The Metaphysics of Liberalism

by Mark English

I have long felt that there was something problematic about the modern concept of religion, but have only recently started to articulate these concerns and to draw out their potential implications for understanding the rise and decline of Western liberalism. My focus here is a particular tradition of 20th-century liberal thought.

As a label for sets of beliefs (especially those involving a supernatural realm and/or beings) and associated customs, rituals and institutions in various cultures, the term ‘religion’ is clearly useful. But it often involves looking at things from the outside as it were (as an anthropologist might). What’s more, the boundaries between practices or beliefs deemed to be religious and practices or beliefs deemed not to be religious will inevitably be arbitrary to a large degree.

There is also the issue of essentialism. The tendency to hypostatize concepts has been a significant feature of Western thinking at least since Plato; and research in linguistics and developmental psychology has demonstrated that we have a natural tendency to imagine that something substantial, even perhaps definable in terms of an essence, lies behind nominals.

Those who want to say that some kind of higher reality or essential truth lies behind the various religions would claim, of course, to be basing their views on assessments of actual beliefs and practices. My point is that having the word ‘religion’ in its modern sense alters the way we see these various beliefs and practices. It predisposes us to see unity in diversity.

In a recent post at Secular Right I alluded to the religious essentialism of Ludwig von Mises who, whilst lacking any specific religious affiliation and characterizing myths about the fate of the soul as “rather crude representations,” nonetheless claimed that neither reason nor science is able “to refute cogently the refined tenets of religious creeds.”

“History can explode many of the historical narrations of theological literature,” he wrote in Theory and History. “But higher criticism does not affect the core of faith. Reason can neither prove nor disprove the essential religious doctrines.”

Such (or very similar) views are still extremely common and they can and do motivate political positions. Mises would not have written about human freedom in the way he did had he not held these views on religion.

Speaking as he does about “the refined tenets of religious creeds” and “essential religious doctrines”, he is clearly embracing a form of essentialism which is predicated on a modern (or liberal) understanding of the concept of religion, one which owes much to the culture of the Renaissance and the influence of Neoplatonism. Such a view (whatever its merits) is, however, quite incompatible not only with Hebraic and many Judaic traditions but also with those forms of Christianity which are tied most closely to Biblical sources.

Philosophically speaking, I take a nominalist line, and though not identifying with any particular religious tradition, I have a higher regard for these non-Greek and largely anti-metaphysical strands of thought than for the syncretic intellectual tradition (heavily influenced by Plato, Aristotle, Stoics and Neoplatonists), which dominated the medieval church and subsequently put its stamp on so much post-medieval thinking. In more general terms, I have come to be very skeptical about the effectiveness of discursive reason when it operates outside of scientific or broadly empirical contexts.

Why do these conceptual and historical questions about metaphysics and religion matter? Because, I suggest, the implications and ramifications for political and other kinds of thinking are profound.

Take Mises. His (classical) liberalism is intimately related to, and arguably derives from, his metaphysical views on human nature and human freedom. During the middle decades of the last century, he was closely involved with a group of (mainly European) liberal conservative thinkers – amongst them Alexander Rüstow, Louis Rougier, Wilhelm Röpke, Walter Lippmann and Friedrich von Hayek – whose ideas influenced not only the intellectual but also the economic and political climate of the post-World War 2 world. The majority of these thinkers shared similar metaphysical views to those of Mises.

It was Rüstow who coined the term “neoliberalism” apparently. He used it to refer to a new, modified version of liberalism which he envisaged (as did Lippmann, Rougier, Röpke and others) as rejecting a strict application of laissez-faire principles. Others in the movement (e.g. Mises, Hayek and Jacques Rueff) remained closer to the classical liberal tradition.

Lippmann’s book, The Good Society, formed the main basis for discussion at an international colloquium (Colloque Walter Lippmann) which was held in Paris in August 1938 and organized by Rougier. This meeting brought together for the first time the nucleus of what later became the Mont Pèlerin Society.

Progressive liberals, of course, took a different political path but they too were (and are) committed to many similar metaphysical ideas, about human rights for example.

Lippmann articulated his views about the importance of myths in The Good Society, referring to the question of inalienable rights. He speculated that the classical liberals of the 17th and 18th centuries, having argued with some success for legally enforceable rights, convinced themselves “that the legal rights enforceable in the courts were in essence superhuman.”

“They taught,” he wrote, “that the laws merely declared inalienable and therefore unalterable rights with which men had been endowed by their Creator…” This was the “great myth” by which a new social order was made possible. Even Hayek, who of all the European neoliberals was closest in spirit to the relentlessly anti-metaphysical Vienna Circle, saw religion as a “necessary myth”. But Lippmann, like Mises, went further and came to see such myths as containing profound insights into the realities of existence.

In a later book, Essays in the Public Philosophy (1955), Lippmann argues strongly against the “prevailing philosophers” who, as he put it, “have ceased to believe that behind the metaphors and sacred images there is any kind of independent reality that can be known and must be recognized.” Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre were particular targets.

Lippmann was concerned to defend not only an objective order of truth but also an objective order of values which for him had a spiritual or metaphysical (and not just a social or historical) foundation. The acceptance of such an order, accessible to human reason, was a necessary bulwark against Jacobinism and the tyranny of mass democracy.

Clearly such views are deeply intertwined with an intellectualized and hypostatized notion of religion which, as I have argued, the modern sense of ‘religion’ (as a super-ordinate term covering diverse phenomena in various cultures) facilitates. Religion has come to be seen not just as a ‘family resemblance’ concept, a convenient label for vaguely similar cultural phenomena, but as something in itself, accessible to reason and transcending specific creeds.

This mode of thinking is profoundly metaphysical in the traditional sense of the word. It draws on – or at least recapitulates – certain Western theological and philosophical modes of thought that are at odds not only with many actual forms of religious belief and practice, but also with the basic principles of science and empirical inquiry.

36 Comments »

  1. Mark,
    Despite being on the opposite end of the political spectrum from yourself, I (not being any great fan of Van Mises) agree with much of what you write here.

    As a Deweyan (and Dewey had pointed criticisms to make of Classical Liberal Individualism), I feel it necessary to interpose that there are defenses of human rights not dependent on the metaphysics you (largely rightfully) complain of, but on the bases of simple respect and agreement.

    That the necessary science of the much needed and useful technology of blood transfusions was furthered by an African American Doctor (Charles Drew) within a social environment that discredited his very being, tells us how important it is to extend, as best we can, the notion of civil, and human, rights.,

    The rhetoric of human rights has a useful and even necessary place in political discourse, whatever its origins.

    The rhetoric of religion (including its metaphysics) is broader applied and better known, actually, and has given us all troubles (on both left and right). I am well prepared to deny such ‘religious’ rhetoric and implied metaphysics on the left; will we see such similar denial on the right?

    Liked by 1 person

    • But what does “very being” mean, if not the kind of individuality Dewey was arguing against?

      If I say that a person is an individual ever since the moment they’re born, there’s the possibility that someone could tack on something about God. But one could just as well say that God inspired Charles Drew in his invention of the blood bank.

      It’s impossible to stop an idea from being interpreted metaphysically. And it looks like you’ve demonstrated, despite yourself, the folly of trying to. Nobody should have to wait until they invent something useful — which most people never will — to become a reason for human rights.

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      • collin237,
        to be sure our language comes embedded with seeming metaphysical assumptions. However, it is useful to reason through these to the concrete realities – usually social in nature – that they ultimately derive from and refer to.

        For Dewey (as for Mead, and to a lesser extent for James), individuality is forged through social experiences. Hence discussion of the rights of the individual necessarily involves discussion of the individual’s immediate family and community, as well as the wider community in which these are found, including legal entities and agencies.

        We extend our hope for human and civil rights, not *because* there was a Charles Drew, but in order to allow others like Drew the opportunities to engage in such inventiveness – even if they choose not to – and to enjoy the fruits of their effort in a manner equitable with those making similar efforts.

        The rhetoric invoking metaphysics or god has been useful in achieving this on occasion – I personally still weep every time I listen to King’s “I have a dream” speech – and it may be useful again. But stronger reasoning and argument and agreement are also required.

        The goal ultimately is to have less conflict, more opportunity for more people, and a greater sense of community overall, I should hope. These ends do not justify all and any means, for many possible means would prove counter-productive. They do require us to be flexible and willing to organize whatever means we properly have at our disposal towards the achievement of those ends.

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  2. EJ

    It seems to me that, historically speaking, the power of the human rights concept has derived from a sense that the rights in question were rooted in some kind of objective reality *not dependent on social contingencies*.

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    • Mark,
      my reply to collin235 addresses some of your point indirectly.
      On one level, ideology concerns me greatly as a student of semiotics.
      However, I’ve long learned never to let ideology get in the way of practical politics, and politics is not about anything other than social contingencies.
      As children of history we deal with the legacy it’s left us, and try to make the best of it we can.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think the assumption that there’s any concrete reality to be found at the social level is part of the problem. For example, I remember throughout primary school many bigoted messages in films, and many bigoted stories in reading-books that I’ve never even heard of anywhere else. Yet I’ve never seen anyone mention this. Everyone stops at identifying the racist themes of society, and nobody looks for anything more granular.

      Promoting liberal rights does sometimes depend on invoking God, or God-like concepts such as human dignity and objective morality. But the flip-side is that Satan-like concepts such as normativity and imperialism — which follow from an unexamined view of the evils of society — can lead to the erosion of those rights. The otherwise inexplicable behavior of right-wing fanatics can easily be explained by the already well-known phenomenon of people going crazy because they believe they’re possessed. And that’s not a subjunctive phrasing; I am actually saying “because they believe”.

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  3. Mark wrote: “It seems to me that, historically speaking, the power of the human rights concept has derived from a sense that the rights in question were rooted in some kind of objective reality *not dependent on social contingencies*”

    = = =

    I guess one thing I want to say is “so what?” This tells us nothing whatsoever about liberalism’s viability, provided that it can be grounded in other ways.

    Burke grounds them in a certain conception of inheritance.

    I myself have grounded them in prudential considerations.

    https://theelectricagora.com/2018/03/10/the-liberal-consensus-and-the-orthodox-mind/

    It seems to me that the thrust of this essay is: “Hey, some people used to have some not-great reasons for believing in liberalism.” And I guess I just don’t think that’s a very strong point, other than as a matter of purely historical interest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just took a look at your argument, and it has a major flaw. The orthodox don’t necessarily share the common desire that the human species survives as long as possible. They may wish to secure political power on the assumption that they can bring on the end of the world before their dynasty gets old.

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    • Dan wrote:

      “It seems to me that the thrust of this essay is: “Hey, some people used to have some not-great reasons for believing in liberalism.” And I guess I just don’t think that’s a very strong point, other than as a matter of purely historical interest.”

      Purely historical interest? Perhaps. But for me nothing is “purely historical” if it intersects with our current preoccupations in interesting ways.

      I think I see history slightly differently from how you see it. As a philosopher you are interested in old texts mainly for their arguments. I am more interested in them as giving clues to broader cultural perspectives and insights into what was driving and motivating individual thinkers. Here I have just mentioned a few examples but I think that it is extremely significant that so many liberal thinkers had such convictions. Something is going on here. [I develop these ideas in a comment below.]

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Dan

    [Continued from reply above…]

    Given his strongly secular orientation, Hayek’s views are particularly interesting (and I think revealing). Why did he see the need to bring religion in at all (as a “necessary myth”)? And despite explicitly endorsing the fact/value distinction of the logical positivists, he apparently drew on Kantian moral notions when his pragmatic arguments proved inadequate to do the job he wanted them to do.

    Sure, you can try and save the core concepts of liberalism and human rights. But will the new versions have the power that the old versions had to cut through and shape social reality? (I raised this issue in the Secular Right piece referred to in the OP.)

    With respect to your essay of March last year, I agree with much of it (as I pointed out in a comment at the time). But I don’t think people will necessarily find even the sort of negative argument you make there (which I more or less agree with) decisive for the way they live. On the whole, people are just not rational in quite that way. They look to their community/society to reflect their values to some extent, and when it doesn’t they may rebel or, alternatively, seek somehow to create or find a more congenial community (not necessarily political, but the distinction is not clearcut).

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    • On the whole, people are just not rational in quite that way.

      = = =

      Then they will find out the hard way why they should be. Ultimately, people cannot be forced or coerced to conform.

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      • Conforming is doing what seems to be the will of an authority. But it’s not at all clear that authorities nowadays are being truthful about what they’re trying to enforce. A campaign that’s obviously — too obviously — about one policy may actually be designed to force something entirely different. Something people will do as an act of rebellion, never realizing that what they think is an affront to the authorities is actually what they wanted all along.

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  5. According to Rorty, Isaiah Berlin and Joseph Schumpeter are at the other end – Schumpeter, who said, “To realise the relative validity of one’s convictions and yet stand for them unflinchingly, is what distinguishes a civilized man from a barbarian.” And Berlin, ”[t]o demand more than this is perhaps a deep and incurable metaphysical need; but to allow it to determine one’s practice is a symptom of an equally deep, and more dangerous, moral and political immaturity.” I don’t know how you see them vis a vis liberalism. Rorty contrasts them to Sandel, who criticizes them, “if freedom has no morally privileged status, if it is just one value among many, then what can be said for liberalism?”
    [All from “Contingency, irony, and solidarity”, which is all about the “postmetaphysical” liberal utopia]

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    • David

      “According to Rorty, Isaiah Berlin and Joseph Schumpeter are at the other end – Schumpeter, who said, “To realise the relative validity of one’s convictions and yet stand for them unflinchingly, is what distinguishes a civilized man from a barbarian.” And Berlin, ”[t]o demand more than this is perhaps a deep and incurable metaphysical need; but to allow it to determine one’s practice is a symptom of an equally deep, and more dangerous, moral and political immaturity.” I don’t know how you see them vis a vis liberalism.”

      I don’t know enough about Schumpeter to comment, but Berlin certainly was a liberal and the kind of liberal with whom I feel a strong kinship. He recognized our “deep and incurable” metaphysical needs, but (unlike the liberals I am critiquing here) he himself was not at all sympathetic to religious perspectives. And, of course, he was right about the dangers of seeking to project one’s metaphysical convictions on to others, either in moral or political contexts.

      “Rorty contrasts them to Sandel, who criticizes them, “if freedom has no morally privileged status, if it is just one value among many, then what can be said for liberalism?””

      I don’t know a lot about Sandel. I know he is seen as a communitarian. And, interestingly, religion plays an important role for him.

      “[All from Contingency, Irony, Solidarity which is all about the “postmetaphysical” liberal utopia.]”

      Rorty was a very perceptive thinker in certain ways but his Romantic, utopian progressivism seems to be at odds with other aspects of his thought.

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  6. Hi Mark:

    I am reminded of the principle “cuius ego, eius religio”. Wikipedia:

    “Cuius regio, eius religio is a Latin phrase which literally means ‘Whose realm, his religion’, meaning that the religion of the ruler was to dictate the religion of those ruled. At the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, which ended a period of armed conflict between Roman Catholic and Protestant forces within the Holy Roman Empire, the rulers of the German-speaking states and Charles V, the Emperor, agreed to accept this principle.”

    Liberalism is the rejection of this principle. I’m pretty sure that all of the liberals or neoliberals or ordoliberals you cite agree in rejecting this principle. So why should it matter what view they take on the metaphysical status of religious claims? They are not expert in that sort of question. The critical input of liberalism is in that declaring that any state can have many religions or irreligion.

    Alan

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    • Hi Alan

      Firstly, the word “religio” in your quote does not mean “religion” in our sense. The only two options being discussed were traditional Catholic orthodoxy and the variant promoted by Luther and his followers. I’m not sure how the word should be translated in this context. Form of worship? Rites?

      “Liberalism is the rejection of this principle.”

      The separation of church and state was certainly a (the?) central liberal preoccupation.

      “I’m pretty sure that all of the liberals or neoliberals or ordoliberals you cite agree in rejecting this principle.”

      Yes.

      “So why should it matter what view they take on the metaphysical status of religious claims?”

      It matters because implicit and explicit metaphysical beliefs motivate thinking on such things as rights and freedom.

      I am suggesting that it is no coincidence that the rise of political liberalism was associated with the development of a modern view of religion deriving from Platonism, Stoicism, Neoplatonism etc. and manifesting itself in various modern forms of religious consciousness — spiritualized, universalized, intellectualized forms. Of course, the term ‘liberal’ (albeit in a non-political sense) is often applied to such views.

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      • OK, I see your point more clearly. But in that case why focus on 20C thinkers? The key figures for your argument would seem to me to be Locke, Hobbes, Spinoza, Voltaire, Jefferson, Mill, Tocqueville, and so on. None of them were notably friendly to Platonism. In general, it seems to me, political liberalism arose out of the problem of deep-seated religious conflict. The only way forward seemed to be to compel the competing parties to compromise with each other. This meant putting aside metaphysical preferences or making them a matter of private allegiance only.

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        • Alan

          “… But in that case why focus on 20C thinkers?”

          Why not? Besides, that happens to be the period I know best.

          “The key figures for your argument would seem to me to be Locke, Hobbes, Spinoza, Voltaire, Jefferson, Mill, Tocqueville, and so on. None of them were notably friendly to Platonism.”

          I am not talking about Platonism per se. I am talking about “a … view of religion *deriving from* Platonism, Stoicism, Neoplatonism etc. and manifesting itself in various modern forms of religious consciousness…”

          But, dealing briefly with the names you mention…

          Locke’s ideas on rights etc. are intimately bound up with a Platonized form of Christianity.

          Spinoza I see as having a deeply religious-cum-mystical outlook, more or less in the tradition of Platonism. Note how he was picked up by the English Romantics.

          Voltaire is a perfect example of my thesis. Deism is precisely the sort of thing I am talking about.

          Jefferson I know virtually nothing about, but he was certainly affected by the traditions of thinking I am discussing. As was Tocqueville.

          Even Hobbes incorporated some religious ideas into his work. Almost impossible not to at that time. (It amazes me that Machiavelli could write as he did, when he did.)

          Mill read Plato from an early age; his discovery of Romantic poetry, especially the poetry of Wordsworth (very Platonistic) affected his subsequent thinking in profound ways. He acknowledged this himself.

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          • You seem to see “Platonism” or its descendants everywhere. Maybe rightly. For me, one of the most influential things I ever read was Lovejoy’s “The Great Chain of Being”. I see it as the founding text for anyone interested in the history of Western ideas. It traces the rise and fall of “Platonism” through the centuries. Lovejoy says that Western thought held together two contradictory ideas of God: one the self-sufficient and unchanging Absolute, the other the superabundant loving Creator of everything. These two were still operating in Leibniz and (in a materialised form) in Spinoza. And they were revived in Romanticism, where “Nature” took on the role previously ascribed to God (a story told best in the work of MH Abrams).

            But Voltaire’s deism falls outside this tradition. The idea of this world being the best of all possible worlds — because it is an expression of God’s goodness — is exactly what he was attacking.

            Hobbes should be one of your heroes, since he hated Platonism and Aristotelianism. If any modern thinker was a nominalist, it was him.

            What you say about Mill is true, but I don’t see anything like Platonism in his writings. On the notion of a basic harmony between mind and world Mill says:

            “Such an inference would only be warrantable, if we could know a priori that we must have been created capable of conceiving whatever is capable of existing: that the universe of thought and that of reality, the Microcosm and the Macrocosm (as they were once called) must have been framed in complete correspondence with one another […] but an assumption more destitute of evidence could scarcely be made.” (Examination, IX: 68)

            Locke? Yes, he was a rational theist, and if you treat all forms of rational theism as “Platonic” then I suppose he was a Platonist. We have different conceptual boundaries.

            I think I am staring to understand you! I think “the Enlightenment” marked a basic changes, ending scholasticism and inaugurating a science-based metaphysics. You think traditional metaphysics (which you call Platonism loosely interpreted) survived in many crypto forms and you are trying to unmask those forms. Nothing short of logical positivism will count as metaphysically uncorrupted. Yes?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Mark, to attribute any sort of Platonism to Mill’s views — even indirectly — is just wrong. Mill is a die-hard empiricist, to the point of having an empiricist view of mathematics.

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  7. Alan

    “But Voltaire’s deism falls outside this tradition. The idea of this world being the best of all possible worlds — because it is an expression of God’s goodness — is exactly what he was attacking.”

    I agree that deism involves a step away from Christian-Platonism. But it retains the idea of a creator-God and traces of the Stoic notion of a moral order.

    “Hobbes should be one of your heroes…”

    He is.

    “What you say about Mill is true, but I don’t see anything like Platonism in his writings.”

    Again, I would not say Platonism. But arguably you see the influence of these non-empirical traditions (especially the Romantics) in his moral and aesthetic views.

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    • Again, I would not say Platonism. But arguably you see the influence of these non-empirical traditions (especially the Romantics) in his moral and aesthetic views.
      = = =

      Oh, please.

      Why don’t you just admit that you’ve run off on this Platonism horse a bit too much? Is it that hard to do?

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      • Part of the misunderstanding here is that I see the mainstream Christian tradition as actually Christian-Platonic.

        I see nothing to back away from. Besides, I hardly mentioned Plato in the OP.

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  8. Mark: The original points was to suggest metaphysics-heavy commitments in liberalism. Mill is a very poor example of this, and waving at “the importance for him of Wordsworth” does not change that. Voltaire is also quite a poor example, and gestures towards “the Stoic notion of a moral order,” etc. do not change that. I would also maintain that Locke is quite a poor example of this, but I’m sure I’ve already made my point.

    The fact is that historically, liberalism is largely a *break* from metaphysics-heavy commitments, especially in comparison with its rival traditions. Social contract arguments like Locke’s and Hobbes’ are essentially appeals to prudential considerations, with Rousseau being the exception — and lo and behold, he is not a liberal. So, I just think, for these and other reasons, that you misfired quite a bit on this one.

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    • Dan’s second paragraph is exactly right, in my estimation. Trying to find a metaphysics of liberalism is more than a stretch. Metaphysics is the problem liberalism was seeking to bypass. The Enlightenment sought a social basis for ethics, because a religious basis had failed and threatened chaos.

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  9. I also would seriously question whether Lippmann is properly described as a liberal, in the classical sense, especially given his explicit advocacy for the manipulation of public opinion and technocraticism.

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  10. Mark:

    You say: “Part of the misunderstanding here is that I see the mainstream Christian tradition as actually Christian-Platonic.”

    True enough. But that tradition was also Aristotelian. It was also fideistic. It was also anti-rationalist. It was also mystical in a non-Platonic way. It was also infused with the idea of a Designer-God (especially in modern times). You can find lots of things in a tradition so old and varied.

    The essentialism is yours and it distorts as much as it illuminates.

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  11. “The essentialism is yours and it distorts as much as it illuminates.”

    I haven’t got time now to reply fully but let me just make the point that my focus in the OP was limited to one specific 20th-century tradition of liberal thought (which Dan is suggesting wasn’t liberal at all). Your comments broadened the discussion to older liberal thinkers. Fair enough, but let’s take one thing at a time. There may be a problem defining liberalism in a broad sense. Maybe we need to separate out the various strands.

    I see strong resistance to what I am saying. But so far I don’t see that I have actually claimed anything which is false. These ideas are important for me. I believe what I am saying (it’s not particularly original) and I believe the implications are significant.

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    • Mark: The authors you were discussing contributed importantly to 20C economic liberalism. They are interesting thinkers. But you made it seem (to me at least) as if you were seeking for “the metaphysics of liberalism” through your analysis of their ideas. This is what opened up the problem and led to the resistance. To which you replied in a way that suggested you see “Platonism” broadly interpreted as being the real source of the metaphysics of liberalism. And you have said things of this sort before, if I recall rightly. So those of us who see the story differently continued the resistance.

      I’d like to know who you think you are following, if you think your interpretation of the history is “not particularly original”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alan

        “The authors you were discussing contributed importantly to 20C economic liberalism. They are interesting thinkers. But you made it seem (to me at least) as if you were seeking for “the metaphysics of liberalism” through your analysis of their ideas.”

        No. I was giving them as examples (from a relatively nonreligious age). Were their views representative? That is another question.

        “I’d like to know who you think you are following, if you think your interpretation of the history is “not particularly original”.”

        In respect of my general orientation, obviously I am indebted to many thinkers but connecting changes in the concept of religion to the rise of liberalism in the way I am *may* be original, I suppose. I am certainly not following anyone on this but I suspect very similar points have been made many times.

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  12. Dan

    “The fact is that historically, liberalism is largely a *break* from metaphysics-heavy commitments, especially in comparison with its rival traditions.”

    I am challenging the standard view, but not head-on. I am suggesting that the new view of religion made the changes possible by (as it were) filling the metaphysical vacuum.

    “Social contract arguments like Locke’s and Hobbes’ are essentially appeals to prudential considerations…”

    I understand this. I have acknowledged the prudential and pragmatic aspects of liberal thinking.

    “… with Rousseau being the exception — and lo and behold, he is not a liberal.”

    He was, however, a strong advocate of religious toleration.

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