July 15, 2011

Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age...

AOG comments here, on my mention of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age

There are a lot of gems in The Diamond Age. I thought you would particularly like the way personal repression is tied to societal success (e.g. the neo-Victorians vs. the fringe).

I assure you I found it fascinating.

I would not myself use the term "repression." Maybe "self-discipline," or "moral virtues."

My recollection is that the neo-Victorians in the book just decided to form that sort of society ab initio. I'm pretty sure that will not happen, and would not work.

Liberalism, on a deep level, is the idea that we humans can navigate ourselves, using reason, without recourse to landmarks or guide stars outside of our own human realm. (Libertarianism is just a sub-set of this idea.) I've posted some thoughts on this here.

If liberalism is true, one would expect phenomena like the neo-Victorians. That is, one would expect the commonly seen "entropy" and decay of inherited societal virtues to reverse from time to time, by purely human decision. (As opposed to, say, religious conversion.) I haven't seen it, and I predict that it won't happen.

Show me I'm wrong!

From another angle, the neo-Victorians are a fictional example of the common liberal idea that humans can invent and use workable systems of morality without recourse to religion. I haven't seen that fly either. How's that Ethical Culture movement workin' out for ya?

(Disclaimer: I really sought to re-read Stephenson's book. I'm going on memories from the 1990's, and that's a way long time ago!)

Posted by John Weidner at July 15, 2011 7:33 PM
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