual core was repudiated during the transitions of the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries that the Enlightenment project of discovering new rational secular foundations for morality had to be undertaken.

And it was because that project failed, because the views advanced by its most intellectually powerful protagonists, and more especially by Kant, could not be sustained in the face of rational criticism that Nietzsche and all his existentialist and emotivist successors were able to mount their apparently successful critique of all previous morality.

Hence the defensibility of the Nietzschean position turns in the end on the answer to the question: was it right in the first place to reject Aristotle? 

[...] the power of Nietzsche's position depends upon the truth of one central thesis: that all rational vindications of morality manifestly fail and that therefore belief in the tenets of morality needs to be explained in terms of a set of rationalizations which conceal the fundamentally non-rational phenomena of the will.

[...] either one must follow through the aspirations and the collapse of the different versions of the Enlightenment project until there remains only the Nietzschean diagnosis and the Nietzschean problematic or one must hold that the Enlightenment project was not only mistaken, but should never have been commenced in the first place.

[Alasdair MacIntyre]
After Virtue, p.136-7

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