Wednesday, 7 February 2007

To be Left Alone

I take it — as Schopenhauer took it — that one has to work out one’s own redemption in life. To free oneself from politics would be a start; but to do so is difficult in the age of the mass; for “from the absolute will of an entire people there is no appeal, no redemption, no refuge but treason” [1]; and insofar as the wish to be left alone has itself become a political idea, it bears witness to the degree to which one cannot be left alone. “My experience of the world”, said T.H. Huxley, “is that things left to themselves don’t get right” [2]. Thereto I must add that to mess things up thoroughly, one must be unable to leave them alone — and furthermore, that to help people until they can no longer help themselves is not a kind of redemption, but a kind of enthrallment.
[1] J.E.E Dalberg-Acton (Lord Acton), “The History of Freedom in Antiquity” (1877), reprinted in Selected Writings of Lord Acton, Vol.1: Essays in the History of Liberty, ed. J.R. Fears (Indianapolis: Liberty Classsics, 1985), p.5.
[2] T.H. Huxley, Aphorisms and Reflections From the Works of T. H. Huxley, selected by H.A. Huxley (London: MacMillan & Co, 1907),
§.CXXV, published online at The Huxley File.


Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Is Lord Acton drawing upon Rousseau's concept of the "General Will" in his remark?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Ash said...

Deogolwulf said...

"Is Lord Acton drawing upon Rousseau's concept of the "General Will" in his remark?"

I couldn't really say, though I can say that, so far as I know, Lord Acton didn't have much good to say about Rousseau.