James Madison Against Rationalism in Politics

""Is there no virtue among us?--If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks--no form of Government, can render us secure. To suppose that any form of Government will secure liberty or happiness without any virtue in the people, is a chimerical idea." -- James Madison, addressing the ratification convention, quoted in Kevin Gutzman, James Madison and the Making of America, p. 231

Madison here hits at the very heart of the rationalist conceit: the idea that some theoretical system can substitute for civic virtue.

6 comments:

  1. Rationalism looks to replace civic virtue? I thought the problem was that it supplanted practical application.

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    Replies
    1. Prudence IS a virtue, Samson!

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  2. They constantly try to escape
    From the darkness outside and within
    By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good

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  3. Can't rationality be a virtue?

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    Replies
    1. Rationality is indeed a virtue. I am talking about rationalISM here, not rationality.

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