Monday, December 04, 2006

Liberal beliefs

I have often wondered what really would be the core foundation of liberalism: yes, anyone can recite its historical structures (for some reason liberalism is always criticized based on its concrete - and meagre - achievements and not for its ideals like all the other political ideologies...) For what it's worth, and maybe not much, I have come to hold that there are two core beliefs that sustain the liberal project: a conviction that people are able to create coherent meanings (combined with a suspicion that all coherent meanings are thus created in our finite minds) and a faith, a trust in the human will to ethical behaviour. If these premises are accepted, it is easy to see how they would sustain and support each other; if we are able to create coherent meanings, no crude (and fictional) divine being is needed to give absolutes readymade, if there is a will to ethical behaviour it will find its goal defined by our ability to coherent creation which in turn will then be directed by that will.

So, then there follows of course a third, mostly unspoken argument, or instinct: that the world is inherently in harmony with this premise, that we have to only discover, only be aware, only use our intelligence and wisdom - and there we might even have use for absolutes and divine beings, whether or not they pre-exist materially. The alternative to this is conservative fiction, an eternal, mostly bloody and unjust existence in history - perhaps some made up stories can dicipline us enough to live in those conditions and even moderately prosper but the intellectual and moral cost would be awful. Even if our liberal instincts are correct, this might be the situation we will find ourselves in - there is prescious little enlightenment and awareness, prescious little wisdom in humankind: we might not even perceive the truth should we be confronted by it.

No comments: