More Connections

Writing at Bloomberg, Stephen L. Carter has noticed some connections, too. In this case they’re between the report on the CIA’s use of torture and the Rolling Stone’s story of rape at the University of Virginia. Here are his last two paragraphs:

When disputes over facts are misconstrued as disputes over principles, the entire project of Enlightenment democracy it at risk. The liberalism of the Enlightenment rested critically on the supposition that agreement on the facts was a separate process from agreement on the values to be applied to them. The social theorist Karl Mannheim, in “Ideology and Utopia,” argued that we would never be able to separate the two, that we would always wind up seeing the facts through the lens of our preformed ideologies. Thus liberal democracy, in the Enlightenment sense, was bound to fail.

Let me here avoid the false dilemma. As a believer in democracy, I want Mannheim to be wrong. But our increasing elevation of preformed narrative over hard-eyed pursuit of truth suggests that he may turn out to be right.

I think that an increasing number of people have already given up on Enlightenment values, reaching from ISIS camps in Iraq and Syria to Harvard Yard. The sad irony is that those who reject Enlightenment values still depend on them for their very survival.

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