My Commonplace Book (a diary of excerpts copied from printed books, with comments added by the reader.)
“The liberal sees outer, removable institutions as the ultimate source of evil; sees man’s social task as creating a world in which evil will disappear. His tools for this task are progress and enlightenment. The conservative sees the inner unremovable nature of man as the ultimate source of evil; sees man’s social task as coming to terms with a world in which evil is perpetual and in which justice and compassion will be perpetually necessary. His tools for this task are the maintenance of ethical restraints inside the individual and maintenance of unbroken, continuous social patterns inside the given culture as a whole.”
I believe we must at least try to hold both views simultaneously. (Who was it—Henry James?—who said that the definition of a first-rate mind was one that could hold two contradictory ideas at the same time?)
We must work to support progress and enlightenment as if we believed we could create a world in which evil will disappear—at the same time that we realize that evil is perpetual; therefore, “justice, restraint, and compassion will be perpetually necessary.”
Becoming a decent human being involves a difficult, life-long, balancing act of these two opposing views of human nature and human society.
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