Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., (1917-2007) Author, historian

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. Quote

“Liberalism regards all absolutes with profound skepticism, including both moral imperatives and final solutions... Insistence upon any particular solution is the mark of an ideologue...”

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
~ Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.

The Crisis of Confidence, 1969

Ratings and Comments

Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA

Right - God forbid anybody believe in anything so deeply they're willing to die for it - rather than surrender when choices get tough....What a concept - Liberals oughtta try it...

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Open mindedness can solve many problems.

Doug McCreight, Springfield, VA

Hey Waffler - so what happens when the Open-Minded have to decide between being free and fighting to stay so, or surrendering and being a slave or murdered at the public stoning?

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RobertSRQ    9/15/08

Yes to this Absolute - you don't have to always fight to be free - how about using communication and our brains for a change. Having an open mind is stage one along a very arduous process. Doug, Liberals did try and won us our constitution for which the GOP is trying to destroy - It will take liberals yet again to save us for the despots of the far-right.

The Student Philosopher, Utah

Whether we know them or not there are absolutes as surly as there is a God. If absolutes do not exist, reality is relative to 'the eye of the beholder' no right answers, no wrong answers. Everyone is different and has their own relative views. No right, no wrong? No good, no evil? If there is no good, no evil, there is again no God. If we set our own rights and wrongs, our own realities. We are perfect by them, we have never made a mistake by them. But, Who is the one the one person in history who has never made a mistake, has never been convinced that he/she was wrong at some point and changed there ways? The quote is correct in that our view of absolutes is relative and often mistaken, but none the less they exist, and we seek them.

Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA

Robert - your position implies Americans have not and do not use their communications abilities and brains - which is of course....., well I just won't call it what it really is. It is we - Americans - supported to one degree or another by other nations who put the worst tyrants and evil doers in History back in their Evil Boxes over 5 years - costing millions of lives. It took brilliant communications and brains to do that - because it was absolutley, undeniably, inarguably, the right thing to do. No amount of "open-mindedness" would ever have stopped the Rape of Nanking, Guernica, The Killing Fields of Cambodia, on...and on.... The Student Philosopher...acting based on best available information available to do the absolutley, undeniably, inarguably right thing is not a mistake. It is honorable action. Timidity never stopped the butcher, predator, pervert in their evil actions. Just ask the 2,000 Muslims in their graves at Srebernica when the "open-minded" Dutch commander, who could and should have acted honorably - failed to do so....

  • Reply
    RobertSRQ    9/15/08

    Doug, and what about the red-flags America continually perpetrate I suppose we are aware of this communication too. This by far has caused just as much death and destruction as your references above.

    Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA

    Robert - My references above are to tyrannical, evil, predatory, butcher nations in history. If you believe these terms describe America and Americans I would be interested in reading your sources that cite 300+million deaths attributed to an America that started the conflict. Perhaps you can send them along?

    Logan, Memphis, TN

    Do absolutes exist? Truth exists "independently and nobly", right? Problem is, philosophically, we cannot absolutely determine that which IS absolute, because the medium of our exchange -- language -- is always changing. Society's arbitrary diatribes often leave out truth in its search for security; thus, it is even more difficult to seek for "truth" within mere society when searching for the concrete amidst the "flux". Nature is the strongest source of finding the manifestation of absolutism, as we accept the natural law/principle of "uniformitarianism". Unless God (Creator) speaks directly to man through revelation, inspiration, or through a modern-day Moses type prophet -- man is left to witness through reason and logic the manifestation of the Creator's hand by observing nature to find what is absolute amidst the flux. Philosophy, in order to be philosophy, needs to have two voices: (1) the inquisitor that seeks to test the bounds of thought and create new ideas and is always questioning, and (2) the practical creature of rational who is able to lock these ideas into certain bounds by testing them against other hypothesis in his quest to always find. Ideology, however, is the death of philosophy. Once man accepts a thing as an absolute, without ever questioning it again, he has transitioned from philosopher to ideologue. Ideology has two voices: (1) the missionary of purposed truth who claims to have the unquestioned absolute, and (2) the skeptic who believes that all pertinent and necessary truth is either revealed, and that basically every good idea -- if it was a good idea -- has already been created. A philosopher never wishes to be called an ideologue, not unless he was extremely cocky and wanted to the whole world to intentionally know that unequivocal absolutism was alive and well and that his group was in custody of it. Trouble is, the liberals have screwed things up just as much as the conservatives (or, should I say, "Neo-conservatives"). No real use for finger pointing anymore, at least not this late in the game. If we want to find the guilty, we should really only look into a mirror, right?

    Dougmcr8, Springfield, VA

    Logan - No, I do not have to look in the mirror. That's for folks who, for some incoherent, irrational reason, want to share guilt for things they've not done. Refute this as an absolute. It is one, of the many, absolute, irrefutable, undeniable truths that it is absolutlely. irrefutably, undeniably evil to take your hands and strangle an innocent, helpless, defenseless human being.

    E Archer, NYC

    Skepticism and the willingness to put one's principles to the test over and over is not restricted to Liberalism or Conservatism. 'Absolutes,' like absolute Truth, are still subject to individual discernment and theory. There may be absolutes, but history has shown that we have held tight to custom, tradition, and superstition in spite of discoveries or realizations that challenge them. Chances are we are still very wrong about a great many things, but our convictions do not always require majority opinion to agree with them.

    Logan, Memphis, TN

    Of course, it's everyone else's fault? In our society, yes, it is considered an absolute, "irrefutable" and undeniable that it is undeniably "evil" to strangle an "innocent, helpless, defenseless human being". That's for OUR society, based on the evolution of thought, religion, philosophy, and political entities wherein we've been raised to know and understand; however, there are some cultures currently living where, though they would agree with your premise, would still strangle their teenage daughter to death for having premarital sex -- and they would do this as an act of mercy. So, in this case, we would have to define what is "innocent". In OUR society, she is still "innocent" for that type of punishment, and WE consider it "evil"; but the paradigm we both live under is different. The Biblical law in the Old Testament stoned to death adulterers and homosexuals... What is your definition of "innocent"? If I were to stone a homosexual nowadays, would this be evil? What is evil? Our media is quite open about adultery, and nearly every movie or television show we watch has premarital sex and/or adultery (something that supposedly "righteous" cultures considered an abomination to penalize with death). There are some on this blog who purport a system of government that purport "majority rule absolutely, all the time, with no exceptions" as an establishment of government/social legitimacy; although when you even take a quick glance at current events you see that such a premise of social existence legitimizes the Hutu/Tutsi conflict where the Hutu outnumbered the Tutsi in the 1994 Rwanda genocide by at least 3-1. The conflict, that nearly any human would consider vile and evil, was done in close combat attacks (using machetes to dismember men, women, and children and leave their bodies, less their arms and legs, to bleed and die in the streets), and was performed by the overwhelming majority. Apparently, their society and their Democracy was deplorable to everyone else, but was supposedly justifiable enough by the Hutu as they killed over 70% of the Tutsi in their country. Even in something as "absolute" as killing an innocent, we can still find philosophers and ideologues. The most important thing to do, instead of being an ideologue, is to define one's terms and definitions -- and then create an argument that transcends "This is just the way it is... Because I'm saying this is an absolute, and because society or my religion thinks this is an absolute, so I must be right".

    Doug McCreight, Springfield, VA

    Logan - thank you for making my point. I say there are undeniable evils and I don't care whose society it's in. One of them is killing defenseless, helpless people. As in Rwanda, POTUS equivocated about going in to stop the massacres because he thought, wrongly, that there was no way to identify bad guys from good guys. Well....there certainly was, and is, today. Anybody who does not stop chopping up defenseless women and children gets 2 rounds between the eyes. Then when everybody's who's massacring is either dead or stops doing it, we can sit down, pass around the kool aid and cookies and discuss being open-minded - in Bantu.

    Logan, Memphis, TN

    That's great to have such conviction, and I'm against the massacre as well; however, we mustn't let our conviction lead us to idealism. Idealistic conviction is what got us into the War in Iraq (Bush's "Crusader" mentality, for instance) -- and what has our economy in such a squandering cesspool. In fact, the best analysis' that have come out over the last 50 years concerning nearly every major world conflict and war show that such wars could have been prevented should the leaders had not been lead by their idealistic conviction (which turned out to be yet more cesspool spewing sophistry). History is wrought with pragmatists becoming crusaders. You've got to hand it to these countries involved in these major conflicts, the politicians sure do a good job in jerking the people into mass acceptance of their policies though. Look how easily we gave up the protection of our rights after 9/11, for some merely temporary and ill-perceived security. I often wonder just how courageous us Americans really are anymore; our founders pledged their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor" to the cause of individual liberty, freedom, and independence. They thought their freedom meant more to them than their lives, and they were willing to fight and die for it (which some who signed the DOI actually were killed for it); nowadays, is there a generation of Americans who have been so willing and eager to give up the protection of the their rights for some perceived security?

    warren, olathe

    A way too nice a way of saying that liberals have no standards or morals.

    Ronw13, Oregon

    The Nadiyb liberal, grandee, ( sometimes a tyrant ) likened unto a Churl, ( vile person ) would consider our founding fathers (brakah liberal) an (ideologue). "Absolutes are codifications within all of creation to assure communication to every generation." 
    "Truth seeks reality as science seeks after God". rvp. 
    "Defining times demand defining words well" a little education makes the conversation more revealing concerning absolute truth. Numbers are words and words are numbered well. Therefore words, ( language ) are codifications for numbers. 

    Mike, Norwalk

    ummm, probably not. Professing liberals continue to change the meaning of liberalism. By example: today's professing liberal holds socialism as an absolute need (only skeptical of a few applications thereof)


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