There's that pesky Kantian enlightenment, still trying to spread o'er the world. But will the dream live us? Camille Paglia presents another smooth and graceful brief for the limitations of practical reason as the lodestar of our lives:
Progressives must start recognizing the spiritual poverty of contemporary secular humanism and reexamine the way that liberalism too often now automatically defines human aspiration and human happiness in reductively economic terms. If conservatives are serious about educational standards, they must support the teaching of art history in primary school—which means conservatives have to get over their phobia about the nude, which has been a symbol of Western art and Western individualism and freedom since the Greeks invented democracy. Without compromise, we are heading for a soulless future. But when set against the vast historical panorama, religion and art—whether in marriage or divorce—can reinvigorate American culture.
The whole piece is putatively about the way art and religion have intertangled in Christendom and post-Christendom (and everywhere, everywhen), but the subtextual contemplation of the pathologies of Catholicism is even more intriguing. And then of course you get classic lines like these:
And I would question whether Mapplethorpe's cool, elegant torture and mutilation scenarios were an ideal advertisement for gay male life.
Yet the Paglia Protocol, for all it's worth, runs us headlong toward the eclectic pseudotheism of Jungian psychology -- a therapeutic use of faith entirely in accord, as Rorty never wanted to admit, with pragmatic reason. Alex Wendt, that amateur philosopher and IR genius, understood the therapeutic uses of science itself:
The emergence of an international public sphere signals the emergence of joint awareness, however embryonic at this stage, of how their own ideas and behavior make the logic of anarchy a self-fulfilling prophecy. With that joint awareness comes a potential for self-intervention designed to change the logic and bring international society under a measure of rational control. In individuals we might call this 'therapy' or 'character planning'; in social systems like international society it would be called 'constitutional design', 'engineering', or 'steering' (Social Theory of International Politics 376).
But in privileging of a scientific understanding of friendship and truth, Wendt missed the way therapeutic logics keep bringing other understandings back into culture. For now I'll have to leave that first claim unelaborated. (Maybe this is a relief to you.) But as far as the second, other concepts of friendship and other understandings of verity -- like those you get from philosophy, politics, or religion -- are placed under great pressure, and almost squeezed out entirely, under the logic of Wendt's academically popular brand of secular practical reason. This makes it radically incomplete, as Paglia, Jung, Obama, Huckabee, and others reveal to us all the time. The inability of secular scientists to fully model therapeutic logics blinds them to the way especially religious or metaphysical conceptions of verity may be integrated into frameworks of therapy that end up challenging the status of empirical truth itself. Perhaps more painfully, acolytes of secular practical reason must lower their expectations as encounters with devotees of political, philosophical, and religious conceptions of truth and friendship fail to result in transformative social progress -- or turn (back) into anxious neoconservatives and neoliberals.