are possible, but believes these to be particu-lar preferences which possess validity onlywithin particular groups and communities.For this reason he refuses to attribute to suchprinciples and norms any universal value andhe protests whenever someone attempts toimpose his profound beliefs, however truethey may seem to him, on the entire socialbody. Liberals might have divergent opin-ions on economic freedoms and the role of government, but they are united in their conviction that
of anthropological,moral, and metaphysical assumptions is theprerequisite for freedom and peace. Who-ever would thicken such assumptions gener-ates ideological conflicts and is believed toundermine the basis of peaceful cooperationand open the door to unjust discrimination.Can one have non-liberal or even anti-liberal views today without becoming, atbest, a laughing stock, or at worst, a danger-ous supporter of authoritarianism? Is thethinness of basic assumptions indeed the onlyway to secure liberal ends? I, for one, thinkthat the identification of liberalism and lib-erty, so characteristic of modern times, islargely unfounded. Liberalism is one of sev-eral systems whose aim is to establish a certainordering of the world. Whether this orderingis good, or preferable to other orderings, or to what extent this ordering increases our freedom, are open questions, and no definiteanswer seems compelling.In what will follow I will present fivearguments against liberalism, of which somewill be against the theory as such while otherswill be against some of its claims.
The first and most immediate reason for mylukewarm attitude toward liberalism is itsmodest position in the entirety of humanexperience. To put it simply: liberalism as atheory is
. Plato, Aristotle, Dante,Shakespere, and Dostoyevsky were not lib-erals. One cannot think of any outstandingwriter who could be qualified simply andsolely as a liberal. What is most fascinating inthe picture of man and the world, in theunderstanding of our relation to God, tonature, to one another, was all formulatedoutside the realm of liberal thought. Themost intriguing thinkers whom we regard asbelonging to the liberal tradition in thelargest sense of the word—Kant, Ortega yGasset, or Tocqueville are all interesting tothe degree to which they transcend liberalorthodoxy.A thought experiment will make thisclear. Let us imagine a man educated exclu-sively in Aristotelianism, or Hegelianism, or phenomenology, or Thomism. Such a mancould be accused of one-sidedness, but hecertainly could, other conditions being ful-filled, achieve
in the most basic mean-ing of the word. Then let us imagine some-one who is educated only in the works of liberalism. Such a man could never attainwisdom because the works he studies leaveout the most important problems that havepreoccupied human beings from time im-memorial. The liberal ignores those ques-tions because he considers them either irrel-evant, or—for reasons I will explain later— dangerous. My experience with liberals isthat whenever I raise those questions in their company I encounter two kinds of reaction:either reluctance to discuss those issues assecondary, or irritation which results frommy interlocutor’s conviction that he haslocated this problem within his system longago and finds no reason to revisit it.The lack of
which one feels when-ever one reads liberal works is an obviousconsequence of the thinness of liberal as-sumptions, from which one cannot deriveany profound insights. It is not that the treeof literary art is always greener than the treeof political theory, and that no poet or writer of significance was a propounder of a par-