Community and Political Thought Today

By Peter Augustine Lawler; Dale McConkey | Go to book overview

Antinomic prudence: a practical wisdom not rooted in an explicit return to the Aristotelian doctrine but instead in the knowledge, drawn from the social sciences and sustained reflection on the antinomies of human existence, about the limits of our power to transform the human world. While Aron hints through his phenomenological exploration of the political world at a philosophical conception of natural right, he does not flesh out that hint with a philosophical teaching, preferring to remain on the terrain of politics. That said, Aron's prudence is preferable to its alternatives of Machiavellian realism and utopian idealism. It is more in tune with the structure of the political and moral universe, where the uncertainty of human action is the first certainty, and political reason the best hope for preserving the genuine human goods made possible by political practice, than its feasible alternatives. It recommends "that we gradually improve what exists" rather than demolishing what exists in the vain hope that perfection can be built from rubble. Aron's antinomic prudence is an expression of his conservative liberalism, balanced between the demands of universality and the need for community, a political morality for an imperfect, and imperfectly knowable world. It is the voice of a modern Montesquieu that speaks through the pages of Peace and War.29


NOTES
1
Raymond Aron, Peace and War: A Theory of International Relations, trans. R. Howard ( New York: Doubleday, 1957), 703.
2
I borrow this formulation from Pierre Manent, "Modern Individualism", Crisis ( October 1995):35-38.
3
Aron, Peace and War, 708.
7
Quoted in ibid., 725.
9
ibid.
10
Raymond Aron, Progress and Disillusion: The Dialectics of Modern Society ( New York: Praeger, 1968), 138.
11
This is the true kernel of an otherwise deeply problematic book by Samuel P. Huntington , The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order ( New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996). For an "Aronian" critique of Huntington's cultural determinism, see Pierre Hassner, "Morally Objectionable, Politically Dangerous", The National Interest (Winter 1996/ 1997): 63-69. See also John Gray, Enlightenment's Wake: Politics and Culture at the Close of the Modern Age ( London: Routledge, 1995), 82-83.
12
Aron, Peace and War, 732.
13
Ibid.
14
Ibid., 735. For "erpetual Peace",see Immanuel Kant, Political Writings, edited by H. Reiss ( Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 93-130. It is essential to note that Kant was far more hesitant about the feasibility of perpetual peace than many of his contemporary exemplars. Perpetual peace was an idea of reason, a principle which can

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