I had already and regretfully left StFX University (Nova Scotia, Canada) when Al Gore published his insightful and brilliant Assault on Reason (Penguin Books, 2007). In order to understand better the plays of Shakespeare, Corneille, Racine, many of which are historico-political in nature, reading Al Gore would have been very helpful.
The persons who write obscenities about President Obama after watching and listening to his online addresses may well have been endoctrinated and blinded. They may also be very afraid. Consequently, even in “the best of all possible worlds” (Leibniz, 1710), they are crippled and so are their duly-elected officials. They cannot use that essential tool called “reason,” and democracy is dealt a formidable blow.
Reason alone is not the surest of guides, but combined with a little common sense and “esprit de finesse” (Pascal, 1623-1662), reason is nevertheless the finest tool at hand. Hence the importance of an education that is not limited to job-training, is unbiased and, ideally, begins at home.
Although I had not yet read Al Gore’s Assault on Reason in 2002, I had read Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Montesquieu, Voltaire, etc. and had also been introduced to Plato and Aristotle and other great thinkers. Morever, in my course of seventeenth-century French Literature, I taught Descartes, Pascal and La Rochefoucauld.
In a later blog, I will write about students who had not examined the concept of freedom. Well, many of those students matured and there were other students. To my delight, Pascal became a hero to many of them. So, once initiation is over, there are StFX students who will not cease to amaze you.
All of the above to repeat that there cannot be a genuine democracy if the people who vote, not to mention their duly-elected officials, are blind and afraid. Could it be that we are witnessing the decline of the American Empire, a decline ushered in by fear.
My purpose is not to summarize Mr Gore’s Assault on Reason, but to invite you to read it, if you haven’t done so already. Education matters and it matters a great deal. Here is a quotation from chapter three: The Politics of Wealth, p. 78:
With no ability to test the propositions presented or explore the facets of policies not reavealed, the public is often persuaded to endorse and applaud policies that are actually harmful to its interests.