Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reason, its limits and discontents

I do suppose that fundamentally all definitions of rationality are local and provisional. The original attempt comes to mind, the chilling, brittle and utterly disastrous 18th century view devoid of any understanding of human passions and their great dangers. Nevertheless I cannot but privilege the view that the understanding of limits set to will and power by empirism and logic represents the best definition of reason that is available to us in this world, in our experience of being in this world. There are limits to human will and human power, objective limits. Now I understand that anything can be used for repression by humanity and against humanity, but I cannot see many very obvious concrete examples of this position being used so. Postmodernity, though valuable in many aspects, has done a great disservice to liberalism and progress by undermining this approach to reason, and furthered cynical forces of reaction and repression. (Not to mention being wrong, also.)

Reason is obviously a weakening force in our culture: both the Enlightenment and Christian/humanist morality are waning, and the positions we still have are maintained increasingly only by force of habit, unknowingly and unthinkingly. They are lightly held, and the signs of times don't point to any easy, unassaulting future. Well, to a degree this is what is always said, but I think we are in a different position, accountable to fiercer demands, and I do wonder how well do we measure...

Monday, September 17, 2012

An English unofficial rose

I had never realized what a disorganized, loose mess Grantchester is. I suppose I never read it carefully enough. Yet there is a certain, undeniable Englishness there, only not in a very good sense. And flashes of promise, naturally. There was much poetry in Brooke, whatever they may say. But an awful loose mess of sentiment and fake irony of a poem.

I sometimes wonder whether I am an especially sentimental, syrupy Anglophile, but I think I'm saved from sentimentality knowing that my England never quite existed, outside of words and thoughts, and some actions and sentiments. Yattenden hymnal, of pale green - the Liberal England which never really was dominant, which never quite was, but which is the heart of the central idea of England, that gentle land of liberty that never really has been that gentle, in truth, or that free (except for a small minority). At least until there is New Jerusalem built on it or at least a serious attempt to build it. The attempt, this always failing hope is the England I love.