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.


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

  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

  3. Can't rationality be a virtue?

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


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