An interview with Francis Fukuyama where he discusses the distinctly modern problem of positive vs. negative freedom, and what it means to live in a liberal democracy.
This problem of how our post-religious societies come up with values was the critical issue for two celebrated thinkers from the University of Chicago—Allan Bloom, author of The Closing of the American Mind, and Leo Strauss.
Strauss called this “the crisis of modernity.” The question is whether there is a way of establishing values through reason and philosophical discourse without reverting to religion. His central argument was that classical political philosophy—the Greeks with their emphasis on “natural right,” or nature deciphered by reason as a source of values—had been prematurely rejected by modern philosophy.
The way to think about this is that we have both a deep philosophical problem and a practical political problem. The two may be related, but not necessarily.
The deep philosophical problem is whether you can walk Western philosophy back from Heidegger and Nietzche and say that reason does permit the establishment of positive values—in other words that you can demonstrate the truth of certain ideas.
The practical problem is whether you can generate a set of values that will politically serve the integrating liberal purposes you want. This is complicated because you want those values to be positive and mean something, but you also can’t use them as the basis for exclusion of certain groups in society.
(Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan)