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The Liberal Imagination by Lionel Trilling
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The Liberal Imagination (1950)

by Lionel Trilling

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Do I agree with everything Trilling says? Of course not: he's disturbingly keen on a very orthodox Freud, and he's not immune to the old 'the cure for the problems of democracy is more democracy line;' and I'm not sure how those two tendencies mesh. Also, early 21st century America is a very different place than mid 20th century America. It's hard to imagine a moment in history when the rationalists were on the offensive and everything was being quantified. Today I would say the irrationalists are definitely on the defensive. But Trilling's book is still fabulous: first, he argues that the question is not limited to reason on the one hand, and the irrational on the other. There are kinds of reason, and kinds of the irrational. You can't just pick a side. Second, he's willing to get in the trenches and shout it loud: books matter! They help you think better! Literature has a purpose! I'd like to throw a few dozen copies of this at Stanley Fish's head on the right, and at the heads of people on the left who think it's cool to disdain rational argument. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
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To Jacques Barzun
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It is possible to say of V.L. Parrington that with his Main Currents in American Thought he has had an influence on our conception of American culture which is not equaled by that of any other writer of the last two decades.
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