One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Isaiah Berlin's "The Counter-Enlightenment"

This passage comes from Isaiah Berlin's anthology of essays titled The Proper Study of Mankind: the essay is "The Counter-Enlightenment" (apparently Berlin is given credit, at least by some, for coining Counter-Enlightenment):
   One of the darkest of the reactionary forms of the fight against the Enlightenment, as well as one of the most interesting and influential, is to be found in the doctrines of Joseph de Maistre and his followers and allies, who formed the spearhead of the counter-revolution in the early nineteenth century in Europe. Maistre held the Enlightenment to be one of the most foolish, as well as the most ruinous, forms of social thinking.The conception of man as naturally disposed to benevolence, co-operation and peace, or, at any rate, capable of being shaped in this direction by appropriate education or legislation, is for him shallow and false. The benevolent Dame Nature of Hume, Holbach and Helvetius is an absurd figment. History and zoology are the most reliable guides to nature: they show her to be a field of unceasing slaughter.
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