BIG THOUGHT HERE
Are you not including Gabriel Marcel because he isn’t a “strict” political thinker?
“But you can let me know if you think it’s true that each of us is a being stuck wandering between two abysses.”
Um, yes. However, I think it’s important to note that Tocqueville and Pascal do not emphasize only the contingency of this moment between the two abysses. (This is to make Heideggerians out of them, though it’s certainly the case that there’s a great deal of History in both Pascal and Tocqueville). In addition to the fact of our contingency, the protest against contingency is equally central to the anthropology of both T and P. In my view, this is the point of Tocqueville’s discussion of funeral mounds and tombs: they provide evidence of our “nothingness” as well as of our refusal to accept what the universe teaches us about our nothingness.
sara, well sure. The proposition isn’t a complete account of anyone in particular. The perception of “radical contingency” isn’t the same in my book as historicism, though. Pascal, in a way, saves Tocqueville from Rousseau. But equally important are Tocqueville’s differences from Pascal, the Pascal he presents as in a way caught between the pleasures associated with aristocratic pride and those associated democratic material prosperity.
Good post. I especially enjoyed reading the students’ insights. Another source you might direct them to consider is an incident recounted by the Venerable Bede in his historical account of the introduction of Christianity to the English in the 7th century. One of the king’s counselors recommends allowing Christian missionaries into the kingdom, as Christianity offers the possiblity of human life being something more than the “flight of a sparrow through a mead hall.” This story seems to have made a big impression on the young J.R.R. Tolkien. There is a brief account of it at this website: http://texafied.com/blog/2009/03/28/like-a-sparrow-flying-through-a-mead-hall/
Germaine, Thanks! I will use the cool quote in a talk I’m giving at BYU Friday.
I’ve spoken with my amateur ornithologist wife, and she confirms that sparrows do not thrive in mead halls.
The fabulous “Golden Age” gospel group The Harmonizing Four, however, remind us “That His Eye Is On the Sparrow.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a05Ej7xiqy4 A song somewhere in my all-time top 100.
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