The past was characterized not by ignorance but by false opinions. Men always had opinions about everything, but those opinions were without ground and indemonstrable. Yet they governed the nations of men and were authoritative. Thus the problem of Enlightenment is not merely discovery of the truth but the conflict between the truth and the beliefs of men.
Tocqueville did not believe that the old writers were perfect, but he believed that they could best make us aware of our imperfections, which is what counts.
For modern men who live in a world transformed by abstractions and who have themselves been transformed by abstractions, the only way to experience man again is by thinking these abstractions through with the help of thinkers who did not share them and who can lead us to experiences that are difficult or impossible to have without their help.
All the terms discussed in Part Two are evidences of this abstractness, simulacra of thought and experience, hardly better than slogans, which take the place of reflection.
Reason transformed into prejudice is the worst form of prejudice, because reason is the only instrument for liberation from prejudice.
The essence of philosophy is the abandonment of all authority in favor of individual human reason.
Reason is only one part of the souls economy and requires a balance of the other parts in order to function properly.
Aristocracies hate and fear demagogues most of all, while democracies in their pure form hate and fear elitists most of all, because they are unjust, i.e., they do not accept the leading principle of justice in those regimes. Hence each regime discounts those who are most likely to recognize and compensate for its political and intellectual propensities, while it admires those who encourage them.
Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.
Repugnance at the power of the people, at the fact that the popular taste should rule in all arenas of life, is very rare in a modern democracy. One of the intellectual charms of Marxism is that it explains the injustice or philistinism of the people in such a way as to exculpate the people, who are said to be manipulated by corrupt elites.
Modernity promised that all human beings would be treated equally. Women took that promise seriously and rebelled against the old order. Women, now liberated and with equal careers, nevertheless find they still desire to have children, but have no basis for claiming that men should assume a responsibility for them. So nature weighs more heavily on women. In the old order they were subordinated and dependent on men; in the new order they are isolated, needing men, but not able to count on them.
In the tightest communities, at least since the days of Odysseus, there is something in man that wants out and senses that his development is stunted by being just a part of a whole, rather than a whole itself. And in the freest and most independent situations men long for unconditional attachments. The tension between freedom and attachment, and attempts to achieve the impossible union of the two, are the permanent condition of man.
Education is not sermonizing to children against their instincts and pleasures, but providing a natural continuity between what they feel and what they can and should be.
Mick Jagger played the role in their [students] lives that Napoleon played in the lives of ordinary young Frenchmen throughout the nineteenth century. Everyone else was so boring and unable to charm youthful passions.
Rock and the intellectual Left must both be interpreted as parts of the cultural fabric of late capitalism. Their success comes from the bourgeois need to feel that he is not bourgeois, to have undangerous experiments with the unlimited. The critical theory of late capitalism is at once late capitalisms subtlest and crudest expression. Anti-bourgeois ire is the opiate of the Last Man.