Thursday, December 30, 2004

We Are Wrong, and Damn Proud of It Too!

Which is better: to be right with Aron or to be wrong with Sartre?
was the question asked during the Cold War, when the pro-American, pro-capitalist (and, dare I say, pro-common sense) Raymond Aron took on the pro-Soviet moral relativism spewing out of the mouth of Jean-Paul Sartre (and much of French society). As the very fact that the question was even asked can tell you, the unspoken answer was that it was better to feel good, humanistic, and lucid with the latter's pro-Soviet faction than to boringly agree with the former's pro-common sense faction.

An old fogey in the académie française proves that the question has not (and the feelings have not) gone away. Describing what he calls "the twain attitudes of French thought in the 20th century" (and comparing the two men to rival predecessors such as Corneille and Racine, and Voltaire and Rousseau), Bertrand Poirot-Delpech writes:

Aron frantically sought all that could be said that was truthful, that was logical, and that would shed light on the ideologies in his presence.
That should make him the winner, non?


Just see how much farther Sartre went:

Sartre made of the act of reading and of writing a challenge of existence. He made a game of exercising his multiple talents by turns, without sacrificing an ounce of lucidité.
Well, no wonder it is better to be wrong with Sartre!

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