Friday, May 31, 2024

Liberalism: A By-Product of Rationalism in Modern Context


Liberalism is a significant by-product of Rationalism, whose origins and ideology must be clearly understood.

The Enlightenment period of Western History, emerging after the Counter-Reformation, increasingly emphasized intellect, Reason, and logic. By the mid-18th century, this trend culminated in Rationalism. Rationalism viewed all spiritual values through the lens of "reason," re-evaluating them accordingly. This logical approach helps solve problems in mathematics, engineering, and physics but insists on identity and rejects contradiction. While satisfying intellectually in abstract thought, Rationalism ultimately led to Pragmatism, marking the demise of pure Reason.

Rationalism's adaptation to material problems rendered all issues mechanical when viewed through "the light of reason," devoid of mystical elements. Descartes' reduction of animals to automata evolved into viewing humans similarly. Organisms were redefined as chemical and physical problems, and the concept of superpersonal organisms disappeared, being neither visible nor measurable. Newton's idea of the mechanical universe stripped spiritual force from the cosmos, and in the next century, it was removed from human affairs.

Reason detests the inexplicable and uncontrollable, seeking comprehensive knowledge and control over practical problems. Rationalism, the belief that everything is subject to and explicable by Reason, rejects anything not visible or calculable. It dismisses the unpredictable as unfeasible but theoretically possible. Rationalism's will to power leads it to label the unmeasurable as non-existent.

Rationalism viewed History as a trajectory toward Reason, depicting humanity progressing from barbarism to Enlightenment and science. It negated the spiritual, focusing instead on the individual and society. Anything between these poles was deemed irrational.

This classification is accurate: Rationalism mechanizes everything, rendering what can't be mechanized irrational, including History's chronicles, processes, and Destiny. Rationalism itself is unreasonable, a by-product of a specific cultural development stage. Its emergence, brief dominance, and eventual return to religion are historical and, thus, irrational questions.

Liberalism translates Rationalism into politics, rejecting the Republican-style Government and viewing it as a contract between individuals. Life's purpose is disconnected from States, focusing on individual happiness. Bentham's "greatest happiness of the greatest number" epitomizes this, equating human contentment with economic well-being. The Reason, being quantitative, equates the average person with "Man," defined by material needs. Politics demands sacrifices for intangible values, conflicting with "happiness." Economics, almost synonymous with happiness, supports this materialistic view. Religion and the Church, interpreting life through intangible values, oppose this notion, while social ethics, promoting economic order, support it.

Liberalism's two pillars are economics and ethics, which reflect individuality and humanity. Ethics, materialistic and social, discards its metaphysical roots, becoming a social imperative. It maintains the order necessary for economic activity, within which the individual must be "free." Liberalism's battle cry is "freedom," seeing man as autonomous, with society as a voluntary association of individuals and groups. The State represents un-freedom and compulsion, and the Church represents spiritual un-freedom.

In politics, Liberalism redefined war as economic competition or ideological difference, denying the traditional cycle of war and peace. The State became a society or humanity ethically and economically, a production and trade system. Political aims turned into social ideals or economic calculations, with power morphing into propaganda or regulation.

Benjamin Constant epitomized Liberalism's doctrine in 1814, celebrating man's "progress" in Enlightenment and 19th-century freedom. He saw economics, industrialism, and technology as pathways to freedom. Rationalism allied with this trend, overcoming Feudalism, Reaction, War, Violence, State, Politics, and Authority, replacing them with Reason, Economics, Freedom, Progress, and Parliamentarism. War, being unreasonable, was replaced by Trade, the intelligent and civilized alternative. Earlier war-driven societies yielded to trading societies, the new earth masters.

Liberalism is inherently harmful. It disintegrates rather than forms. It opposes Church and State authority and advocates economic freedom and social ethics.

Organic realities allow only two alternatives: an organism true to itself or one that becomes distorted and vulnerable. Thus, the natural leader-follower polarity is essential. Despite its 19th-century political activity and alliances with State-disintegrating forces, Liberalism never comprehensively defeated the State. It allied with democracy, despite its inherent authoritarianism, and supported Anarchists against Authority. In the 20th century, Liberalism even sided with Bolshevism in Spain, with European and American Liberals sympathizing with Russian Bolsheviks.

Liberalism, defined negatively, is merely a critique, not a living idea. Its core value, "freedom," implies freedom from authority, leading to social atomism. This disintegration combats State, societal, and familial authority. Divorce equates with marriage and children with parents. This negative thinking led political activists like Marx, Lorenz von Stein, and Ferdinand Lassalle to reject Liberalism as a political tool. Its contradictory attitudes and compromises sought balance, not resolution. In crises, Liberalism fragmented, aligning with opposing revolutionary sides based on individual consistency and hostility to authority.

Thus, in practice, Liberalism was as political as any State, allying with non-liberal groups and ideas. Despite its individualistic theory, it supported life-sacrificing ideologies like Democracy, Socialism, Bolshevism, and Anarchism.



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