Thursday, December 28, 2006

Clippings 3

All three today are from the same source, an article in the New Criterion by Roger Kimball: Raymond Aron & the power of ideas.

"Skepticism is first of all the habit of examining evidence and the capacity for delayed decision. Skepticism is a highly civilized trait, though, when it declines into pyrrhonism*, it is one of which civilizations can die. Where skepticism is strength, pyrrhonism is weakness: for we need not only the strength to defer a decision, but the strength to make one. ["TS Eliot, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture]
"Freedom of criticism in the USSR is total." [Jean-Paul Sartre, on returning from Russia, 1954]
What Aron called the “Myth of the Revolution” (like the “Myth of the Left” and the “Myth of the Proletariat”) is so seductive precisely because of its “poetical” charm: it induces the illusion that “all things are possible,” that everything—age-old institutions, the structure of society, even human nature itself—can be utterly transformed in the fiery crucible of revolutionary activity. Combined with the doctrine of historical inevitability — a monstrous idea that Marx took over from Hegel — the Myth of the Revolution is a prescription for totalitarian tyranny.
*Pyrrhonism: Sceptical philosophy which doubts everything

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