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History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Liberalism and its historical discontinuity

February 28th, 2015 · No Comments

Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism

We have discussed variants of this idea here many times and the issue is clarified by seeing that in the macro effect continuous succession is matched with discrete succession, in terms of transitional periods like the ‘rise of the early modern’. In this situation we can free ourselves from the confusion of trying to find the sources of modernity in the medieval period. With this we can see that the issue of liberalism is that of the forms of democracy, or republics leading up to that. And this is the echo of ancient Greece at the dawn of democracy. It is hard to grasp this different form of analysis, but the point becomes clear as we adopt the larger perspective of world history as a whole. One way to see the point is that ‘liberalism’ (a very modern invention, not the same as the ancient public philosophy, whose democratic movement still ran with slavery) has its roots in the rare appearance of social/political freedom, and this is subject to regression in the periods of decline and medievalization. In any case the modern transition shows some near absolute innovations, in the period of transition, and the issue of liberalism, which depends on ideas of freedom, finds its theoretical climax in figures such as Kant whose work mediates the causal monism of Newtonian physics.

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