Monday, March 17, 2008

Quote of the day or perhaps even a somewhat greater length of time!

Kind of a long one, but buck up, chappies, it's worth it:
The recognition granted in a free society to the independent growth of science, art, and morality, involves a dedication of society to the fostering of a specific tradition of thought, transmitted and cultivated by a particular group of authoritative specialists, perpetuating themselves by co-option. To uphold the independence of thought implemented by such a society is to subscribe to a kind of orthodoxy which, though it specifies no fixed articles of faith, is virtually unassailable within the limits imposed on the process of innovation by the cultural leadership of a free society. . . . And we must face also the fact that this orthodoxy, and the cultural authorities which we respect, are backed by the coercive power of the state and financed by the beneficiaries of office and property. The institutions by which their authority is exercised, the schools, universities, churches, academies, law courts, newspapers and political parties, are under the protection of the same policemen and soldiers who guard the wealth of the landowners and capitalists.

Must this institututional framework be accepted as the civic home of a free society? Is it true that the absolute right of moral self-determination, on which political liberty was founded, can be upheld only by refraining from any radical action towards the establishment of justice and brotherhood? That indeed, unless we agree that within our lifetime we must no more than loosen the ties of a free society, however iniquitous they may be, we shall inevitably precipitate men into abject servitude?

For my part, I would say: Yes. I believe that, on the whole, these limitations are imperative. Unjust privileges prevailing in a free society can be reduced only by carefully graded stages; those who would demolish them overnight would erect greater injustices in their place. An absolute moral renewal of society can be attempted only by an absolute power which must inevitably destroy the moral life of man--Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (1958).

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