Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Roger Simon links to a fine piece on Ibsen by Theodore Dalrymple. A key passage:
However, most people find it more comforting to believe in perfectibility than in imperfectibility—an example of what Dr. Johnson called the triumph of hope over experience. The notion of imperfectibility not only fans existential anxieties, but also—by precluding simple solutions to all human problems—places much tougher intellectual demands upon us than utopianism does. Not every question can be answered by reference to a few simple abstract principles that, if followed with sufficient rigor, will supposedly lead to perfection—which is why conservatism is so much more difficult to reduce to slogans than its much more abstract competitors.
This is worth bearing mind when reading this dialogue in Foreign Policy between Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, and Bjorn Lonborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist.
Dalrymple is, I believe, right about the Ibsen plays he discusses. But I think Ibsen's work as a whole ought to be judged by his later plays, especially The Master Builder and John Gabriel Borkman. In these, the egoism at the center of the others is itself weighed in the balance and found wanting.

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