Democracy in America: Individualism and Materialism.
Volume 1 concentrates on the influence on democratic social state on laws and political mores. * Democracy in America
* Impressed and optimistic
Volume 2 concentrates on the influence of democratic social state on civil society and culture. * Democracy as such.
* Apprehensive and gloomy.
Volume II Part I:
Chapter 1: On the Philosophic method of the Americans
* “It is religion that gave birth to the Anglo-American societies: one must never forget this; in the United States religion is therefore intermingled with all national habits and all the sentiments to which a native country gives birth; that gives it a particular strength.” – pg 405-406. * “In the United States, Christian sects vary infinitely and are constantly modified, but Christianity itself is an established and irresistible fact that no one undertakes either to attack or defend.” * “men who live in the new societies will often make use of their individual reason; but I am far from believing that they will often abuse it.” * T insists that Americans above all people are in possession of an innate philosophical method – they are completely consistently philosophical people. * They tacitly adhere to one particular philosopher: Descartes. * Americans are all Cartesians because they don’t trust anyone else’s reason. * Descartes:
* How do I know that what I know is true?
* You can’t trust received opinions.
* How about my senses?
* No. What if I’m dreaming? What if an evil devil tricks me? * Conclusion: I may not know anything.
* Relevant themes of Descartes Meditations:
* Radical Skepticism: I can’t trust others. I can’t trust my senses. * Certainly found only in the self: the only thing I can be sure of is that I exist and that I think. (I think therefore I am) * Methodical: from that certainty, I can build up a rational method to guide me to figure out all sorts of truths. * Americans are skeptical because of the doctrine of equality. – the influence of opinion is made the same between people and no one’s opinion is privileged or unprivileged because they are equal. There’s always an equal value of opinion. * T says that in democracy, the intellect becomes free from the weight of tradition/prejudice – post traditional mind. * Post traditional mind:
* Skepticism – we refuse to believe things on credit or sheer authority: * Self reliance – we are satisfied only be explanations arrived at by our own reason. * The social state of democracy predisposes us to this Cartesian method. * In the west, democracy reaches its full potential. The West is democracy at its high. * T has a giant contradiction – America is the place where the tyranny of the majority is the most effective but they are also absolute skeptics and self reliant. * Dogmatic beliefs – opinions men receive on trust without discussing them. * Cartesianism:
* Democracy; cancels qualitative difference in the value of opinion * Individual thrown back on him or herself
* Skepticism and self reliance
* Dogmatic belief
* Society needs common ideas
* In democracy, the source isn’t aristocracy (e.g. any privileged group) * But the source is the majority.
* How does T reconcile these two lines?
* “As citizens become more equal and alike, the penchant of each to believe blindly a certain man or class diminishes. The disposition to believe the mass is augmented, and more and more it is opinion that leads the world.” * “the public therefore has a singular power among democratic peoples, the very idea of which aristocratic nations could not conceive”
Chapter 2: On the Principal Source of Beliefs Among Democratic Peoples. * “Dogmatic beliefs…are born in different manners and can change form and object; but one cannot make it so that there...
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