Renewal is rarer than revelation

When a new philosophical perspective alternative reveals itself, it takes philosophical clarity to recognize that what has been revealed is not the ultimate truth but just another philosophy.

And even with this clarity, it take significant philosophical discipline to resist the impulse to accept the new perspective as one’s own, simply because one has seen where one was formerly blind. 

And finally, it takes humility to realize that new philosophical perspectives are nearly never as new as they seem to one who has just conceived it. Almost always, the deepest impact a new philosophical perspective can have is exposing one’s own misunderstandings of misconceived old truths — truths incomprehensible apart from the perspective. But because each time a new philosophy is revealed, it is revealed in a new situation and expressed in a unique language, pride and laziness works against working to discover the redundancy of one’s own apparent genius.

By one of the most perverse ironies of the human condition, when philosophical clarity, discipline and humility fail, the failures are experienced by individuals and their adherents as success of the highest order — as divine revelation, as divine command, as the dawn a new age — and the feeling certainty that attends such errors as evidence of truth. 

Philosophy, properly practiced, is an exercise in perpetual humiliation. It is both an inoculation against prophetic hubris, and a recollection of Liberalism which will otherwise be forgotten.

Sadly, because so few American intellectuals take the practice of philosophizing seriously, treating study of philosophy as a systematic exposure to a history of opinions — (opinions mostly supplanted by more rigorous social scientific fact) — too many people have dismissed Liberalism, thinking themselves superior to something that is, in fact, too demanding for their minds and character.

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